“How Then Shall We Live? As People of the Table”

August 7, 2016

“How Then Shall We Live? As People of the Table”

1 Cor. 11:17-34


Children’s Sermon:  Picnic blanket and basket with food!!

Do you guys have any rules about meal times at your house?  Wash hands, say grace, take turns passing food, saying thank you, no grabbing, clean your plate before dessert

In Bible times there were rules about mealtimes too!  Today we are going to read a story about a church in Corinth that was not following the meal rules.  And not only was it making people not have a good time at dinner, it was messing up sharing communion together.

Jesus invites us to be a people that share meals together, but he wants us to always be kind to one another when we gather.

What should be missing from our meals?  Fighting? Arguing? Showing off?

Let’s ask God to help us make every meal holy.


Read 1 Cor 11:17-34


Intro: Two meals going on. 1) The Love Feast 2) The Eucharist. And in this passage Paul addresses abuses of both and calls the church back to proper practice.  Let’s explore this passage, being attentive to how we are doing in this practice of our faith.  I am convinced that we are called to live as “People of the Table” in both instances Paul addresses.


The Love/Agape Feast

The first table that Paul addresses with the Corinthians is the Agape or Love Feast table.  This is a practice that passed on early in the church not because it wasn’t a good idea but most likely for the reasons Paul articulates in our passage.  Let me read about the love feast from the notes in the Archaeological Bible. (p.1874)


In the ancient world, people were much more social than they are in our society.  Jesus was often found eating at someone’s house with crowds of people along.  When the church was established, worship happened around a meal.  They gathered and ate and talked about Jesus and worshiped and shared the Lord’s Supper. 


The church was the place where all the barriers were gone.  No class, race, or gender divisions.  All were one.  But in Corinth, at the time of Paul’s writing, people had forgotten the Jesus made between them.  The rich brought much and ate it quick before the poor could participate.  Better they drink all of their wine and get drunk than share with a slave.


In Corinth, the very meal that came about because of unity in Christ was now being used to increase the division between people.  How do we do that today?  How do we come together as the body of Christ, yet work at sabotaging our unity?  It happens.  Not over a meal, but maybe in the words we say and the attitudes we have towards one another.


Commentator William Barclay suggests several reasons this disunity may have been brought about.  I encourage us all to listen to see if we are guilty of practicing any of them in this body.

  • People held different opinions and rather than seeking to know the person and understand where they were coming from, they simply wrote them off.  During this election year, this can happen easily as it already has on social media where folks are being unfriended by the dozen because they are supporting the “other” candidate.  People aren’t listening, they are shouting and pontificating about what they know and think. Division follows.  In the church it may not be politics.  It may be how we spend our money or the way the pastor operates, or decisions the leaders make.
  • Historians have noted that the early Christian church was the only place that was able to break through class distinctions and give every person equality and honor.  It was a unique mark of the body of Christ.  But in Corinth, they were destroying their identity.  What things do we do that tear down the body of Christ?  Is it gossip on the streets?  Is it complaining about one another?  We need to repent.  Satan will use our tongues to bring this church down.  It won’t take much.  Words send and keep people away or they can draw them close.
  • I’ll quote Barclay on this last one:

A church is no true church if the art of sharing is forgotten. When people wish to keep things to themselves and to their own circle they are not even beginning to be Christian.  The true Christian cannot bear to have too much while others have too little; he finds his greatest privilege not in jealously guarding his privileges but in giving them away.[1]

You are an incredibly generous and giving church.  You take care of one another when there is need.  I think if Paul were going to convict us of one area that we are stingy it would be our time and possibly the attitude that Sunday morning is enough to give the church and we don’t need to bother with each other in between.


The Eucharist

The second meal that Paul addresses without taking a breath, is the Lord’s Supper.  It appears that the Agape Feast flowed right into the worship and celebration of the Lord’s Supper. You can see that if they had been behaving badly towards one another in the feast, it would make taking the body and blood of Christ together an awkward moment. 


Let’s revisit vss. 27-29.  I’m going to take the view that when “the body of the Lord” is mentioned in verse 29, Paul is referring to the covenant partners of the church of Jesus Christ.  When we receive communion it is common union for the church.  If we forget that we are one body in Christ, Paul says we come under judgment.  At this table there is no room for disunity or lack of respect or grudges, or contempt.  The precious gift we receive as those redeemed by Christ are intended to be received by the whole body in love, mercy, and grace.


This table, these elements that represent the body and blood of Christ are to be received by the community of faith who come with repentant hearts.  We are to acknowledge our need and our gratitude for Christ’s sacrifice and we are to acknowledge our need and our gratitude for one another.  We are the living Body of Christ.


Concl.  How then shall we live? As people of the table.  Come and meet Jesus here as we partake of the Lord’s Supper.  Please turn to the Great Prayer of Thanksgiving in your bulletin as we prepare our hearts to properly receive that which the Lord Christ has given to us.

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving

Lift up your hearts.

We lift them up to the Lord.

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.

It is right to give him thanks and praise.


With joy we give you thanks and praise,

Almighty God, Source of all life and love,

that we live in your world,

that you are always creating and sustaining it by your power,

and that you have so made us that we can know and love you,

trust and serve you.

We give you thanks that you loved the world so much

that you gave your only Son, so that everyone who has faith in him

may not die but have eternal life.


We thank you that Jesus was born among us;

that he lived our common life on earth; that he suffered and died for us;

that he rose again; and that he is always present through the Holy Spirit.

We thank you that we can live in the faith that your kingdom will come,

and that in life, in death, and beyond death you are with us.


Therefore with all the company of heaven, and with all your people,

of all places and times, we proclaim your greatness and sing your praise.

Holy, holy, holy Lord

God of power and might,

Heaven and earth are full of your glory.

Hosanna in the highest.

Blessed is he who comes in the name of

the Lord.

Hosanna in the highest.


Holy Lord God, by what we do here in remembrance of Christ we celebrate

his perfect sacrifice on the cross and his glorious resurrection and ascension;

we declare that he is Lord of all; and we prepare for his coming in his kingdom.

We pray that through your Holy Spirit this bread may be for us the body of Christ

and this cup the blood of Christ.

Accept our sacrifice of praise;

and as we eat and drink at his command unite us to Christ as one body in him,

and give us strength to serve you in the world.

And to you, one holy and eternal God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

we give praise and glory, now and for ever. Amen.


The Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread

[here the minister takes the bread in his hands],

and when he had given thanks, he broke it

[here the minister breaks the bread]

and said, "This is my body which is for you.

Do this in remembrance of me."

In the same way also the cup

[here the minister raises the cup],

saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood.

Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”


Sharing of the elements.

Closing Prayer and hymn.


[1] William Barclay. The Letters to the Corinthians. (The Westminster Press, Philadelphia) 1975. 102