It is rare to practice the Lord’s supper without reading from 1 Corinthians 11. There is certainly nothing wrong with this, but it is odd. We have plenty of other material to draw from for communion reflections; it would take a year alone to work through passages that reference bread (or grain) and wine, not to mention food and feasting in general.
I worry that we have come to believe reading God’s instructions discharges our duty to obey them. Jesus commands us to “do this.” Considering 1 Corinthians 10-11 together with Matthew’s and Mark’s accounts, what is it that we are to do?
- Use bread
- Give thanks to God for the bread
- Break the bread
- Use wine
- Give thanks to God for the wine
- Examine ourselves to ensure we discern one another’s membership in the body
Many evangelical churches are failing on all counts listed above, possibly with a sense that it is permissible to ignore these, but without the necessary conviction that it is better to ignore them.
The last point may be the least obvious. I have argued elsewhere that Paul’s use of discern and examine is generally misunderstood. I suggest that we are failing to do this not least in failing to recognize our young children’s participation in Jesus and their full welcome to his presence and his table. We therefore, with Peter, stand condemned and out of step with the truth of the gospel (Gal. 2:11ff). If we were to work through those many food and feasting passages, we would become more sensitive to this.
The result is that we have arrived at something unnaturally stilted, unfamilial, un-supper-like. It is not straining in every way to enact a foretaste of Jesus’s marriage feast, or to welcome all those here who would be welcome there if they were to die today.
See also: Unbelievers?