The Love Feast.

“Crucified and laid behind a stone, Rejected and alone. Like a rose trampled on the ground. You took the fall and thought of me.

“You can sing of my greatness and my love, you can speak it and hear about it – that is good, but it is only when it reaches your heart of hearts that it becomes real. See your heart like a rosebud – all the beauty of the rose bloom but wrapped and closed – yet as I pour my love out into it, it slowly opens up to become the beautiful bloom it is intended to be. You have moments of supreme revelation of my love but mostly it is a slow process as I interact with all of your life and all of your senses, that you come to understand and appreciate Me and My love more and more fully. I am busy with each one of the folk who read this blog similarly, working on their hearts to bring them to full bloom which can truly appreciate my beauty and the beauty of my love. That is the love feast I am aiming at.”

We come now to 1 Corinthians 11. A chapter, perhaps well known because of its discussion of the “Love Feast” or communion meal. The first 16 vv deal with the cultural issue of head coverings and hair styles which was unique to the Corinthian situation. So I am going to pass over it and get our teeth into the vv 17 – 34.

I believe that I came to a deeper understanding of this teaching this week as I meditated on this important aspect of how we express our worship. I came to realize that the full understanding of the message Paul is giving is focused in one key verse. I wonder if you can see it. Why don’t you read the section and see if you can identify identify the verse and see why it is an embodiment of the entire teaching of this section.

Firstly we should identify what the problem is that Paul is dealing with here. It seems that the communion meal was part of a social meal or Love Feast. The different strata of society making up the Christian Church in Corinth were all part of it. From the wealthy upper strata of society to the poor and the slaves. The wealthy arrived with loads of food and wine and started feasting even to the point of getting drunk while the poor were left with little or nothing to eat.

Clearly any meal partaken like this would be unacceptable, even less the celebration of Communion. Paul wants the readers to understand the full implication of what they are doing, with this teaching. The key verse is verse 26 “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes”

What is he saying? The way they were dealing with this whole issue was a reflection of their attitude towards Jesus and His death on the cross. By behaving in this way they were showing what they thought about His death, which is the central point of our faith. They were showing this within the assembly of believers, but also to the outside world.

So Paul wants them to understand how serious this lack of veneration is and how it is a direct reflection of what they think of Jesus Himself. He links, most frighteningly, this lack of veneration even to sickness and death.

The two vv 28, 29 are often held up as a reminder to us as we prepare for the communion meal. I have always sort of thought that it meant I should examine every nook and cranny of my life to see if there is any hidden sin there, so that I can bring it out and confess it. However I have now come to realize this is a much deeper instruction. It is indeed a warning to ask yourself how your whole relationship with Jesus is going. The way you approach the communion meal and your attitude is then a reflection of that relationship.

The communion meal is after all the pinnacle of the revelation of the introduction of the New Covenant. It is a reminder of the centrality of Jesus’ death on the cross to our whole faith. But the communion meal has a wider significance which is shown by the events that are described in the background in this chapter.

It also represents what has been accomplished in terms of establishing the Church. The fellowship of believers. It is an opportunity to express that by showing our love and unity for each other. In Corinth there were divisions, pride, factions and now the revelation of the lack of concern and love for fellow believers at the Love Feast.

We should be reminded here that the whole way we do church is actually a reflection of what we think of Jesus. Of what our relationship with Him is like. Because our relationships with each other are a direct reflection of how we view Christ and our relationship with Him.

To many Christians, church is an optional extra. A place where you can be fed and have some fellowship. Criticism of various aspects abounds. We should look again at the warning of terrible judgement that Paul mentions in this section to see how seriously the Lord Himself regards His church and especially the communion meal as an expression of what church is meant to be.

There has been plenty of food for thought for me in this section. I hope you will also be challenged as well.

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