Devotions for 1 Corinthians 11:17-34–Take Eat This is My Body
August 21-27, 2017
Monday, August 21, 2017–Take Eat This is My Body
“When you come together it is not for the better but for the worse” (1 Corinthians 11:17).
The Hatfields and the McCoys had been having a family reunion for fifty years—ever since Mary Hatfield married Jeb McCoy. The gatherings weren’t pleasant affairs. The Hatfields and the McCoys never spoke to each other. Long standing disputes and deeply felt offenses were hidden just below the surface and never uncovered. Each year the family members vowed that they wouldn’t return, but the following year found them miserably back together because of a sense of obligation.
There are many divisions in our congregations. We speak to our friends and turn cold shoulders to our enemies and those with whom we disagree. Very little changes because we don’t bring our differences out in the open and discuss them. Without confession and forgiveness, our time spent together is for the worse, we are robbed of our joy and our witness of God’s love and grace becomes non-existent.
We are a forgiven people. Confession and forgiveness are supposed to be part of our everyday lives. Without them, community is hindered or destroyed.
Lord, forgive us when we let our differences harm your family. Move within us that we may be willing to forgive and able to heal. Amen.
Tuesday, August 22, 2017–Take Eat This is My Body
“When you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you.” (1 Corinthians 1:18).
One of Paul’s visions of the new life that was experienced by followers of Jesus was that their community would be egalitarian. There would be no Jew or Greek, slave or free, man or woman (Galatians 3:28). In Roman and Greek society, that was not the case; they were very class conscious societies. Paul argued that the Christian Church was different, and to be a part of the Christian community was to give up differences and celebrate similarities.
Paul’s words on divisions are an invitation for us to examine how we view other people. Do we see ourselves as better than others? Do we categorize people by their income, occupation, nationality, race, sexual orientation or gender preference? Such perspectives have no place in the fellowship of believers. We are all God’s children who are in need of God’s love and grace.
We too, Lord, live in divided societies. Move within us that our communities of faith reflect your love for all and our common need for your love, grace and forgiveness. Amen.
Wednesday, August 23, 2017–Take Eat This is My Body
“Each of you, goes ahead with your own supper, one goes hungry and another becomes drunk” (1 Corinthians 11:21).
First Church’s pot-luck meals were grand events; everyone in the congregation attended. Two large tables at the front of the social hall were heaped with food. After the pastor’s prayer everyone would scurry to the line, hoping to be near the front, so that they could get the best pick of the food.
Juan Cortez was a migrant worker who attended First Church when it was harvest season. He had hurt his arm in an accident while working in the field. When he reached the tables piled with food, Juan had trouble holding his plate and selecting from of the abundance that was before him. No one seemed to notice and pushed passed him, loading more food onto their plates. It was some time before a young boy realized Juan’s plight and offered to hold Juan’s plate for him. Eventually, Juan was able to sit down and enjoy the feast.
So often we are caught up in our own little worlds. We drive by the homeless and we don’t see them. Rushing through the drive through at the local fast food restaurant, we are blind to the hunger in the surrounding neighborhood. We hurry to get home from the supermarket and we don’t notice the young mother trying to load her SUV, while holding an infant and keeping track of two rambunctious preschoolers. Paul reminds us that we are to get our eyes off ourselves, look around and see the needs of those around us.
Open our eyes, Lord, to see beyond ourselves and become aware of the needs of others. Amen.
Thursday, August 24, 2017–Take Eat This is My Body
“On the night when he was betrayed” (1 Corinthians 11:23).
There are many passages of scripture that are beyond our understanding. This may be one of them. On the night when he was betrayed Jesus took the bread, blessed it and gave it to Judas saying, “This is my body given and shed for you.” After supper, Jesus took the cup and gave it to Judas and said, “This is my blood, a new covenant, given for you.” Jesus loved Judas and acted in a loving way to the man who would cause his torture and execution.
The Lord’s Supper has never been without conflict, tension and drama. In the middle of the celebration, though, we experience God’s steadfast love and overwhelming grace. With open hands we receive God’s gifts and, in response to such love, we turn around and share it with others—even those who betray us.
Lord, help us not to be selective or stingy with the love that you have poured into our lives. Amen.
Friday, August 25, 2017–Take Eat This is My Body
“Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me” (1 Corinthians 11:25).
Ancient Celtic Christianity believed that there were “thin places,” where heaven and earth came closer together. There were several such sites in Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England where people would go, if they wanted to encounter God. Examples of these thin places, in the Hebrew Scriptures, would be Mount Sinai, Bethel and Mount Zion.
Christians have long debated how Jesus comes to us in Holy Communion. Perhaps we can simply agree that The Lord’s Supper is a “thin place.” In receiving the bread and the wine, we meet Jesus. While our attention is focused on Jesus, we remember what Jesus has done for us. We also recall what Jesus has said will happen in the future—he will come again. The thin place reminds us that Jesus is never far from us.
Thank you, Lord, for what you have done, are doing and will do. Amen.
Saturday, August 26, 2017–Take Eat This is My Body
“Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup” (1 Corinthians 11:28).
Occasionally, Francesca would stand in front of the bathroom mirror and look at herself. She was a fitness enthusiast who worked out at the fitness center regularly. Francesca was pleased with her overall appearance, but there were areas that she didn’t like. She believed that her ears stuck out a little too much, her triceps were a bit too flabby and there was layer of fat on her hips that was immune to diet and exercise. The more Francesca looked at herself the more frustrated and defeated she became. It was then that her husband, who had notice her long presence in front of the mirror, would step behind her, put his arms around her and whisper in Francesca’s ear, “You know I love all of you, inside and out, and I always will.”
It is always possible to go through the motions when celebrating communion. Paul wanted to remind the Christians at Corinth that their agape feast was more than eating and drinking, and thus reminded them to examine themselves. Paul’s words remind us, also, that we need to stand before the mirror and see ourselves. Yet, if we see only ourselves and our imperfections (sins) we weaken our experience. It is important for us to also feel God’s embrace and hear God’s words that God loves us and will never stop loving us.
There are times, Lord, when our imperfections cause us to not love ourselves. Thank you that you love us unconditionally and that you always will. Amen.
Sunday, August 27, 2017–Take Eat This is My Body
“For this reason many of you are weak and ill and some have died” (1 Corinthians 11:30).
Paul’s cause and effect confuses us. The fact that, if we somehow receive the bread and wine in an unworthy manner, we may become ill or die sounds preposterous. Flat bread and wine—even bad wine—has never been identified as pathogens by the medical community. Besides that, whatever happened to the Christian doctrine that judgment for sin rested upon Jesus at the cross and no longer upon us? So, what do we do? Do we ignore Paul’s words?
We might find meaning to what Paul writes if we put in on a spiritual level rather than confine it to the physical. As followers of Jesus, if we can be a participant of the love, grace, forgiveness and hope that is essential elements of Holy Communion, then perhaps our walk with God is adversely affected. Can there be an abundant and free life without love, grace, forgiveness and hope? The Lord’s Supper is always an invitation to experience life rather than death and to fully experience the rich life that is God’s gift to us.
Lord, as challenging as it may be at times, give us both the will and the ability to live in love, grace, forgiveness and hope. Amen.