The Paradox of the Lord’s Supper

In 1 Corinthians 11:27-29, Paul writes some terrifying words: “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup.  For all who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgment against themselves” (NRSV). 

What does this mean?  The historical context of 11: 17-22 is probably a church with class divisions, a church in which the rich indulge themselves in a food and wine while the poor go hungry and this division carries over into the celebration of the supper.  But these later verses, 27-29, seem like a more general principle applicable to any form of sin.  But if it applies to any and all sin, who is ever worthy to take communion?  Surely we all fall short even in our estimations of our own sin, so how can we even rightly examine ourselves?  As one of the readings in our service tonight said, “ God looks down from heaven on the human race to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God.  Everyone has turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one” (Psalm 53:2-3 TNIV).

 As I stood in the intinction line tonight, watching others dip their pieces of bread in the cup, it occurred to me that this is a paradox.  It is only through Christ’s broken body and shed blood that we are worthy to partake of his body and blood.  This is what we realize when we examine ourselves.  As BJ said in the service tonight, “The only requirement to come to the table is that you recognize you need a Savior.”

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