A sermon by Dr Donald T. Williams - donaldtwilliams.com

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Presented at Trinity Fellowhip on 08/06/00

1 Corinthians 11:23-26


In our series of messages on the Lord's Supper, we have seen that Communion is a symbolic meal which speaks of our dependence on Christ for spiritual life (as our bodies depend on bread for physical life) and of our union with Christ (as intimate as the fact that the bread and wine literally become part of us). We have seen that it is the ratification of the New Covenant, serving as a sign to remind us of it much as the Rainbow reminds us of the Noahic Covenant and Circumcision of the Abrahamic. Today we see that it is also an act of proclamation or witness to the Gospel (1 Cor. 11:26). It does this in at least three ways.

First, Communion is in itself a natural symbol for the Death of Christ, a Visible Word, a Seen Sermon. The Bread is broken as was His Body; the Wine looks like blood, and is poured out as His Blood was shed. Just as the Death of Christ is the moment that brings His whole earthly ministry into focus (for apart from His Death we miss its significance for us), so the Bread and Wine bring into focus the whole service of worship:   The fullness of ages, The smell of the hay; The gifts of the Sages, The dawning of day.   The river of Jordan, The Voice from above; The weight of the Burden, The wing of the Dove.   The test of Temptation, The talk on the Hill, The waves' inundation, The lake water still.   The dough and the leaven, The one missing sheep, The treasure in Heaven, The harvest to reap.   The tale for the mind, The fishes, the bread, The light for the blind, The life of the dead.   The mountain of Zion, The statement, "I Am!" The heart of the Lion, The Blood of the Lamb.   The Lord's Supper helps us feel that last line as the proper climax and center of the whole. And the tangible reality of these natural symbols helps us imagine the reality of the scene on which our redemption depends:  

The Centurion Speaks:   No question but it was a dirty job. The scourging by itself was bad enough; To drive the spikes, though, really takes a tough And calloused character. The women sob, The victim screams, and even as the mob Cries out for more, men wince. The really rough Part comes when all four soldiers huff and puff To raise upright the heavy wooden stob,   For then the man's own weight begins to work: The tendons crack, the flesh begins to tear-- And when he thinks it's more than he can bear, They drop him in the socket with a jerk. And after we did that, he said (it's true), Forgive them, for they know not what they do."   As real as the loaf we hold in our hands: that's how real it was when the Lord gave His life for us.

A second way in which the Lord's Supper proclaims the Death of Christ is by showing the effects of that Death in the congregation: conversion and faith. The pronouns and the verb in 1 Cor. 11:26 are plural. It is not the officiant or the celebrant but the whole congregation that does the proclaiming. How? Because the Church's very existence gathered around that Table is evidence of the continuing power of that Death and Resurrection. Whenever we gather, but especially when we gather around that Table, we serve notice to the world that the Death of Christ is real in our lives. When after 2,000 years, in the face of persecution or of mere indifference, men and women still gather to partake of such a simple meal, thinking people must ask, "Why do they do it?" The Cimmunion itself provides the anwer: If Christ had not died for us, bearing in His Body the penalty of our sins, we would not be here. If the risen Lord did not meet us in this meal, we would not be here.

A third way in which Communion proclaims the Lord's Death is by confronting the individual with the issue of the personal application of that Death. Communion proclaims it to me as I eat and drink as something which, like food, must be personally appropriated and accepted in order to impart its benefits. Looking at an impressively spread buffet, talking about it, admiring it, all leave me as hungry as when I came. I could have a theoretical faith in the cook to have provided good nourishment and not poison. But that still leaves me empty. Saving faith adds to that theoretical belief the commitment which sticks a fork in the morsel and carries it to my mouth, inserts it, chews it, and swallows. So too the Death of Christ avails us nothing until we admit that we are the sinners who should have died, confess our sins, believing that He died specifically for them and that God raised Him form the dead, and receive Him as personal Savior and Lord. When we have done so, and symbolize that fact by taking and eating the Bread and drinking the Wine, then the Communion also proclaims to us that we are the children of God.

CONCLUSION: Let all Believers then, with a full consciousness of their roles both as givers and receivers of the witness and proclamation that is here, prepare themselves once more to "Show forth the Lord's Death until He come." And if there is one reading these words who has never received Christ as personal Savior, I invite you to receive the witness that is given, receive the Lord Himself, and then join with His people when next they gather around His Table to celebrate once more His glorious love.

The Sign Fiercely focused, aimed from eternity, He set His face like flint toward the Cross. Nothing could turn Him back: the Tempter's gloss, The wrath of Herod, raging of the Sea, Well-meant advice from friends who could not see. It wasn't that He failed to count the cost: No one knew better how to weigh the loss, But He maintained His gaze on you and me. A wicked generation seeks a sign; It's different when you're given one instead. All the meaning centers, every line, Himself, His sacrifice, and all He said: Fiercely focused, still we sip the Wine; Aimed for eternity, we eat the Bread.

Here endeth the lesson. Dr. Donald T. Williams