[anzac] The SNACK WE CALL SUPPER

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From: "REVIVAL List" <prophetic@...>
Date: Thu, 17 May 2007 13:16:22 -0700
"The SNACK WE CALL SUPPER"
-by David Servant (-AKA 'Brother David').

At the last church that I pastored, I required that our ushers wear
a coat and tie on those once-a-month Sundays when we
celebrated the Lord's Supper. It seemed to me that those who
distributed the elements of Jesus' body and blood should
demonstrate at least that much respect in performing their sacred duty.

On one of those Communion Sundays, while an usher was driving
his family to the church, his five-year-old son noticed that he was
wearing a coat and tie. He innocently asked, "Dad, is this the
Sunday that we all eat God's holy snack?"

When his father later recounted that story to me, it was an
emperor's-new-clothes moment of revelation. I had stood in front
of congregations hundreds of times and said, "Let us prepare our
hearts to receive the Lord's Supper," and then proceeded to pass
out a miniscule cracker and a thimble-sized sip of grape juice.
And nobody ever questioned it! And what we were doing had been
done in millions of churches for hundreds of years! A five-year-old
boy had exposed centuries of blind tradition---the snack we call supper.

The Way Things Were

Of course, just about everyone knows that the original Lord's
Supper was a fullmeal, a Passover meal, shared by intimate
friends who believed in Jesus. And anyone who reads the relevant
passages from the New Testament can ascertain in minutes that
in the early church, the Lord's Supper was indeed a supper---a full
meal---shared by people who loved each other like family. So
when and why did the Lord's Supper become a holy snack? And
what difference does it make if we celebrate the Lord's Supper as
did the early church?

Before we tackle those questions, let's first take a look at Paul's
words to the Corinthian Christians regarding the Lord's Supper.
That will help us begin to understand what many of us have been missing.

"Therefore when you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord's
Supper, for in your eating each one takes his own supper first; and
one is hungry and another is drunk. What! Do you not have houses
in which to eat and drink? Or do you despise the church of God
and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall
I praise you? In this I will not praise you.... For he who eats and
drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge
the body rightly. For this reason many among you are weak and
sick, and a number sleep....
So then, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for
one another. If anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, so that you
will not come together for judgment." (1 Cor. 11:20-34).

From looking at the first and last verses of that passage, one often-
overlooked fact stands out. Clearly, eating the Lord's Supper was
a primary reason that the early Christians assembled. At least
some of their gatherings revolved around a common meal, and that
meal they called "the Lord's Supper." Take another look at those
first and last verses to see for yourself:

Therefore when you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord's
Supper, for in your eating each one takes his own supper first [that
is, you say you are gathering to eat the Lord's Supper, but the way
you are doing it reveals something else]; and one is hungry and
another is drunk...So then, my brethren, when you come together
to eat... (1 Cor. 11:20, 34, emphasis added).

It is also obvious from these two verses that the Lord's Supper was
an actual meal. Once that is settled, a few other scriptures that
describe early church life seem to take on new meaning. For
example, Luke describes four activities that characterized the first
Christians, one of which was eating common meals:

They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles'
teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer
(Acts 2:42, emphasis added).

And just a few verses later, Luke again highlights those common meals:

Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking
bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together
with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor
with all the people (Acts 2:46-47, emphasis added).

Although Luke doesn't specifically refer to these meals as being
the Lord's Supper, they certainly are similar to Paul's description
of the Lord's Supper in 1 Corinthians 11:20-34. And we might ask,
If the Lord's Supper is a common meal, what would be the major
difference between a common meal that is not the Lord's Supper
and a common meal that is the Lord's Supper, especially when
bread and wine were the most common elements of an average
meal in that day? (We might even go further and ask, Because
Jesus said "Do this, as often as your drink it, in remembrance of
Me," is it possible that He wanted them to remember Him every
time they drank the most common beverage of their day?)

Paul and Luke's descriptions of early church life expose the vast
difference between what was typical then and now. The Lord's
Supper is generally not the reason that we meet today. Rather,
the modern version of the Lord's Supper is tagged on near the end
of a Sunday service. Moreover, it is not a supper at all, but a little
snack. (Actually, the "pot-luck dinners" that some modern
churches occasionally enjoy are closer to what the Lord's Supper
looked like in the NewTestament.)

The Agapé Meal

It seems safe to conclude that Jude also referred to common
Christian meals in his little epistle, calling them "love feasts" (see
Jude 1:12). Those common meals were indeed a feast of love, a
meal at which those who could brought food to share with the
poor among them, which is precisely what Paul described in
1 Corinthians 11:20-23.

Keep in mind that when Paul wrote, "Or do you despise the church
of God?," he wasn't talking about despising a building where the
Christians went to church. He was talking about the Christians
themselves. Getting drunk and hogging all the food at a gathering
of the saints is a sure way to expose how lightly one esteems
God's children, the church. By so doing, one "despises the church
of God." Perhaps those food hogs were the types of people Jude
had in mind when he wrote, "These are men who are hidden reefs
in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring
for themselves" (Jude 1:12).

But let's return to Paul's words. The Corinthian Christians could
not rightfully call their common meal the Lord's Supper because
selfishness pervaded rather than love. Everyone who was able
brought food and wine to the meal, but not all arrived at the same
time. The earliest arrivals were eating without waiting for the
others, and by the time the rest arrived---who were apparently
sometimes so poor that they were unable to bring any food---
everything had already been consumed. Some of the earlier
arrivals were even inebriated from drinking all the wine, while late-
comers left hungrier than when they arrived. Not much of a "love feast"!

This is why Paul admonished the Corinthians in a concluding sentence,
"So then, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one
another. If anyone is hungry, let him eat at home" (1 Cor. 11:33-34).

A Unique Gathering

Clearly, the Lord's Supper in the early church was a gathering of
Christians from different social and economic classes, something
that made it absolutely unique on planet Earth, a veritable
foretaste of the marriage feast of the Lamb. Caring for the poor is
part and parcel of what Christianity is intended to be, so much so
that it was a component of the Lord's sacred Supper that was
regularly and frequently enjoyed by the early Christians.

By means of the Lord's Supper, the first believers fulfilled a
commandment of Christ that seems to be virtually ignored today:

"When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends
or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, otherwise they
may also invite you in return and that will be your repayment. But
when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame,
the blind, and you will be blessed, since theydo not have the
means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of
the righteous" (Luke 14:12-14).

Surely such a dinner would truly be a "love feast"!

But back to the Corinthians. They were, in part, fulfilling the
commandment of Christ that we just read. They invited the poor
among them to a common meal. However, before the poor arrived,
they were eating all the food! And by so doing, they were setting
themselves up for God's judgment:

If anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, so that you will not
come together for judgment (1 Cor. 11:34, emphasis added).

Paul elaborated more specifically on that judgment in the
preceding verses...

The judgment/discipline that some Corinthians were suffering was
weakness, sickness, and even premature death. Those judgments
fell upon them not simply for the act of hogging all the food or
getting drunk at the Lord's Supper. Those were but symptoms of a
larger heart-issue, what Paul referred to as "not judging the body
rightly" (11:29).

Perhaps Paul was speaking of the need for each person to properly
regard the body of Christ, the body of believers, lest anyone, as he
said earlier, "despise the church of God" (11:22)---an attitude that
was revealed, for example, when they ignored or mistreated the
poor among them at the Lord's Supper. The very act of eating all
the bread with no concern for hungry late-comers made a mockery
of what is represented by partaking of the single loaf---our unity
with Christ and each other (see 1 Cor. 10:16-17).

The only other possibility is that Paul was speaking of each
person judging his own selfish fleshy nature, again, something that
was revealed by the inconsiderate behavior of many at the Lord's
Supper.

Both interpretations yield the same conclusion: Partaking of the
Lord's Supper---what is supposed to be a remembrance of Jesus'
amazing love for us and an expression of our love for one another---
can be deadly if done in "an unworthy manner" (11:27), that is,
selfishly. Selfishness as a tacit denial of everything the Lord's
Supper represents. Imagine a few people hogging all the food and
drink at the Lord's Supper so that some of the "least of these"
among Christ's brethren went home hungrier than when they
arrived! When that happens, the sheep look no different than the
goats. And we know how God feels about the goats! (If not, see
Matt. 25:31-46).

Thus you can then understand why God disciplined such goat-like
sheep at Corinth. Amazingly, even that was an act of His mercy,
as Paul wrote, "When we are judged, we are disciplined by the
Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world"
(11:32). The world will one day be condemned to hell, but God
disciplines us to call us back to the narrow path to eternal life.
We can avoid His judgment if we, as Paul wrote, "judged
ourselves rightly" (1 Cor. 11:31). That means to confess and
forsake our selfishness.

I hope you are beginning to see that the little ritual we rehearse in
our churches is a far cry from what the Lord originally intended for
His special supper of love. And I hope no one thinks I'm calling for
nothing more than a relocation of the Lord's Supper from church
buildings to homes, along with an increase in the portion sizes of
the food! The greater issue is our love for one another.

Naturally, a joyous meal in a home is a better opportunity to
express our love for each other than is a two-minute snack that
we swallow while staring at the back of someone else's head.

But more importantly, sharing some of our food with poor believers
has a whole lot more to do with loving our neighbors as ourselves
(a fairly important commandment) than piously participating in a
church ritual that is based mostly on Roman Catholic tradition. I
tend to think that no matter if we partake of the Lord's Supper as
a snack in a church or as a full meal in a home, we are just as
guilty as the Corinthians if we aren't caring for those in the body
of Christ who have little or no food, even if they live in another
nation. What a mockery is made of the Lord's Supper by
professing Christians who sanctimoniously sip the wine yet who
couldn't care less about their brothers and sisters in Christ who
are starving. They, like the Corinthians, are eating and drinking
judgment upon themselves, and unless they repent, they too will
be condemned along with the world, just as Christ promised in
Matthew 25:31-46.

Spontaneous Lord's Suppers

I think it is quite possible that many of us have been enjoying the
Lord's Supper to some degree without even knowing it, as we
naturally have been drawn to share meals with those with whom
we feel our relationships are sacred and spiritual. This occurs
naturally when people are born again. As Paul wrote, "Now as to
the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to
you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another"
(1 Thes. 4:9). And John wrote, "We know that we have passed
out of death into life, because we love the brethren" (1 John 3:14).

Love is part of the salvation package. Yet how many sincere
pastors have discovered that many of the people in their churches
have no genuine interest in meeting with other Christians in small
spiritual groups, much less actually gathering in a home to share
a meal together? Such people will attend a Sunday-morning show
and even shake a few hands during the "fellowship minute." But
they really don't love each other. As soon as they've put in their
time, the goats are running for the parking lot.

Meanwhile, for the sheep, church often really begins after the
benediction. They stand around for a long time talking, or head
out for lunch where the real food is spiritual and the fellowship is
filling. And of course, they don't do it because they feel obligated,
but because they really want to. The early Christians did not
gather for common meals because they read something in the
book of Acts about Christians sharing common meals and wanted
to "get back to the biblical pattern." They did it because they
wanted to do it! This principal is true for so much of what is truly
the work of God. Any pastor who tries to motivate the goats to
act like sheep is wasting his time. Rather, he needs to proclaim
the true gospel until the goats run or repent. Those who repent
God will turn into sheep. Then they'll start acting like sheep,
naturally (or perhaps I should say, supernaturally).

True Orthodoxy

Christian history indicates that it wasn't until the end of the second
century that the bread and wine began to be separated from the
meal of the Lord's Supper. By the end of the fourth century, the
love feast was actually prohibited by the Council of Carthage. In
the centuries that followed, the Lord's Supper evolved into a
somber and mystical ritual during which the bread and wine
actually changed into Christ's body and blood---a holy sacrifice
that could only be administered by an ordained priest in a sacred
spot of a sacred building.

I've asked pastors all over the developing world, "What would be
your reaction if you heard that some of your church members
were meeting in a private home to celebrate the Lord's Supper,
without you or some other ordained minister being present to
officiate and to bless and distribute the elements?" Most of them
confess that their gut reaction would be one of extreme alarm,
because such a thing would seem to be heretical! I then usually
chide them that they are really just Roman Catholic priests! They
have been blindly following an unbiblical tradition that goes back
more than 1,700 years! They may not believe that the bread and
juice actually become Christ's literal body and blood, but just
about everything else is the same.

The truth is, however, that the Lord's Supper as practiced by the
early Christians never occurred in a special church building, but in
homes. And it was never a little snack but always a full meal. And
there was never an "ordained minister" present to "officiate,"
because there were no "ordained ministers" and Scripture leads
us to believe that ordinary Christians enjoyed the Lord's Supper
together. Moreover, at the Lord's Supper, the poor were fed. And
every Bible scholar who has written about the Lord's Supper as it
was practiced by the early church will affirm these things (if you
don't trust me or the Bible!).

I wonder now, how many pastors reading this (there are hundreds
on our e-mail list) will just keep doing it the same old non-
traditional way, or how many will take steps to begin to educate
their congregations in order to do it the Lord's way---the biblical
way---the orthodox way? (If your church is nothing more than a
gathering place for goats, get ready for a lot of "butts"!)