United States (1 Corinthians 11:12-37)

Joan MacPherson, July 2, 2017
Part of the Sunday series, preached at a Sunday Morning service

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United States
(1 Corinthians 11:12-37)
There is a theme here. A theme from Paul’s instructions, perhaps better said directives. to the early church and these sacraments that Jesus has given us, the church. The sacraments of baptism and communion. The theme is a tangible ritual that literally touches us with the inclusive, transforming love of God that is offered to each of us and to all of us - across this whole world, in every nook and cranny, to every skin color, gender identity, ethnicity, physical reality, psychological condition, economic status. No exceptions. Which is an incredible gift until it becomes a challenging gift. Really God? Love, forgive, make room for everyone? When there are so many people that irk, cheat, hurt? Really God? Really. Jesus kept doing that. To the frustration and distress of many. We who seek to follow in his way are called to do the same. It is hard work and it is transforming work. It is challenge and privilege to be part of it.
It is not just contemporary culture that struggles with inclusion and division. These issues thread through out our sacred story. This morning we hear about the problems in the community of Corinth. We can go back further and find stories of struggle and vision as well - far too many in the Hebrew scripture where violence and tribal conflict get a lot of coverage. These stories aren’t told to condone the divisions - they are told that we might learn about healing, transforming, finding what connects us; that we might lean into God and join in creating a world that is less divided and more united in the midst of the things that are hard and conditions that are harsh. God’s invitation is to unite. Jesus’ practice was to unite. We worship this morning in the middle of 4th of July weekend when we are celebrating the birth of a nation committed to uniting states and people in a new way of living. So many dreams to unite. So many struggles in living it out. There were problems in that early church - they came together for worship but divided themselves by economic status. Paul says to them - no! Not divided. United. Remember. Remember. Remember what Jesus has taught and give your lives to that way. In order to help us remember we share communion. A simple meal shared in love and hope for the day all will be united in love. A simple meal that can break down barriers, literally and metaphorically. I wonder how that might happen in each of us this morning? Where we might let go and make room? Amen.

Joan MacPherson
Main Street Congregational UCC
July 2, 2017

Note: This manuscript was prepared for oral delivery only.
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Regarding this next item, I’m not at all pleased. I am getting the picture that when you meet together it brings out your worst side instead of your best! First, I get this report on your divisiveness, competing with and criticizing each other. I’m reluctant to believe it, but there it is. The best that can be said for it is that the testing process will bring truth into the open and confirm it.
20-22 And then I find that you bring your divisions to worship—you come together, and instead of eating the Lord’s Supper, you bring in a lot of food from the outside and make pigs of yourselves. Some are left out, and go home hungry. Others have to be carried out, too drunk to walk. I can’t believe it! Don’t you have your own homes to eat and drink in? Why would you stoop to desecrating God’s church? Why would you actually shame God’s poor? I never would have believed you would stoop to this. And I’m not going to stand by and say nothing.
23-26 Let me go over with you again exactly what goes on in the Lord’s Supper and why it is so centrally important. I received my instructions from the Master himself and passed them on to you. The Master, Jesus, on the night of his betrayal, took bread. Having given thanks, he broke it and said,
This is my body, broken for you.
Do this to remember me.
After supper, he did the same thing with the cup:
This cup is my blood, my new covenant with you.
Each time you drink this cup, remember me.
What you must solemnly realize is that every time you eat this bread and every time you drink this cup, you reenact in your words and actions the death of the Master. You will be drawn back to this meal again and again until the Master returns. You must never let familiarity breed contempt.
27-28 Anyone who eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Master irreverently is like part of the crowd that jeered and spit on him at his death. Is that the kind of “remembrance” you want to be part of? Examine your motives, test your heart, come to this meal in holy awe.
29-32 If you give no thought (or worse, don’t care) about the broken body of the Master when you eat and drink, you’re running the risk of serious consequences. That’s why so many of you even now are listless and sick, and others have gone to an early grave. If we get this straight now, we won’t have to be straightened out later on. Better to be confronted by the Master now than to face a fiery confrontation later.
33-34 So, my friends, when you come together to the Lord’s Table, be reverent and courteous with one another. If you’re so hungry that you can’t wait to be served, go home and get a sandwich. But by no means risk turning this Meal into an eating and drinking binge or a family squabble. It is a spiritual meal—a love feast.
The other things you asked about, I’ll respond to in person when I make my next visit.


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1 Corinthians 11:12-34

12 for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God. 13 Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a wife to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, 15 but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering. 16 If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God.

17 But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. 18 For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, 19 for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. 20 When you come together, it is not the Lord's supper that you eat. 21 For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.

23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.

27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. 31 But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.

33 So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another— 34 if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home—so that when you come together it will not be for judgment. About the other things I will give directions when I come. (ESV)

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