31 January 2020  |

Dear Aunt Sevvy,

When I came to church a few weeks ago, I saw that the communion table was set up. I was happy to see it, because I like the Lord’s Supper. But just before serving, the pastor read this text: “Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 11:27). It stopped me in my tracks. When the usher brought the bread and wine, I didn’t take it, because I’m pretty sure I’m not good enough, and I don’t want to be guilty of misusing it.

But it left me sad. Did I do the right thing?

Signed, Probably Unworthy

Dear Probably,

You’re not the first person to have been troubled by this text. Many have assumed that it refers to having to be free of sin in order to take communion. I think even some pastors are unclear about its meaning.

Please understand this: none of us can ever be “worthy” of the body and blood of Christ. If communion were for sinless people, what would be the point of participating in it? As Paul himself said, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”

Read 1 Corinthians 11 in context (which your pastor seems not to have done). In the church in Corinth people were angry and fighting with one another (11:18-19). The Lord’s Supper back then was a full meal like the original passover, not a symbolic ceremony of miniature portions. Some people, says Paul, were bringing big quantities of food, gorging on it without sharing, and even getting drunk! (11:21-22).

So when Paul says “in an unworthy manner” he’s being quite literal: this was about how they were doing the supper, not their spiritual worthiness. With something as solemn as the Lord’s Supper, you don’t go into it openly despising one another, nor drunk, selfish and unruly.

I doubt that was your state when you came to church that day. So don’t hold back from the Lord’s Supper! It is meant to reassure sinners like us that Jesus would do anything to save us. 

Reassuringly yours,
Aunt Sevvy

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