Monday, January 27, 2014

Corinth's Communion (part 10)

It should continue to be borne in mind that the communion table was approached within a culture with a ready understanding of the social significance of meals and meal practice, as well as by a church that looked upon the Passover celebration (that had been transformed by Jesus) through the lens and light of the messianic banquet and all that such implied.  In many ways, though there is a need to avoid painting with too broad of a brush, one can discern that the communion table---that simple ceremony that Jesus delivered “after supper”---had effectively become symbolic of the messianic banquet, and therefore symbolic of the establishment of the kingdom of heaven. 

This symbolism carries a significant amount of weight in the areas of theology and practice.  Theology because the communion table, in carrying the heavy weight of so much meaning, tells its participants a great deal about the God that Jesus intended to reveal and to be revealed through His church that was intended to reveal the appearance that would be taken by the advent of the Creator God’s kingdom.  Practice because in looking back to the example of Jesus (through His own meal practice), the participants at the communion table are able to learn a very basic premise of what it would look like when they were living and acting like those who truly believed that Jesus had been enthroned, and that the Creator God had indeed begun to rule this world through Him. 

Much like the covenant markers of Judaism (primarily circumcision, dietary prescriptions, and the keeping of the Sabbaths) had become the indicators of those that intended to participate in the kingdom of the Creator God, so too did participation in the communion, performed with an ear and an eye towards the inclusive, socially flattening and barrier eliminating model that was said to have been presented by Jesus and which was being shared through oral communication at the point that this letter to the Corinthians was written (as evidenced by the fact that Paul feels compelled to confirm the tradition that had been presented to him), indicate one’s intention to participate in the kingdom of God on earth, doing so through confirming the Lordship of Jesus by both word and deed. 

This would include living out the implications of the model that was to be found in what would have been the well-known practices of table fellowship of the one that was being looked to as King, and acknowledging the ministerial and missional prominence of the readily communicated stories (as evidenced by the fact that they take up a sizable amount of the Gospel accounts) that served to demonstrate the way that Jesus approached and spoke about the meal table, along with His handling of questions and concerns about the same.  

This would also have to be borne in mind alongside the oft-repeated fact that His positioning Himself as Messiah, whether implicitly or explicitly, meant that the meal tables of Jesus and therefore the table that the early church looked upon as the one table of singular importance, had undeniable messianic banquet sensibilities and would have to be considered within that terribly important context.  For these reasons (among other), it would seem to be incumbent upon believers, observers, participants, and expositors to move past a pre-occupation with individualistic concerns, and about whether one is able to approach the communion table in a particular condition of heart or soul that becomes determinative of the way that the Creator God is going to view a sincere actor as they take the elements and participate in the Lord’s Supper. 

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