Saturday, January 25, 2014

Corinth's Communion (part 9)

If personal concerns are at the fore when one participates in the communion table, then attempts taken to determine what it would mean to take the elements in an unworthy manner, along with an examination of self, juxtaposed with the irrelevant notion of examining oneself to see if one is in the faith, then this would most likely devolve into an idea that sins must be confessed before taking communion so that the participant will then be worthy to receive the symbols of the body and blood. 

Conversely, some would declare that this type of self-examination is precisely not what is to take place, as it puts the focus on one’s own self rather than on Jesus, and that Paul is indicating that the focus must be on Jesus, with the bread and the cup acting as useful symbols that allow such a focus to be maintained.  Therefore, in a strange twist, it is declared that confession of personal sins in order to become worthy is that which makes one unworthy, as doing so is nothing more than part and parcel of an attempt to work towards one’s salvation and is therefore a denial of grace, which is ultimately taken to be a denial of Jesus. 

Beyond that, semantics and grammar are brought into play, and it is declared that proper understanding is had when one sees that “unworthy” is not the word that is used, but rather “unworthily,” which is then what makes all the difference in the world, with a determination as to whether the word in question is meant to be taken as modifying the noun or the verb.  Now, this is not the place to delve into whether or not the proper word is the adjective unworthy or the adverb unworthily, and basing an entire communion methodology upon what is implied by the differences between the two. 

Getting focused on such a thing would seem to miss the point either way, as determining if one is supposed to be focusing on self and sins as opposed to Jesus and His sacrifice, may be an unwarranted flight into a disconnected and individualized spiritualization in the realm of personal concern and the final destination of one’s eternal soul.  This would be another instance of losing focus on the larger movement of the letter itself and the kingdom community, of forgetting the environment into which Paul writes and the concerns that he is raising and addressing within this entire section that runs as one unit from at least the seventeenth verse through the thirty-fourth verse, while also failing to consider the fact that there is a very real and known situation that would be readily identified by Paul’s intended hearers. 

Quite frankly, though the thoughts and actions of individual persons are in view here, it seems clear, at least based on the way that Paul has introduced the specific topic of communion as well as what follows (verses twenty-seven through thirty-four), that it is the actions of this church as a group---as a body---when they are coming together for what they are erroneously referring to as the Lord’s Supper (their actions making it an erroneous application) that is the concern, and the demand is placed upon the reader to see, hear, and understand the situation in this way.  

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