Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Corinth's Communion (part 20)

Speaking of the body, as Paul stresses the importance of the movement of the whole of the church body---with individual practice subsumed to its relevance to the strengthening of the church body (highlighted in chapter twelve) as that body attempts to exist as a microcosm of the kingdom of heaven (the will and rule of the Creator God expressed vicariously on earth through a community of covenant people) while also being an ambassadorial light to the world that speaks boldly of the reign of the Creator God and the coming together of heaven and earth that is accomplished through the death and resurrection of Jesus (which is what is stressed at the communion table)---and though the topic is different than that which is addressed in the fifth and sixth chapters, a move to the tenth chapter sees Paul again taking up and operating within the motif of the meal. 

There, Paul again stresses the significance of the body of believers that comprises the church community (eyeing this in the light of the mention of the need for a careful regard for the body in 11:29) when he writes “Is not the cup of blessing that we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ?  Is not the bread that we break a sharing in the body of Christ?  Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all share the one bread” (1 Corinthians 10:16-17). 

Perhaps the peculiar, subversive, absolute, and expected equality expressed at the Christian meal table, with all partaking equally in the same food and drink without succumbing to the cultural pressures of honor and shame, is what is here in Paul’s mind when he speaks of the breaking of bread and sharing in the body of Christ, as the members of the covenant community are tasked with continuing the mission of the Christ by being His ongoing physical presence in and for the world, with this powerfully symbolized by the way in which the meal is shared?  With the importance placed on the meal table in that time and place as a reflector and shaper of culture (or the reinforcer of its norms), the church’s meal table becomes a transformative force for its participants, with that transformation making its way outside the “four walls” of the church.   

Additionally, one does not overlook the Abrahamic covenant pretensions that are present with the mention of blessing in conjunction with the sharing of the cup and the breaking of the bread.  All talk of “blessing,” when on the lips (or the pen) of the covenant people, is provided context by that covenant.  Consequently, one must affirm that there is something of grand importance in the breaking of the bread that speaks to the body of Christ---the church---and its role to be a blessing for the world.  This role is powerfully communicated to an on-looking world through meal practice.      

In moving beyond the eleventh chapter, further evidence that Paul’s “careful regard for the body” (11:29) when participating in the Lord’s Supper is encountered, demonstrating that this “careful regard for the body” has little to nothing to do with that which occupies the thoughts of the participants as they consume the bread and the wine.  Rather, even greater weight is lent to the idea that Paul has in mind the environment and setting that has been created by the group that is attempting to celebrate that which they are calling the Lord’s Supper, and to the idea that he is calling specific attention to the social constructs that were so important in delineating those that cast their allegiance with King Jesus.  

No comments:

Post a Comment