Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The Lord's Supper or a Marathon?

by Larry Rouse
www.cvillechurch.com

On the night of His betrayal and in the very shadow of the cross itself, Jesus called his disciples together and expressed a strong desire of His heart. “Then He said to them, With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 22:15-16) What made this particular Passover so important was that Jesus Himself would become the fulfillment of the Passover lamb the very next day as He would shed his blood for our salvation. Also, all disciples in every generation, would remember this event with Jesus as they partake of the Lord’s Supper in the kingdom of God. When Jesus instituted this supper after partaking of the Passover, He was giving instructions that all who would ever love the Lord would also observe it with a strong fervor.

The early Christians were taught by the Apostle Paul, “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”” (1 Corinthians 11:23-25)

The occasion was a very serious one. Those who partake of this supper without a heart attuned to the meaning of Jesus’ death and the great commitment that it demands, are in fact committing a great act of ingratitude and irreverence towards God, as well as hardening their own hearts during a time when it should have been made tender. “Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be `guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body” (1 Corinthians 11:27-29). You can also show this irreverence in choosing not to be present to partake!

The early church, through the instructions of the Apostles, made the Lord’s Supper a centerpiece of their worship. On the Day of Pentecost, after Peter had preached the gospel and 3,000 were baptized, we read about the careful instruction these new disciples were given. “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” (Acts 2:42)

When the apostle Paul came to Troas, he met with the church there on the first day of the week and partook of the Lord’s Supper with them. “Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight.” (Acts 20:7) Sunday, the first day of the week, is the day that Jesus was raised from the dead, the day that the Lord’s Church was established (Acts 2), and is the day that early Christians assembled to remember our Lord in this supper. As a Christian, when the first day of the week comes around, one should make plans and will give diligence to be with fellow Christians to remember our Lord.

How should we as Christians treat other events that would cause us to miss an assembly with Christians? Let me share with you a story. In the summer of 2001 I attended a very public news conference in downtown Birmingham where it was announced that a new Marathon was to be held, the Mercedes Marathon. Running is my favorite sport and I had always wanted to be able to run a marathon in Birmingham but was unable to, since in the past, previous marathons were run on Sunday. I approached the man who would be in charge of the event and asked him on what day would the marathon be held. He replied that it would always be on a Sunday in February. My heart dropped and I knew that any future marathons for me would have to be in another town and on a Saturday.

Did I make the right decision?

I have always believed that in serving the Lord, the priorities in my life are shown in decisions like these. In the Sunday morning assembly I am not only meeting with the saints for my edification, but the Lord Himself is there as well. He is the unseen presence when I sing, pray and partake of that sacred supper. Could I miss this occasion to participate in any sporting event? I cannot imagine any faithful Christian allowing worldly things like these to take a greater priority.

In the early 1980’s there was a movie called “Chariots of Fire” that depicted a true story of a man who qualified to run in the Olympics, but discovered on the boat to the event that he would have to run a race on a Sunday. Under enormous pressure and public scrutiny, He refused to participate. While his reasoning that “Sunday is the Sabbath” was wrong, I did agree with the stand that he took. The world did not understand his position and subjected him to ridicule and scorn, but those today who understand the nature of faith can identify with his stand.

Are those who wear the name of Christ today becoming ashamed of such a stand?

It is becoming more common to hear of Christians missing “just one service” to participate in local races, soccer games and other voluntary events. Sometimes they are raising money for a worthy cause and sometimes they are there to be with friends. Often family members and friends are invited to watch the game or assist in some other way. Those who are raising money often have websites, e-mails and handouts proclaiming what they are doing in advance and asking others to contribute money and to be in partnership with them.

Couldn't these things be done on another day? Going to another city to run a race on another day, or simply asking friends to donate to the cause without running in the event are easy solutions among others. Our children need to be taught the importance of priorities and miss games that conflict with the “Lord’s team.”

One thing is for sure, your decision makes a statement. The more public that decision means the more public your statement is. Let this be what you proclaim: “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.” (1 Corinthians 11:26)

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E-Mail:
larryrouse@cvillechurch.com

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