The Revelation of God in Human Life: Discerning the Body
Our Scripture passage this morning comes from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.
23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
27 So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. 29 For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves.
Today we begin a new sermon series entitled The Revelation of God in Human Life. We move today to the Lord’s Supper and the Apostle Paul’s remarkable statement that we must discern the body when we come to this Table.
I want you to hold out your dominant hand and flex it for a moment. Make a fist and then point with your fingers one, two, three, four, and five. Think, just for a moment, about what has to happen mechanically in our body in order to make that movement happen. What must occur in order for our brain to send signals down our arm and to our hand so that we can move those muscles in that way? How can we create all kinds of configurations with our hand, an instrument God has given us to do good work? Our Call to Worship this morning comes from Ecclesiastes 9:10: “Whatever work you find to do, do it as unto the Lord with all your might.”
Have you been to the beach this summer? Did you become aware of the human body as you walked up and down the beach? Being aware of human bodies is just not all it is cracked up to be, is it? Look in the mirror early in the morning. Maybe you, like I, have a rude awakening almost every day. The truth is that time and gravity spare none of us. We all wear in our bodies the ravages of time and the reality of gravity.
Several weeks ago I was with several teenagers in our church. We saw a large group of men riding by on bicycles. They were moving so fast we could not actually count them, but we did notice that the men were all wearing multi-colored spandex outfits. Do you know the outfits I mean?
I watched as those guys flew by us on bicycles that have such high seats and low handlebars that riding one requires a position that seems rather awkward and not necessarily attractive. Seeing the men, I remembered a comment made by Sonny King, a veterinarian for the Iditarod Dog Sled Race in Alaska for a number of years before actually racing several times himself. King said, “Only the lead dog has a good view.” That comment must apply to those guys riding bicycles. That view offers great incentive to get out in front of the pack. I cannot imagine the view would be very good in any other position.
I remember riding a bicycle when I was a boy. In the summertime, I rolled up the cuffs on my pants so that they would not get tangled in the chain. In the wintertime, I put a rubber band around my cuffs.
I cannot imagine myself riding a bicycle designed with high seats and low handlebars now. I cannot imagine myself wearing a spandex outfit either. You would not want me to do that, would you? Jack Dodds could wear one, and Nathan Neighbors could, too. Chris Kurtz…no, I do not think so.
We see a growing awareness of the human body occurring in Christian theology, a movement called Embodiment. This current trend calls us to become more aware of our physical bodies. Nothing is surprising here. God’s plan from the very beginning was to create us as people with a body. Psalm 139:13-14 offers a beautiful description of God’s plan, saying that from the beginning we were “knit together in our mother’s womb.” That passage goes on to say that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.”
When God made the decision to fully reveal Himself, He did so through embodiment, through what we call the incarnation. He came to us in the flesh through Jesus Christ. The incarnation, God becoming flesh, is really the first miracle in the life of Jesus.
The first great heresy in the church was to deny that Jesus really was a human being. If he was divine, the Gnostic Heresy reasoned, his feet could never have quite touched the ground. Their thought was based on the philosophy of Plato who said that since the body is evil and the spirit is good, the spirit must escape the body. The Gnostics claimed that if Jesus were divine, he could have never been embodied. The Bible contradicts that belief, saying that Jesus was both fully human and fully divine. He had a body, and he was the Son of God. These bodies of ours are so important. They are not just empty vessels to be sloughed off when we die, like the shells of mollusks washed up on the beach.
Yesterday I was handed one of my little granddaughters who had just had one of her frequent feedings. She was fussy and needed to burp. I lifted her to my shoulder, rocking and patting her back as I sang. She burped all right…spitting up formula all down my back. I thought her throwing up might have been a commentary on my singing. I can tell you that we had bodily awareness Saturday.
Paul says that we must discern the body. Think about what our bodies can do. We interact with each other through a touch, a handshake, a hug, a smile, a frown. Our bodies remind us that this is the way we minister to other people. This is the way we do the work that God has called us to do. Our body is a tool we use for His purpose.
Paul writes that when we come to this Table to observe the Lord’s Supper, “If anyone eats and drinks without discerning the body of the Lord, he eats and drinks judgment on himself” (I Corinthians 11:29). What does he mean by that statement? Discerning the body means that we recognize that observing the Lord’s Supper is not done in isolation. We participate in this meal in the context of our community, a community we call “A Family of Faith” here at Morningside. Taking the Lord’s Supper is a part of our corporate worship.
We gather here with a keen awareness of all that Jesus has done for us. We are aware of those who share the pew with us. We pray for those who are grieving, those who are suffering, those who are living in despair, those who are living with anxiety, and those who are perhaps facing an uncertain diagnosis. When we worship here, our circle of concern expands to those in our country who have lost their homes to fires and to those who, this week, have lost their homes to floods.
When we gather here, we think of the men and women who are serving overseas, some in the military and some as missionaries. We think of other people in other countries torn by war such as Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Some of those people are Christians; all of those people are loved by God because He loves the entire world. Discerning the body means moving beyond our own sense of isolation and understanding that we are a part of a much, much larger community. As we take these elements, the bread and the cup, we are reminded through this discernment that we are to pray for others.
Discerning the body also means we remember the physical sacrifice of Jesus. If you wonder if Jesus was fully human, all you have to do is go to that place called the Skull. Go to Golgotha. There you will see his humanity. Stand at the foot of the cross with the women who looked on in astonishment, watching “from his head, his hands, his feet, sorrow and love flowing mingled down.” Stand there with the women who turned away in horror, seeing the agony in his dying eyes. Discerning the body means kneeling with Thomas with all of our doubts, seeing the nail prints in those hands, and exclaiming, “My Lord and My God!” Discerning the body means remembering what Jesus Christ has done for us and recognizing that his sacrifice was for the entire world. Jesus’ death is very personal. He died for me. He died for you. When we come to this Table, we see here what Christ Jesus has done for us.
This is not Morningside’s Table. This is not a Baptist Table. This is the Lord’s Table. Anyone who acknowledges Jesus Christ as Lord is invited to take the cup and the bread and to discern the body with all of us. Let’s take the supper together and discern the body.
On the night when he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took bread. He blessed it and broke it. He said, “This is my body, broken for you.”
Prayer for the Bread: Our Father, as we have been so vividly reminded of the body of Your blessed Son, we come now to partake of the bread, to do so in remembrance of him and what he has done for us. We pray that this awareness will help us become more like Jesus our Lord in every way possible. In Christ’s precious name, we pray. Amen.
“The First Son of Isaiah” Sanctuary Choir
Just as I am, though tossed about With many a conflict, many a doubt, Fightings within and fears without O Lamb of God, I come. Just as I am, Thou wilt receive Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve Because Thy promise I believe O Lamb of God, I come.
Jesus said, “This bread is my body given for you.” Eat this as often as you eat it in remembrance of him. Eat all of it.
Prayer for the Cup: Our heavenly Father, Your Son went through a brutal, bloody death 2000 years ago as a sacrifice for our sins. We drink this cup now to remember that sacrifice, praying that we honestly and faithfully realize that we are taking this meal in honor and in remembrance of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen
“Jesus Loves Me” Musical
Just as I am, without on plea, But that Thy blood was shed for me, And that Thou bidst me come to Thee, O Lamb of God, I come. Just as I am, and waiting not, To rid my soul of one dark blot To Thee whose blood can cleanse each spot O Lamb of God, I come.
Jesus said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood.” Drink this as often as you drink it in remembrance of him. Drink all of it.
Do you know Christ Jesus as your Savior? Have you asked him to come into your life? If not, I extend that invitation to you today, not only on behalf of Morningside, but also on behalf of our Savior. You are invited to acknowledge him and ask him into your life. If God has laid some other decision on your heart, you know how to respond.Kirk H. Neely © September 2012