Monday, October 08, 2007

Repentance and the Lord's Supper--when not to take it

On Sunday, I preached from Acts 8 and the story of Simon Magus, the sorceror in Samaria who converted to Christianity. Simon truly believed and was baptized, but soon fell back into pagan thought, trying to purchase the ability to bestow the Holy Spirit on people. Philip told Simon to repent of this wickedness.

I used this story to talk about the need that all of us have to repent. I talked about:
  • what repentance means (to change one's mind, to turn around),
  • the need to produce fruit (visible change) in keeping with repentance,
  • the centrality of repentance in Jesus' preaching,
  • the need for nations and churches as well as individuals to repent; and that
  • God will give repentance to those who ask for it.

Perhaps the thing that hit home the most, however, was the linking of this sermon to the Lord's Supper. After preaching most of the sermon, we then had the Lord's Supper, saving the invitation until after the Supper. Before taking of it, I talked about the true meaning of 1 Cor. 11 and "examining one's self" and "recognizing the body of Christ." This command to examine ourselves is a command to examine our attitudes towards other Christians. And the body that we are to recognize is the church.

Here is the situation in 1 Cor. 11. The church in Corinth had some who were rich who would arrive early for the LS. They would eat, leaving nothing for the poor Christians who came later after getting off of work. The poor were left with nothing, while the rich were gorging themselves and getting drunk. This violated the greco-roman ettiquete for the banquets, in which everything was to be done for the "common good." It also violated Christian love--which is why Paul talks about this in 1 Cor. 13. Paul instructs the church to examine their attitudes towards other Christians, and to recognize all in the body. If they fail to do this, if they fail to treat one another with Christian love, then they risk eating and drinking condemnation upon themselves.

The Lord's Supper is a weekly check of our attitudes towards others--our spouses, our elders, our minister, our fellow Christians, our bosses, our parents. How many Christian couples go and "worship God," take the Lord's Supper, but inside continue to harbor feelings of animosity towards one another? How many Christians take the Lord's Supper, and then go and tear down another Christian with whom they are holding a grude and whom they refuse to forgive?

By linking repentance to actual behavior and the taking of the Lord's Supper, this seemed to have an impact. In this way, Paul's stern warning comes to life. What if every Sunday, we put aside our selfishness, animosity, and feelings of anger and resentment towards our fellow Christians, including our spouses? Would this not result in a loving, unified church with incredibly strong marriages?

I am glad the message was well received. I can rise to the occasion of being a prophet, but I am not naturally drawn towards it, being aware of my own short comings. Still, this is the role preachers are called to play at times. And it looks like the Lord used this message for good, despite its messenger.