Sunday, 30 March 2014

Lent day 25 - proclaiming without words

Christians should share the gospel, I get that. I've done 'cold turkey' evangelism, I've been a Godbotherer. There's a time and place for being upfront, but more often than not, just bowling up to someone and getting in their face just 'isn't cool'. Having a friendship where opinions are respected on both sides is much preferable.

But actions often speak more powerfully than words (though ultimately should be accompanied by the right ones). Following up from Mark's treatment on the Lord's Supper, the short passage of 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 records Jesus' words from that night. There is one phrase I want to focus on, Paul's summary: "For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes."

What does it mean to proclaim the Lord's death? One of the problems in Corinth was the unlevel playing field in the community. When they came together to share the Lord's meal, which was a real meal in those days, the rich appeared to have brought their own food and stuffed their faces. Slaves would have arrived later after performing their tasks, and would have had less to eat. How could such a meal contain such inequality? Here at least, all should have the same.

This is why Paul recommended that they eat at home, and then come together for this meal. What is celebrated in church these days is therefore an echo of what the Lord's Supper could be. So how does it proclaim the Lord's death? The unity that the cross is meant to contain, that new covenant of Jew and Gentile, slave and free, male and female has no distinction in the church, in identity, in worth, in value, in share allotted, in roles that they can hold. This is a new people, a new kingdom, something that cuts across all structures that seek to divide.

Jesus died not simply so that individuals could have their own private religious experiences, but that a whole people could live in peace, justice and righteousness. If we do this, and celebrate it in the shared meal, in publicly observable unity is what proclaims Jesus' death. So what does the real, current state of so many churches proclaim?

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