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Oct 2, 2016

“Discerning the Body” 10-2-16

I Corinthians 11:20-22 & 27-33
Matthew 18:1-14
October 2, 2016

You may have noticed that there is a section missing from our First Lesson.  We will be reading those missing verses as the words of the institution of the Lord’s Supper later in our service.  The entire passage from I Corinthians 11 is the Apostle Paul’s very important instructions regarding the celebration of the Lord’s Supper.  It has to do with discerning the body of Christ, but it is a different aspect of the Body of Christ than was focused on at the reformation 1500 years later. 
In the reformation the body of Christ that was the center of attention was the bread and the wine and how Christ was present in them or along with them or in the eating of the meal.
In I Corinthians it was the church or the assembly of the called out ones that was the focus of Paul’s attention.
The Corinthian Christians were celebrating the Lord’s Supper in a way that emphasized the socio-economic differences among them and insulted the poor among them.
All of this advice of Paul ended with a warning; they needed to discern the body who was at the table before they ate from the body that was on the table.
And that is the thought I have in mind today as I look at this passage from Matthew 18.  Today is World Communion Sunday, so the body we discern is more than those who are present in this room or whom we personally know who are Christians not in this room.  Today we participate in this sacrament as part of the Worldwide Community of Christians. 
Jesus’ teaching to his apostles on the occasion of chapter 18 was provoked by a question.  That question was, “Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven”. 
Now in this context or in their context I think we can assume that the kingdom of heaven they were talking about was the Messianic kingdom.  The kingdom of Jesus, particularly in its eternal stage.  And, since the kingdom belongs to Jesus I think we can also safely assume that the question did not include Jesus or the father, in other words, who, other than Jesus and the Father would be greatest in that kingdom.
Jesus’ answer, if they had understood it, might have surprised them.  He did not at first answer the question; he changed it from who is greatest in that kingdom to who will be in that kingdom.  In other words, he seems to be saying, “Before you are concerned about who is the greatest in the kingdom, you might want to think about who will be in it, including yourselves.  You need to change your thinking a bit before you can be included in the kingdom. You need to become like children to get into the kingdom of heaven.”  Then he pointed out a child he had put in their midst and said “Whoever becomes humble, like this child, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” This child was probably young, because we see humility in young children; they are timid and shy, not wanting to perform in public.  We observe older children arguing over who can run faster or throw a ball farther, or wear the prettier dress, but in the early stage there is a need to be protected. 
In such children there is also a trust.  Young children do not worry how to get from one place to another in a car; they just get buckled in and let the adult find the way to the destination.  We need to trust God to get us to our destination in his kingdom.
As we gather around this world-wide table this morning, we need to note that we all come as humble, trusting children of God.
Not that the kingdom of God is totally democratic, there are leaders and followers by function more than by honor, but the leaders are the servants of the followers.
As we gather as part of this worldwide kingdom of child-like souls, we need to be careful lest we pollute this body.
It is a terrible thing to be the cause of the child falling into sin and ruining a portion of their lives.  It is a terrible thing to be the cause of some of these child-like souls from falling into sin.
We need to be careful lest in falling into sin ourselves, we pollute the body and cause others to fall.
In this context, the metaphorical cutting off or plucking out of sinful body parts is not just to preserve ourselves, but the entire larger body of Christ.
In recent years, in the worldwide church, some of the daughter churches are accusing their parent churches for changing the teachings that they received from them.
We need to be careful that as churches and as individuals we do not lead into sin or pollute the worldwide body of Christ.  Those who do such would be better to try to swim with a 500 pound mill stone tied to their necks.
We also need to seek out and bring back those who have gone astray.  Even if 99% of those in the body are secure, we need to go after and make secure the 1% who are being lost.
This morning we eat this meal in the context of the world wide church of Jesus Christ.  We are a kingdom of children, some literally, who need our prayers and our diligence.  Always pray for them and their families.
Some of us are older, but still children of God, trusting in our father to save us and accepting our humble places in his kingdom.
And as Jesus said so long ago “it is not the will of your father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.”

 

Pastor David L. Horner
Faith Presbyterian Church
West Lafayette, IN 47906