Hungry or Drunk
A Meditation on 1 Corinthians 11: 17 – 34
Rev. Cathy C. Hoop Grace Presbyterian Church October 7, 2018
It’s time for everyone’s favorite Sunday morning game show, “God didn’t say THAT!” “God didn’t say THAT!” The game show that challenges competitors to recognize phrases that God did NOT say! Today, instead of pre-selected participants, we are going to ask for two volunteers from the congregation…
Today’s volunteers have never played before, so I’m sure they are eager to get started. Here’s how it works. I will read a phrase that may or may not be from the Bible. In front of you, you have a Bible and a garbage can. You will have 3 seconds to decide if the phrase is from the Bible or NOT. If it is from the Bible run over and touch the Bible. If it is NOT, run over and touch the trash can. Competitors, are you ready?
Let’s start with a practice round, to warm you up.
• In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. (John 1)
• The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
Okay, now that you know how to play, let’s play, “God didn’t say THAT!”
• God helps those who help themselves. (Aesop, Benjamin Franklin)
• Cleanliness is next to godliness. (Slobs, you may relax.)
• The lion shall lay down with the lamb. (Actually, the lamb will lay down with a wolf…not that that makes more sense. This is so disappointing, since I actually have Christmas ornaments of a lion and lamb snuggled up together. See Isaiah 11, Isaiah 65)
• Money is the root of all evil! (The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. 1 Timothy 6)
• God works in mysterious ways. (We can blame or credit a musician for this one. The 18th century hymn writer, William Cowper, penned these lines: God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform.
• This too shall pass. (Nope…earliest known instance: Old English poem, Deor (c. AD 10th century). He lost his job as court poet and consoled himself with this phrase: “that was overcome, this may also be” or “that passed, so too may this.”
• After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, THREE Magi from the east came to Jerusalem. (Matt. 2 simply reads “magi from the East.)
• Go away, baldie! (Such a strange line, that it must be from the Bible. 2 Kings 2: 23 – Elisha and the bears)
Great job. Let’s give our contestants a round of applause!
It’s interesting how certain phrases achieve Bible level credibility. It’s also interesting how things – like the legend of three wise men appearing at Jesus’ birth – get so deeply embedded in our faith. I hope this realization wakes us up, shakes us up. We can never spend too much time revisiting scripture. Even the most familiar of stories always has something new to offer if we allow it to be opened before us.
There is one more phrase that I didn’t include in our gameshow… “This is my body, broken for you.” Some of you have heard me speak about this before, so bear with me. More than ever, I think it is vital that we consider what we are saying here. “This is my body, broken for you,” is the wording you will find for 1 Corinthians 11: 24 in the King James Version, and related translations. However, if you go to the Greek, “broken” is not found in this phrase. “This is my body for you” is actually how it reads. The body broken makes sense; Jesus broke bread as he said these words. Jesus broke bread and offered it to them as his body.
The Last Supper, as recorded in Matthew and Mark has Jesus saying, “take and eat, this is my body.” In Luke we hear Jesus say, “This is my body, given for you.” Why is this such an issue for me? I could say that it is because of the prophecy that none of his bones would be broken. And truly, when they came to break his legs as he hung on the cross, they found that they did not need to take this often needed step. He had already died. Not a bone was broken. Was his body broken? Yes, yes, yes. In the torture of being whipped and crucified. Yes. The physical skin that contained God incarnate was broken. So it is true that his body was broken for us. There is much validity is saying, the “body of Christ, broken for you.”
But I will not say it. I will not say it because I fear that too often what the church becomes is a body broken when God has called us to be united in Christ Jesus. We have witnessed it over and over, time and again. The church has broken apart over race, broken apart over politics, broken apart over gender. The church has broken apart over how we baptize, how we govern ourselves, and who is welcome at the Lord’s Table. How many people have abandoned the faith that nurtured them because they were told they were no longer welcome? Divorced? Sorry…Trans? Sorry…Sorry, but the color of your skin doesn’t match everyone else’s. The voices have proclaimed exclusion. There are silent messages, too: your political party is wrong, your lifestyle is wrong, your parenting methods are wrong. I don’t know what to do with you if you don’t fit in the right box. I wonder how many teachings have been passed down through the years without our really stopping to examine them and test them to see if they are really God’s words…
Still, there are things that divide us as a body and divide our church the PC (USA) from the Presbyterian Church of America, for example or the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. What do we do about that? There are times when we must decide to take a stand, and that stance may cause division. I’ve received various calls from pastors or elders at churches that are considering merger. They want to know if I have any advice. I tell them that it will be hard and that there will be sadness. I also tell them that it is critical to find out if there are any absolute deal breakers. At the very beginning of our inquiry into the possibility of merger, University had to say that we had one non-negotiable. University had been a More Light, open and affirming congregation for 15 years. Open and affirming as in welcoming of GLBTQ+ individuals and their families. We asked if Covenant had any non-negotiables. There were some involved in that conversation who would have preferred for me not to use the language of deal breaker, but University’s public welcome was something that defined that body. It would have been wrong to enter into conversation about merger without this truth being placed on the table. This truth allowed for healthy conversation. Of course, we are living the result of that conversation, and at the end of the month we will welcome Alex McNeil, the executive director of More Light Presbyterians to preach for us as we celebrate our first More Light Sunday as Grace Presbyterian.
There is a breaking open that can happen in church which is very distinct from breaking apart. Breaking open allows for more grace, more forgiveness, more honesty. Breaking apart…that is what we see at the Last Supper and it is what we hear about in the letter that Paul writes to the church at Corinth. The body broken is an apt image for that Last Supper gathering. There was brokenness in the body as Judas knew that he would turn Jesus over to those who wanted to arrest him. There was brokenness in the confusion around that table as Jesus followers wondered who was going to betray him. This was a brokenness that would allow for things to break open. Even the disciples’ confusion would lead to understanding because they remained. They didn’t run. With time, that brokenness would become wholeness, but that wholeness would not be achieved without sacrifice and suffering. Jesus would suffer; the disciples would suffer; Judas would suffer.
In the portion of the letter we read today, there is brokenness in the early Christian community at Corinth. Paul is angry as he writes to them. He hears of some who have plenty; they over indulge in food and drink. In the same community there are those who are hungry. This is true of any faith community. There are those who have an abundance of material things; there are those who have an abundance of intangibles and there are those who are hungry. There are those who do not have enough food to eat, and there are those who do not have enough hope to sustain them. While this is true of any faith community, here is the deeper problem with the church at Corinth: the “haves” humiliated the “have nots.” “You humiliate those who have nothing,” Paul writes.
This is what breaks a community, breaks the body: when those who have the wealth, those who hold the power, belittle those who do not. This is why it is critical for those who have never experienced abuse to listen to the voices of those who have been abused. This is why it is vital that those who have never known want to listen to those who have walked with want as a companion. This is why those who walk in places of power and privilege must listen to those who have been disenfranchised. Closed ears, closed eyes break the body in ways that do not lead to wholeness. Closed eyes and ears will only lead to further brokenness.
God’s church is both the body broken and the body longing to be made whole. “This is my body for you. This is my body given for you.” How does this speak to you? How will you labor, how will you give, so that Jesus’ body may be made whole?
Let us pray:
Jesus, you walked this earth to restore broken people to wholeness. In response we took your wholeness in our hands and broke your body. Thank you that the power of God to restore is greater than any damage we can do to one another. Bless your church with wholeness. Bless your church, that we find paths to unity. In the name of the one who gave himself for us, Amen.
With thanks to BlueLetterBible.org for the list of non-Biblical sayings and their sources.