Jump Start # 2540a
1 Corinthians 11:18 “For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part I believe it.”
Our verse today is taken from the instructional section of Corinthians about the Lord’s Supper. The Corinthians had really messed it up. The Lord’s Supper is intended to draw us together around the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. This is something that God wants us to remember. Somehow the Corinthians forgot to remember that. They were fussing and fighting and some were eating it like a common meal, being real hogs, and others, it seems, were not allowed to participate at all. This ill feeling that they had towards one another was ruining their worship. Instead of pulling together, they were pulling apart.
Three times the concept of “coming together” is found in this context. When you come together as a church, is how our verse says it.
There is something to remember when we come together:
First, not everyone feels the same way as I do. I may be on top of the world, excited to worship, and chipper like a little bird. Not everyone is like that. Among us are those who are carrying the weight of the world. There has been a death in the family. There is a prodigal that won’t come home. There’s trouble at work. Things at home are not as smooth as they ought to be. I come to praise and pour my heart out to the Lord. Others, may enter with an empty or even broken heart. They are looking for comfort. They are in need of answers. They sure could use some hope.
This reminds us that not everyone gathers for the same reason, nor does everyone get the same benefit. Worship is about God, always. But the God that is to be praised, is also the God that one looks to for hope, help and strength. Some are on the mountain top. Others are struggling in the valley.
Second, those that lead worship need to remember this. Forcing everyone to smile is painful and offensive to those who can’t smile at the moment. Expecting everyone to march around Jericho doesn’t work when some can’t. The choice of songs ought to be made with consideration with what is going on in the congregation. Simply leading my favorite songs isn’t always the best choice. Thought needs to go into the one who leads prayer. There are hurting folks in the audience. For some, the funeral was months ago and the rest of us have gotten back to life. Busy and crazy as ever. But for the family who is mourning, a couple of months is nothing. Now, the preacher needs to be mindful of this as well. Not everyone in the audience wants to be there. Not everyone fully understands the Bible stories. Not everyone knows Jesus. Don’t assume, Mr. Preacher.
Third, because some are struggling doesn’t necessarily mean that they are weak, faithless and not doing what they ought to be doing. Don’t go there. Don’t make those assumptions. Life is hard. Death is ugly. The righteous man Job, one God bragged about, struggled. His wife struggled. Husbands and wives will journey through troubles differently. Some get through those valleys faster than others. Don’t make the assumption that because you had very little trouble that others ought to be just like you. They are not. For some, it may be hard walking into that church building. For some, it may be hard talking to others. When we don’t understand this, our words and our actions can do a lot of harm. We can be the reason that some stay away.
Fourth, coming together is not only for the Lord but it is for us as well. We need the “coming together” part. Otherwise, why not just stay home, get out some grape juice and crackers and have the Lord’s Supper in bed. There is more to remembering Jesus’ death than just Jesus. There is that community of believers that we make up that is important. One of the very popular words now is the word “gather.” You see that stenciled on walls. You see that painted on barn wood. Gathering place—that’s how Paul is describing the church. We come together. We need each other. We remind each other. We encourage each other. We support each other. We pray for each other. Together, we remind ourselves that we are not alone. Together, we see that we are not the only family that has troubles. Together, with tears and smiles, we understand that we can get through things with each other’s help.
Coming together implies a few things. I feel that the Corinthians didn’t understand that. Coming together means being with each other. It means associating, talking, listening, smiling, hand shaking, hugging. It means light conversations and intense dialogue. It means caring. It means loving.
I’ve seen folks that come in late and leave early. They don’t talk to anyone. They don’t connect with anyone. When there is a problem, they don’t even think about reaching out to anyone in the church family because they don’t have any friendships or even real fellowship. For years and years they continue this practice. They are not engaged with the people. They don’t associate with any of the church family. They never send a card. They don’t ever bring food to a hurting family. They don’t even know the members, aside from one or two, and that’s very distant.
Coming together as a church—what a positive thought. Something to look forward to. Something to give thought to. How can I make my “coming together” better? Could I try to talk to someone in a different generation than my age? Could I try sitting some where different? Could I ask someone to go out to eat with me? Could I look for someone new and welcome them? Could I give some positive encouragement to a young mother? How about saying something kind to one of the shepherds?
Don’t come looking only for what you can get from gathering together. Come with the intention of what you can give. Give to the Lord. Give to others. And, the best thing you can give is your heart.
When you come together…what a special time that is.