THE REPENTANCE PROJECT / AN AMERICAN LENT
Communion / Unity
WEEK VII / DAY IV
Thursday, March 29, 2018
Scripture / Read I Corinthians 11:17-34
Paul is writing to a Corinthian church that is laden with strife over reputation, which leader should be followed, and entitlement at the Lord’s table. He redirects them to Christ and reminds them of the implications of their unity.
Our History and Its Legacy
If racism is America’s original sin, then division is one of the most palpable byproducts. With the arrival of enslaved black Africans to Jamestown, early colonists set in motion a rift that expanded the length of our country’s development. Some of the arguments for enslaving black Africans included: God’s ordained purpose for them as cursed descendants of Ham, their equivalence to animals, and as a way to civilize them. Still, as the country debated over taxation and representation, they were considered 3/5 of a person.
The country would eventually find itself in a war over whether or not slavery would be permitted in the western territories of the nation. The Civil War claimed more American lives than WWI and WWII combined. Dispute over slavery metastasized beyond government and economics into every facet of American life. It even caused a split among prominent Christian denominations. The Presbyterian Church, already hampered by the Old Side and New Side rift, further split into the Northern and Southern Presbyterian Churches. Some of the latter’s most notable leaders were known for their vehement defense of the “peculiar institution” (See Muether and Hart, Seeking a Better Country).
During both the period leading up to and following the war, enslaved Blacks were positioned at the back of Sunday worship services, if permitted with Whites at all (See Carter, On Being Black and Reformed). This laid the groundwork for Sunday morning still being considered the most segregated day of the week. In fact, during the Reconstruction period, certain churches gathered ceremonially for public lynching services following worship. Racial strife of this sort would persist through much of the 20th century (See C. Marsh, God’s Long Summer). Howard Thurman, in Jesus and the Disinherited, maintained that through segregation American Christianity had betrayed the religion of Jesus almost beyond redemption.
Reflection and Response
The apostle Paul confronted the Corinthians for their abuses of the Lord’s Supper, among the many issues over which they were divided. Rich members were forbidding the poor from partaking in the meal and some suffered lethal consequences. The Lord’s Supper is a sign and seal of the grace of Christ in connection with his death for us, but it also signifies our bonds to one another. Just as the Passover meal celebrated Israel’s protection from death and deliverance from Egyptian captivity, Communion proclaims the death of our savior Jesus Christ who delivered us from the bondage to sin. Regardless of our backgrounds, we all need to feast on the same Christ. In principle, we are all united in the same mystical body of Christ and as such, we are to strive to grow in the bonds of unity, which we acknowledge every time we commune together.
Lord may we see in our own hearts how we’ve isolated ourselves from our neighbors who are different than us.
Written by Mike Aitcheson