June 27, 2008

The Lord's Supper as a Symbol of Unity

1 Corinthians 10:14-17

We, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.
1 Corinthians 10:17


“We, who are many”—this little phrase seems like an understatement. Jesus’ church has been growing for 2,000 years. It thrives today in more than 300 countries and cultures. More than a billion people on the planet are affiliated with churches that pray in Jesus’ name.

But then the text also says “we … are one.” That’s a lot harder to understand. Churches don’t agree on many key convictions. The divisions among churches affect every neighborhood.

This becomes even more challenging with the phrase “for we all partake of the one loaf.” How difficult this is when many churches, sometimes for very compelling reasons, choose not to participate in the Lord’s Supper celebrations of other churches.

So what do we make of this text? First, think of it as an invitation. Every time you participate in the Lord’s Supper, picture in your mind that you are united with people from 20 centuries and 300 countries and cultures. If you are looking for a church home, look for one that actively cultivates this vivid awareness.

Then think of this text as a prophecy. In the coming kingdom, at the wedding feast of the Lamb, all institutional barriers to church unity will be gone—along with all the wars and other divisions that God is going to overcome. We live in hope of that day!

Lord of the church, help us see beyond the disunity that often marks our church life. Help us discern all the ways that your Spirit is building us up together as one people. Amen.

About the author — John D. Witvliet

Dr. John D. Witvliet has served as a professor at Calvin College and Calvin Theological Seminary for the past 11 years, as well as serving as Director of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. He and his wife, Charlotte, have four children.

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