“Therefore whoever eats the bread and drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup.”
1 Corinthians 11:27-28
In the era of COVID some things have changed in how the worship of God is conducted within His church. To me, the most apparent is how the Lord’s Supper is observed. For all of my life, unleavened bread (usually in the form of store-bought “Matzos”) and tiny plastic cups filled with the fruit of the vine (grape juice) were contained in trays specifically designed for that purpose. The men of the congregation would pass these trays down each row of pews or chairs after having stood in the front of the auditorium behind a table which held them and given thanks for the bread and the cup. Things are different now. Most churches of Christ in America and, I presume, in many other places around the world, give their members upon arrival to the church building a small plastic container which is designed to have two parts, one holding a small square of unleavened bread and the other holding a small amount of fruit of the vine. One or two men will still stand before the congregation and offer thanks, yet without passing trays for fear of spreading the virus. I can appreciate the new method out of a desire to keep others healthy and safe. Will we ever go back to how we used to observe communion? Perhaps, perhaps not. Time will tell.
In the end, the method in which we eat of the bread and drink of the cup – i.e., whether we tear open these small packages or have them served to us in trays – is not important in the sight of God as far as worship is concerned. What is important is that we follow Jesus’ directive to give thanks for unleavened bread and the fruit of the vine and partake of them “in remembrance of Me” (1 Cor. 11:24-25). The unleavened bread of the Passover meal of the Mosaic era (which Jesus and His apostles were observing while He instituted the Lord’s Supper) foreshadowed, much like the unblemished lamb of the same Passover meal, Jesus as the perfect, sinless propitiation for our sins. Thus, He referred to the bread as “My body, which is for you” (v. 24). The fruit of the vine, which likewise would have been unfermented due to Moses’ directive (Ex. 12:15), likewise was a shadow of the sinless Son of God’s sacrifice which would open the door to forgiveness of sins. Thus, He referred to the cup as “the new covenant in My blood” (v. 25; cf. 1 John 1:7-9). Unlike what the erroneous doctrine of transubstantiation teaches, He did not mean that the bread and the cup would turn literally into His body and blood. Joseph likewise did not mean that Pharoah should take his statement “The seven good cows are seven years” to mean that cows were literally years (Gen. 41:26). Rather, the bread and the cup figuratively represent His body and blood which were freely given on the cross for you and me. While we partake of them this Lord’s day, let us do so “in remembrance of Me.” Let us take time to remember the death of Christ and how His death has saved us from hell. By so doing we “proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (v. 26), meaning that we show the world that we believe the gospel and are followers of the One who died for us.
Let us also heed the warning of verses 27 and 28, quoted above. During observance of communion, let us also take some time to examine ourselves, specifically the impact Christ’s death has on our lives and whether we honor His sacrifice through our faithful obedience. Let us make sure that we do not allow our minds to wander to things of the world, and thus partake “in an unworthy manner.” Let us discipline ourselves to honor Christ’s death every week by remembering His agony and using it as motivation to serve Him faithfully.