By Stuart Powell
On the southern end of the temple mount in Jerusalem is a broad staircase that led throngs of first-century worshippers of Israel’s God to the center of the Jewish faith. The steps were built irregularly and uneven, alternating between long and short treads. This pattern seemed intended to slow down the hectic pace of worship, possibly by directing the pilgrims’ attentions away from social interaction surrounding them. Instead, they focused on what it meant to approach the awesome presence of the Creator. The temple entrance was designed to demand contemplative steps, so that the multitudes passing through the southern gates, when they entered and left, would do so in a worthy manner.
Did the memory of this intentional meditative pace shape Paul’s instructions for contemplative steps when the Christians in Corinth gathered to celebrate the Lord’s Supper?
Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself (1 Corinthians 11:27-29, English Standard Version).
This meal is more than the consumption of the bread and the cup. It is a communal act of worship within the universal body of Christ. Around the globe, believers of every language and culture interrupt their lives to gather with other believers. While we assemble at different times, we share together the common actions of eating and drinking these emblems. In this unifying celebration we remind each other, and demonstrate to the world, the power of the gospel, which has transformed individuals, families, cities, and earthly kingdoms from centers of sinfulness to harvest fields of righteousness. All for the glory of God.
Each of us should eat and drink in a worthy manner.
Stuart Powell lives outside of Terre Haute, Indiana, where he serves with the North Side Christian Church.