I recently shared with a friend our vision for missions here in Tanzania as we work with people here and host people from the US. We want to address poverty in whatever form we find it, spiritual poverty, relational poverty, and physical poverty (Genesis 2:14-19). We all have some kind of poverty that we struggle with, and sometimes more than one at a time. As we approach this World Communion Sunday I want to reflect on the passage in 1 Corinthians 11:17-33. If you get a chance I encourage you to read the whole text, but I want to highlight 1 Corinthians 11: 18, 20-21.
“In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk.”
Some of the people in this passage are struggling with physical poverty. Some of the people in this passage are struggling with relational poverty. Some of the people in this passage are struggling with spiritual poverty.
I recently was reading some material on the basics of faith in trying to prepare a class for potential church members. It had a picture in there of God in the center of our lives and all of us starting on the outer circle away from God, just one point in the circle of humanity. This illustration pointed out that in moving closer to God, in being in COMMUNION with God, in easing our spiritual poverty we are also constantly moving closer to other people, constantly increasing our COMMUNION with other people, and constantly easing our relational poverty. This passage in 1 Corinthians illustrates the last point of this teaching and explains John Wesley’s quote of “no holiness but social holiness.” In order to be in communion with God we must also be in communion with others. It is a natural effect of our relationship with God. In being in relationship with others as God would have us be and as 1 Corinthians displays we cannot run ahead of others for social gain or physical comfort, find a place that is good for us and wait for them to catch up. Being in communion with others sometimes means waiting, sometimes means sharing, and sometimes means putting others needs in front of our own.
This World Communion Sunday we need to remember that the Lord’s Supper is the sharing of a meal with God and the sharing of a meal with others, an old practice of family and hospitality. As we share in this World Communion Sunday I pray that we can remember EVERYTHING that God calls us to share with one another (James 2:15-16 – Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it.) Maybe we can find our poverty, whatever it may be, being eased as we also ease the poverty of someone else. And all of us together, as one body, the world over, may take a step toward God, toward each other, and dance with the little children who smile over stale bread.