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Many Gifts, One Lord: A Communion Service Based on 1 Corinthians

The article on page 18 stressed the importance of transitions and “in between” words. This service provides many examples of such words. The service was submitted by Elly Van Alten, a member of the worship committee at Trinity. “Not only was this a unique and meaningful way to celebrate the Lord’s Supper and hear his Word,” she wrote, “but the theme of unity was particularly meaningful as our council was then seeking nominations for officebearers. It helped us to focus on the gifts that all of our members have at a time when we might conceivably elect female officebearers for the first time. I heartily recommend this service for other congregations.” We asked Pastor

The Context

During the months preceding this service, Trinity Church had been dealing with internal tension. Besides the usual worship preference issues that beset any four-generation congregation, Trinity had also experienced the sudden end of a ministry staff person ‘s employment, difficult discussions over whether and where to relocate its facilities, a decision on removing gender barriers for nomination and election to church office, and the resignation of some elders over that decision. Through all this, the congregation was also dealing with the pain of sickness and death of members and their loved ones.

This communion service contained no sermon. Instead, it allowed Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians to speak directly, both to that first century congregation and to our twenty-first century congregation: churches experiencing division, churches at odds over use of members’ gifts, churches in grief over their departed, churches needing to refocus—but still churches and members, Corinthian and Edmontonian, “sanctified in Christ Jesus, and called to be holy.”

—Fred Bultman

Fred Bultman to further set the context for the service.
—ERB  

Gathering as the Church of God

Welcome

God’s Greeting: 1 Corinthians 1:2-3

Song of Fellowship: “Blest Be the Tie That Binds” CH 426, PH 438, PsH 315, TH 359, WR 393

Congregational Prayer

Appeal for Unity

[For two readers; pastor reads Scripture.]

Leader: The most detailed instructions we have about how to celebrate the Lord’s Supper come to us in Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth. It is probably no accident that these instructions are in a letter to the most divided church portrayed in the New Testament. This church was so divided that they couldn’t even get together without arguing about which former pastor they liked the most. Listen to what Paul wrote:

Pastor: “I appeal to you, brothers and sisters . . .” (1 Cor. 1:10-13; 2:3, 5, 21-23, NRSV).

Offering

Leader: In the earliest days of the church, the time of worship when the people brought their offerings included not just the bringing of money, but the food and drink of the Lord’s Supper meal. Sometimes it was just the bread and wine, sometimes it was a full-scale supper. This morning we gave gifts of money. This evening, during our offering, we also bring forward the bread and wine. During the offering, we will sing, “I Come with Joy to Meet My Lord” (PsH 311).

[As the deacons bring forward the money offerings, the elders follow with bread and wine.]

Lift Up Your Hearts

Pastor: “You should not take pride ...”
(1 Cor. 4:6-8; 5:6-8).

Leader: Let us lift up our hearts to the Lord.

People: Let us lift them up to the God of our salvation.

Leader: Let us sing the communion hymn “Father, We Give You Thanks Who Planted” (PsH 314).

Consecration

Pastor: Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory.

People: Holy, holy, holy God of majesty, blessed is Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord.

Leader: Some in the church at Corinth had taken the “holy” out of “holy communion.” They had forgotten  who was behind the bread and the wine. Paul reminded them:

[As the following is read, the pastor pours the wine and breaks the bread.]

Pastor: “Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? . . .” (1 Cor. 10:16-17; 11:26).

Leader: Let’s prepare ourselves for an attitude of consecration, an attitude of holiness, as we sing “According to Thy Gracious Word” (CH 463, PsH 298, TH 423). Let’s stand to sing.

Invitation

Leader: The divisions in the Corinthian church even came out during their celebrations of the Lord’s Supper, and here the divisions were between the richer members and the poorer members. Listen to what Paul wrote.

Pastor: “In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good . . .” (1 Cor. 11:17-18, 20-22, 29, 33).

Leader: And so our hymn of invitation this evening will not be so much God’s invitation to us, as of Jesus, speaking through us his church, as we invite each other to break bread together in the words of “Let Us Break Bread Together” (CH 460, PH 513, PsH 304, WR 699). You may remain seated as we encourage each other with this song.

Bread and Wine

Pastor: “The Lord Jesus, on the night ...” (1 Cor. 11:23-24).

Hymn During the Distribution of the Bread: “Christ Jesus Lay in Death’s Strong Bands” PH 110, PsH 398, TH 279

Pastor: Take, eat, remember and believe ...

Pastor: “In the same way, after supper Jesus took the cup ...” (1 Cor. 11:25).

Pastor: Take, drink, remember and believe ...

One Body of Christ

Leader: Even in the matter of how to use their talents in God’s service, the Corinthian church was divided: they spent more time fighting over which talents were most important, and who would be allowed to use those talents “officially,” than actually using those talents to spread the gospel. To this divided church, Paul wrote:

Pastor: “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit ...” (1 Cor. 12:4, 11-14, 21, 25-27).

Leader: We’ll pray now for unity in serving our Lord with “Lord, You Give the Great Commission” (PH 429, PsH 523, WR 592). You may remain seated as we sing the first three stanzas.

Thanksgiving

Leader: To some at Corinth who were unsure that Christ’s victory would last beyond the grave, Paul wrote these words:

Pastor: “Christ died for our sins ...” (1 Cor. 15:3-4, 20-22, 54-55, 57).

Leader: Let’s bring our thanks and alleluias in song now to our risen, returning Savior by singing “Alleluia, Alleluia! Give Thanks” (CH 359, PH 106, PsH 402, SFL 173, WR 291). Between the refrains, we’ll sing stanzas 2, 3, and 5. Let’s stand to sing.

Benediction

Leader: It would not be good to end a unity-themed communion service if we did not greet our fellow members in the body of Christ. So let us greet each other in the Lord.

Leader: Our closing song tonight will be the last stanza of “Lord, You Give the Great Commission.” But before we sing, listen to how Paul closed his letter to the Corinthians—with this instruction and this blessing:

Pastor: “My dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain... The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. Amen” (1 Cor. 15:58; 16:23, TNIV).

Parting Hymn: “Lord, You Give the Great Commission”

Art by Placid Stuckenschneider, from More Clip Art For the Liturgical Year (© 1990, by The Order of St. Benedict, Inc., The Liturgical Press, 1-800