Potluck from Hell
(Eucharist from Hell)
I heard a sermon by the Bishop Reverend Dr. Yvette Flunder. I am using a major theme she used in her sermon, but much of the content is different. Yvette Flunder is a fairly powerful speaker, so she might not appreciate any of the credit I am giving her, especially when the content is vastly different than her sermon.
During the apostle Paul's life, there were many divisions in the ancient world. The Roman Empire may have had elements of multiculturalism, but there was not a lot of respect for diversity. People in one segment of society tended to look down on others. Just a few of the social divisions in society included:
· free people and slaves
· Greeks and those Greeks thought were “barbarians”
· Jews and Gentiles
· Roman citizens and people considered to be “lesser breeds”
· Cultured and “ignorant”
The church, however, was different, The early Christian church was one of the few places in the ancient world where the social walls of society were gone. William Barclay cites a church historian as saying the Government of the Roman Empire was “baffled” by how the early Christian church had solved so many social problems.
The early Christian church was liberal, wildly liberal. It was liberal enough to make many Christians today feel rather uncomfortable. Some of the progressive accomplishments of the early church included giving women a better role, abolishing begging, giving dignity to laborers, and reducing some of the extremes of slavery. A historian credits the wonderful social reforms within Christian circles to the communion service. Remembering the cross of Calvary helps us break down barriers that society has created, because we come to see all people as equal in the Messiah and as being equally worthy of God's love and of our love.
Unfortunately, the church on Corinth was not really a good example of the progressive social reforms that were present in the early Christian church. There were some rather serious problems in the Corinthian church. You may want to open your Bibles to 1 Corinthians chapter 11, so we can look at one of those problems.
1 Corinthians 11:17 – 34. Your worship services do you more harm than good. I am certainly not going to praise you for this. 18I am told that you can't get along with each other when you worship, and I am sure that some of what I have heard is true. 19You are bound to argue with each other, but it is easy to see which of you have God's approval. 20When you meet together, you don't really celebrate the Lord's Supper. 21You even start eating before everyone gets to the meeting, and some of you go hungry, while others get drunk. 22Don't you have homes where you can eat and drink? Do you hate God's church? Do you want to embarrass people who don't have anything? What can I say to you? I certainly cannot praise you.
23I have already told you what the Lord Jesus did on the night he was betrayed. And it came from the Lord himself. He took some bread in his hands. 24Then after he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is given for you. Eat this and remember me."
25After the meal, Jesus took a cup of wine in his hands and said, "This is my blood, and with it God makes his new agreement with you. Drink this and remember me."
26The Lord meant that when you eat this bread and drink from this cup, you tell about his death until he comes. 27But if you eat the bread and drink the wine in a way that isn't worthy of the Lord, you sin against his body and blood. 28That's why you must examine the way you eat and drink. 29If you fail to understand that you are the body of the Lord, you will condemn yourselves by the way you eat and drink. 30That's why many of you are sick and weak and why a lot of others have died.
31If we carefully judge ourselves, we won't be punished. 32But when the Lord judges and punishes us, he does it to keep us from being condemned with the rest of the world.
33My dear friends, you should wait until everyone gets there before you start eating. 34If you really are hungry, you can eat at home. Then you won't condemn yourselves when you meet together. After I arrive, I will instruct you about the other matters.
What is the worst potluck you've attended, the potluck from hell? I recall hearing of one that must have made some kind of a record. The church had a bean potluck. Everybody brought a bean dish. One of the bean dishes had food poisoning and a bunch of people in the church got sick. Beans was a word to never be mentioned in that church!
I recall being invited to a small church. I was told there was a potluck, but was specifically told not to bring anything. So I did not bring anything. I got there to discover that, contrary to what I had been told, there was not enough food. An ant would have starved to death on the total food there.
There is a third potluck I think was from hell. A few of us were headed off to a Christian concert – a free one. Free concerts are always the best. Some of the food was not conducive to going to an indoors concert. I will not comment more.
The Corinthian potluck was a potluck from hell in ways that might even make these other potlucks seem good. I know that seems like a bit of a stretch, but reflect on the text and I think you will understand.
This was the Agape or Love Feast. Some love feast! Warren Wiersbe indicates the agape feast could have been an “opportunity for edification.” Instead, the agape feast was a time of embarrassment.
So what made the potluck “Love Feast” a time of embarrassment? Verse 18 talks about there being divisions or groups. One can almost get the picture of informal groups forming during the potluck love feast, with each group in a different room of the home. Each room with people of a different background. And very little mixing among the classes of people. The poor might have been eating in the yard, while the rich were inside.
Here part of what might have been taking place. The slaves and the poor laborers could not get away from work early. By the time they got to the meal all of the good stuff was gone. For the slaves, this might have been their chance at the only really good meal they could get all week.
The result was some people were going hungry, while others ate a lot of food. Some people were getting drunk, while others were going hungry.
Warren Wiersbe makes a valid point. Regarding this passage, he says, “When you abuse believers who are less fortunate than you are, then you are actually despising the church!” I take it one step beyond what Warren Wiersbe notes. When we abuse other believers, we are abusing the body of Christ. Abusing the body of Christ is really abusing Christ. “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto of the least of these my brethern, ye have done it unto me.
And this was not just any old potluck. The Love Feast was communion. At that time in the church, communion was not a small symbolic meal, as we have. They ate an actual meal. A meal to celebrate the inclusion of humanity by God's grace was being used to exclude people. This was a mockery of communion. Authentic remembering imitates Christ. Little about their meal imitated Christ.
Remember, this meal was communion. What the Corinthian church was doing showed very poor theology. Their practice showed that the gospel was only for the rich and the privileged and that God's grace did not extend to the poor and marginalized groups of society.
There are some important questions on which we need to reflect. Who goes hungry in our church? For whom are we unwilling to wait? Who are the Gentiles, the uncivilized in our community? As a gay church, as gay believers, do we make straight people go hungry? Are the beauty challenged, the designer label challenged going hungry? Do we let those who are not as well educated, those who do not share our political view eat?
Verse 19. The Good News Bible seems to get to the heart of the meaning very quickly. No doubt there must be divisions among you so that the ones who are in the right may be clearly seen. Yvette Flunder feels divisions are present in the church so we can see who is genuine and who is not. Because of the divisions, we can see who is an authentic believer. 
She makes a good point. There will always be economic, racial, political, sexual orientation, gender identification, and ethnic differences in churches. We cannot eliminate those distinctions. But how we treat those who are different than we are proves how genuine our faith is. Those who magnify differences, and use differences as an excuse to mistreat others are not walking in the Spirit. People who have arms long enough to reach past the differences and touch hearts are walking fully in the Spirit.
Paul says they are to tarry or wait for one another. The principle was that in the church there is only one table. The table is common for rich and poor. The rich have no priority over the poor.
That means we must tarry or wait for those who differ from us
Like the church of Corinth, there are times when the modern church of Christ damages the cause of Christ. Yvette Flunder says we need a save Jesus campaign, because the reputation of Christ has been marred by those who claim to represent Christ, while the marginalize others.
When I think of wait for one another, I think of what a waiter or a waitress does. They wait on another. To wait on another in one respect could mean to serve another person.
For a number of years, I took a senior citizen to church every week. The trip to was an hour each way, so there was plenty of time to visit. There were weeks when that was a very enjoyable task. A few weeks, it was an not as pleasant. After a few years, we almost became family.
One weekend, she taught me something very important, something every man, especially every young man needs to know. She wanted to go to the mall to buy something. We went from store, to store, to store. Nothing. The day was wasted. On the way home, I felt rather frustrated. And she was happy as a lark. She had a relaxing trip to the city, enjoyed seeing all of the stores in a large mall. Young men are so goal oriented that they tend to forget the more what is more important. We spend most of our time getting to the destination, so enjoying the trip is just as important as enjoying the destination. That day a little grandma taught me that the trip is very important!
Yvette Flunder tells a neat story. There was a race. A group of children were in race. One of the boys in the race fell. All of the children did something probably nobody would have expected. They stopped running. And they waited for him to catch up. When he caught up, they locked hands together and walked across the finish line – together. And I am sure the competitive athletes would ask the question, “Who won the race?” Everybody won the race. They all won, because they waited for one another.” 
When we wait on others, we are all winners. So wait on another.
Lord, give us the courage to reach out, to reach past differences, so we can wait on one another.
Yvette Flunder used the term Potluck from Hell in her sermon. Cathedral of Hope. September 18, 2005.