Respecting the Lord at the Liturgy

St. Paul in his epistles to the various parish communities that he worked with frequently deals with practical community issues.    Obviously even in the very first local churches and from the very beginning of Christianity,  Christian leaders had to deal with the age old problem that people will be people.  So in 1 Corinthians 11:17-34  St. Paul takes to task the parish at Corinth for their misbehavior during their Eucharistic celebration.  St. Paul writes to the Corinthian Christians:

But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse.  For, in the first place, when you assemble as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you; and I partly believe it,  for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.  When you meet together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat.  For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal, and one is hungry and another is drunk.  What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.

For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread,  and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”  In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord.  Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.  For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.  But if we judged ourselves truly, we should not be judged.  But when we are judged by the Lord, we are chastened so that we may not be condemned along with the world.

So then, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another—  if any one is hungry, let him eat at home—lest you come together to be condemned. About the other things I will give directions when I come.

Fr. Paul Tarazi commenting on 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 writes:

Even more serious is the misconduct during the Lord’s supper, an occasion for which the Corinthians gather to become one Messianic community in practice as well as in belief. Notice Paul’s use of the expressions ‘come together as a church; (synerkhomai en ekklesia; v.18) and ‘come together in one place’ (or ‘for the same purpose’; synerkhomai epi to avto; v. 20) as well as the repeated occurrence of ‘come together’ (synerkhomai; vv. 17, 33, 34). The believers are not themselves ipso facto ‘the church’ but are called to gather as one. And it is always the Lord who defines that gathering: the calling (kerysso) is through his word and the matter at hand is his supper (vv.20), which is not a potluck dinner (vv. 21-22)!

[…]  Therefore (v.27), let us watch our conduct at the Lord’s suppers. These gatherings are a test (vv. 28-29) as to whether we realize that the Lord seated at the head of the table is none other than the one coming to judge us. They are opportunities for us (v. 31) to be judged by him and chastened (v. 30) for the purpose of instruction (paidevometha, v.32a), lest at his coming we be judged worthy of condemnation (v. 32b). Therefore, let us behave at these suppers in accordance with the host’s will, that we love our neighbor (v. 33); if we fail to do that we shall indeed be condemned (v. 34)!”   (The New Testament Introduction: Paul and Mark, pp 68-69)