And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain .. and he opened his mouth, and taught them ... (Matthew 5:1, KJV)
when the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him,
and he said unto them... (Luke
The Sermon on the Mount and the Last Supper portray Jesus communicating with others in two very different ways.
During the Sermon, Jesus reached His hearers’ hearts through their heads. Communication was one-way. His part was to speak, theirs to receive. He didn’t deal with personal, individual reactions--His words alone made the impact. He wanted them to go home and think about what He said. Other examples in the Bible of sermon-type communications would be the preaching of John the Baptist, or Peter on the day of Pentecost.
During the Supper, Jesus reached His disciples’ heads through their hearts. Communication was two-way, through action as much as words. He shared their bread, washed their feet, engaged in dialogue, addressed their individual perplexities. Other Biblical examples of Supper include Priscilla and Aquila’s instruction of Apollos, and Paul and Barnabas’ commissioning at Antioch.
Sermon initiates; Supper nurtures. Sermon sows; Supper cultivates. Sermon is for multitudes of students; Supper is for a small circle of friends. Jesus clearly preferred Supper over Sermon for His closest associates.
Within the early Church, among believers the Supper format predominated (1 Cor. 14:26-33). But the modern American Church is Sermon-centric. This different emphasis reflects (and may be responsible for) the superficiality of the American Church, which is shallow both in commitment and in relationship. Even in churches with small Supper-style groups, these small groups are perceived as secondary, optional accessories to the large Sermon-meeting.
Sermon communication does not even require the physical presence of the communicator. With the rapid advancement of communications technology, it would seem logical that sermonizers should become fewer and their sermons broadcast more widely; while assemblies of believers should become more local, more intimate, and more amenable to Supper-style meetings. So far this has not happened, for a number of reasons: here we give three. First, Christianity has developed a spiritual aristocracy of professional pastors, who are traditionally expected to provide their own sermons to their individually shrink-wrapped congregations. The professional pastorate propagates this model, whether or not it continues to be appropriate. Second, Americans in general are uncomfortable being pushed into close relationships without an escape plan. The current system of drive-to churches provides an easy out if friction does arise. Third, driving out to church gives people the feeling of a special event, like going to the movies or the shopping mall.
American Christians should consider their ways. Sermon or Supper? At stake is the vitality and maturity of the Church, not just in America, but the whole world.
bless and guide Your children by Your Spirit, that we might fulfill Your
will that we:
“... all come together to that oneness in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God”;
“become mature people, reaching to the very height of Christ's full stature”;
“... by speaking the truth in a spirit of love … grow up in every way to Christ, who is the head. Under his control all the different parts of the body fit together, and the whole body is held together by every joint with which it is provided. So when each separate part works as it should, the whole body grows and builds itself up through love.” (Ephesians 4:13-16)
Copyright © 2001 CrossPollen
Last Revised: June 3, 2001
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