March 10, 2014

Koinonia, Kenosis, and Charis in The Lord's Supper

On Sunday, I gave the communion and offering prayers, as well as short talks for each. I got some very nice feedback from the talks, so I want to flesh the ideas out a bit here.

I used Philippians for my texts, highlighting the depth of some Greek words that translate into English words that convey a more limited sense than the Greek words do. I think these words and concepts translate well onto the Lord's Supper and the offering, even though Philippians never speaks directly to observance of the Eucharist. From Philippians, I highlighted three Greek words, koinonia, kenosis, and charis; fellowship, emptying, and grace in English.

I. Koinonia.  
 For the bread that represents Christ's body, Philippians 3:8-11 demonstrates this fellowship:
8More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, 9and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, 10that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship (Koinonia) of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Emphasis mine)
Koinonia is much more than what we tend to view as fellowship today. It's much more than the sense of brotherhood and conviviality we enjoy at our fellowship dinners and gatherings, it's a participation and sharing in all of life's events. It's something that is always active and purposeful, and not simply a passive occurrence that we experience.

In His body that suffered for us, we participate in the fellowship of His sufferings. For us, this is comforting and frightening at the same time. We draw comfort from knowing that we serve a King who fully understands all of our pain and suffering, fear and loneliness. He knows that horrible place in the midst of life's worst events where we scream to God, "Why? Why? Where are You?" He asked the same upon the Cross. At the same time, He asks us to confront our fears as we participate in this fellowship of suffering. He asks us to stand beside others when they are in the midst of crying out that agonizing question, and to be brave enough to admit to ourselves and each other that we don't know, but we trust.

II. Kenosis

In His blood that was poured out for us on the Cross, Philippians 2:4-8 give us an example of how to live this emptying, this pouring out of ourselves:
4do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 5Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7but emptied (kenosis) Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
His pouring out of love and blood becomes our outpouring of love for each other. As His blood covers our sins from the sight of God, our deep love for each other covers a multitude of sins for each other. His blood that was shed frees us from the slavery of the fear of death, and as we continue to empty ourselves, we are able to use that freedom to practice the true religion James wrote about, visiting orphans and widows in their distress. We walk up to the captive and proclaim freedom, the freedom that comes by becoming His servant  And as we empty ourselves in love, we find we become filled by His love and compassion.

III. Charis

Grace, and the active sharing of grace is shown in Philippians 1: 5-7, and displays the true spirit within our offerings and giving:
5in view of your participation (koinonia) in the gospel from the first day until now. 6For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. 7For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace (charis) with me.
This grace that we partake of with Paul is something with a much wider meaning than only the saving grace of God. This grace is alive and active within us; it participates in our lives as we actively share it. It increases our love, it expresses itself in gratitude, and it brings us joy, the joy of God that is our strength. Our offerings are the grace of God in which we partake, extended to others. It isn't limited to the giving of money, it's giving of our love and our selves. It's living out kenosis and koinonia.

Christ asked us specifically to observe His Supper in remembrance of Him . And we should view it more than just a remembrance of what He did for us; it's a call to remember the other things he asked us to do for Him.

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