Thursday, April 02, 2015

Sermon: Maundy Thursday – 2015

2 April 2015

Text: John 13:1-15, 34-35 (Ex 12:1-14, 1 Cor 11:23-32)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Maundy Thursday is a matter of life and death.  For this is the Passover, the commemoration of when the Lord used Moses to lead the people out of the walking death of slavery to new life in the Promised Land.  It began as the Lord gave life to the Israelites even as He doled out death to the Egyptians.  

The difference between life and death was a lamb.  This Passover lamb paid for the sins of the people of God by dying, by shedding innocent blood that spared the sinful people of God from sharing in the fate of death of the Egyptians, all through a substitutionary atonement for the forgiveness of their sins.

The lamb’s blood stood as a physical barrier to death, and through its blood, the people had life.  

It was this ancient Passover ceremony that the Lord Jesus Christ prepared and ate with His disciples “on the night when He was betrayed,” the eve of the day of His crucifixion.  Truly, the Passover lamb eaten by the Lord Jesus was the very last one of the Old Testament, for what was to come is what the St. Paul “received from the Lord” and what he also delivered to us through the apostles and pastors in an unbroken chain to this very evening.  For Jesus was to become the “all availing sacrifice,” the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.  And this Lamb’s blood is put into a cup and shared with the disciples of Jesus – including us – as the “new testament” in His blood, shed for the forgiveness of sins.

For, dear brothers and sisters, we have received the command of the Lord through our Hebrew forbears as given to Moses by God Himself: “This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast.”

This feast of the flesh of the Lamb, the bread of life, the true body of the Lord, served with His very blood, taken from the cup of the Passover meal, declared His body and blood by means of His mighty Word, is our Passover, and we shall eat it as often as we celebrate it, in memory of Him.

For even as God was with the children of Israel in their 40 year sojourn in the wilderness, He is with us, dear friends.  Even as He was in the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night, He is with us in His Most Holy Word.  Even as He was physically with them as water from the rock, He is with us in Holy Baptism.  Even as He was with them in the Manna, the holy bread from heaven to sustain them in their walk in the wilderness, Jesus is with us in the holy bread of the Holy Eucharist, His very body, as we too walk through the wilderness of this, our fallen world, generation after generation, until He calls us to the promised land of heaven, and of the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting in a new heaven and a new earth.

Ever since that first Maundy Thursday in the Upper Room, ever since that Good Friday in which our Lamb was sacrificed, ever since that first Easter when our Lord rose triumphant from the grave, we, the disciples of the Lord, have celebrated this Passover Supper.  

He abides with us in good times and bad, in times of growth of the church and in times of persecution.  He abides with us in sickness and in health, for richer and for poorer, the bridegroom of the Church, He who lays down His life for His beloved.  He abides with us in His intercessions before the Father, in the sharing of His sacrifice that atones for us, in His continual presence among us in Word and Sacrament, in the Gospel, in the forgiveness of sins, and life everlasting.

Dear friends, our Lord is merciful!  He knows that we are physical people living in a physical world.  And while our culture boasts about being “spiritual,” we have the blessings of the physical Jesus coming to us tangibly, in a mystical and mysterious way in which we eat and drink His perfect flesh into our very bodies, as His holiness becomes part of us, giving us not only the blessing of the forgiveness of sins, of everlasting life, but also of the sanctification of our bodies and minds, through repeated contact with the holy.

In the same way that the repeated touching a magnet to a paperclip shares the magnetism, this Holy Communion with the body and blood of our Lord Himself makes you holy, and allows you to grow in faith toward God and in fervent love for our neighbor.  Even as the touch of Jesus brought forgiveness, healing, and even turning death unto life, so too does He come to us physically, in a way that our eyes see and our ears hear.  Even as He took on a body like ours, He comes to us through our bodies, like His.  As St. Athanasius put it, “God became man so that man might become God.”  This is just another way of speaking in St. Peter’s biblical terms: “He has granted to us His precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desires.”

Oh, what magnificence the world misses out on!  While scientists look for the “God particle” and researchers seek a “fountain of youth,” we, the Church, have had it all along!  This is truly, as St. Irenaeus said, “the medicine of immortality.”  What a precious treasure that exceeds all things: to participate with our brothers and sisters in Christ, here and around the globe, in a greater participation “with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven,” a holy participation with all of the people of God from Moses onward in participation in, with, and under the Lamb of God Himself!

Dear friends, treasure that moment, that eternal moment, in which the Lord comes to you in this Most Holy Communion!  Hear anew His words, from Genesis to Revelation, from the Alpha to the Omega, from the creation to the consummation, the immortal, almighty, and omnipotent Word, the same cry of command: “Lazarus, come out!” – applied to us, we who have been baptized and who believe – beckoning us to leave our grave and join the throngs of the righteous even unto eternity.

And all of this is purely by grace, dear friends.  You bring nothing to the table but your sins (which are forgiven), your mortal flesh (which is made to live forever), and your open mouth that hungers and thirsts for righteousness (which is filled by Him with the eternal Passover Lamb, whose flesh He places in your mouth with His very own blood).    

For indeed, dear brothers and sisters of the Lamb, Maundy Thursday is a matter of life and death.  For this is the Passover, the commemoration of when the Lord used Moses to lead the people out of the walking death of slavery to new life in the promised land.  And it is for us, the memorial of the Lord in His ongoing ministry to lead us out of the walking death of sin to new life in eternity, “given for you,” now and forever.  Amen.

Hison the sickness of sinto the next - and d w liars and sons of the devil, tament, a bloodye people on In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 

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