Sermon for Maundy Thursday, AD 2021

1 Corinthians 11.23-32

Memorials are an important part of our lives. It is not an exaggeration to say that the practice of gathering to remember, to memorialize things has been devastated in the past year. Perhaps this has helped you to realize how important these gatherings are in your life. These range from the common and personal, like birthdays, to one-time and personal, like funerals, to the community-wide events, like Memorial Day or the Fourth of July. Without these remembrances you can feel disconnected from time and history, the rhythm is life is lost and becomes a little more dull. Memorials focus you on something outside of yourself. Even a birthday remembers an act that was completely performed without your input.
         
Memorials also don’t just reenact the event. You don’t go through another wedding every anniversary. A person’s entire life isn’t described at their funeral. Even civil war reenactions don’t perfectly match the event, but emphasize certain parts with a teaching purpose. Consider this as we hear Christ’s words in giving His Supper, “Do this in remembrance of me.” We are not merely reenacting the Last Supper. This is not a play. We don’t use an altar because it’s like the table Jesus ate at, or claim the bread and wine is like what Jesus used, or that Jesus drank from a silver chalice. All these things reflect what we believe about our Lord’s Supper, but they are not trying to be historically accurate.
         
When Jesus says “Do this in remembrance of me,” He is not saying to do this as a show. Plays and movies about Jesus, done well, may have their place, but they are not keeping with Christ’s command at His Supper. What we remember at the Lord’s Supper are the benefits of Christ and we receive them by faith, and thus we are strengthened and made alive through them. Not reliving a night in Jerusalem 2000 years ago, but believing Christ’s words “This is my body which is for you” and “This cup is the new testament in my blood” is our memorial. This is how we remember Him. We remember him by receiving what He has won for us on the cross – the forgiveness of sins.
         
Yet you cannot merely stop at hearing and understanding Christ’s words in order to participate in His Supper. For He says, “Do this.” What do we do? “Eat this bread and drink this cup.” Showing faith in Christ’s words is not merely to sign on to a statement saying “This is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ given for us Christians to eat and to drink” (Small Catechism, Sacrament of the Altar). We should believe this, certainly, but without eating and drinking where is that faith? In the very eating and drinking of the bread and wine, our Lord’s body and blood, our faith is shown. This is our act of worship.
         
This memorial was another one that was widely lost in the past year. Thanks be to God we are recovering. As a consequence, there has been a lot of confusion about the Lord’s Supper and how we remember Christ. We do receive Christ in His Word. We do receive His Word even at home, watching or listening to a recording or reading a book. No one denies this. These statements are completely independent from the question – “what does Christ tell us about His Supper?” The answer to that is “Do this in remembrance of me.” That means to eat His body and drink His blood in the Supper as He commands and institutes.
         
Too often Christians take what Jesus says and try to quantify it through their own logic. You may often hear commands and promises in Scripture and say “well, do I have to do that to be saved?” or “do I really have to do this every week to be saved?” Jesus gives us no law like that because He knows we would abuse it. He doesn’t say “hear or read the Bible an average of 1.5 hours a week and take communion at least 4 times a year and you will be saved.” Instead He says “Do this.
         
These are the Words which were delivered over to Paul which he delivers to us. The Lord’s Supper is not Paul’s to change or any pastor’s to change or yours to change. It belongs to Jesus, and it is given by Jesus through His called ministers. Imagine great chef with a meal of meat cooked to a delicious temperature, perfectly seasoned and sauced. It’s his trademark meal. And then someone comes in and orders it with a bunch of substitutions, cooked completely differently. Certainly it’s meal, but it’s not his meal. Even more with the Lord’s Supper, one can serve something other than wine and bread, say words other than the words of our Lord, but it’s that person’s supper now, not the Lord’s.
         
This is so vitally important because of what we receive in the Lord’s Supper – forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. For as Jesus says “This is my body which is for you” and “This cup is the new testament in my blood,” he is saying that His very body and blood, that body which was crucified for you and the blood poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins is there in His Supper. By eating and drinking the body and blood of Jesus in, with, and under the bread and wine, you receive everything He has done for us. Forgiveness. Peace with God. Eternal life. You are being made more like Him from the inside. This is New Testament worship which puts your old self to death and makes you alive in Christ.
         
The Lord’s Supper is the memorial of His death, “you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” Like other memorials, you celebrate the benefit of what you remember. The wedding anniversary recalls the years of marriage. The birthday the life of the person. Memorial Day celebrates the freedoms enjoyed on account of those who sacrificed their lives. The Lord’s Supper is all these and more. It is a wedding, a union of Christ to His Church where you are joined in His love and protection. It is a birthday, where you are strengthened in your baptismal birth in the new life of the resurrection. It is where you celebrate freedom to serve God and neighbor thanks to the One who died for us. And the best part is this is only the first bit, the foretaste. In the life to come, all this will be fully given to you and you will be without sin.
         
In this life, you still have sin. You have sinful flesh. You are tempted and harassed by the devil. You have the world which constantly pounds its opposition to God against you. So you need the Supper. You need strength. You need Jesus. To believe, to know this need, is to receive the Supper worthily. For the worthy person is the one who comes sorry for their sins and knowing they need forgiveness, trusting that they will receive it here. If you do not think you need forgiveness, stay away! If you think the Lord’s Supper is nothing or a joke, do not take it! For this is the body and blood of Christ. You will receive him no matter how you take it, but without faith you receive Him as Judge instead of Redeemer.
         
You may think, maybe I will receive him wrongly. I have examined myself and found myself to be full of sin. When I look at the Ten Commandments I know I have broken them. I break them again and again. I do not think I am worthy; I don’t think I have enough faith. Dear Christian, know this. Any faith, even the smallest gram of faith, is sufficient. The faith which says, I do not know if I have enough faith, but I know I am a sinner and I need this – that is worthy faith.  
         
Most of all, know this – Christ is here in His body and blood. He is sacramentally present with us. When you receive the bread and wine tonight you receive Him. Therefore, as certainly as the bread is on your tongue, and as certainly as the wine crosses your lips, you Have received Jesus. And trusting in Him, you are forgiven. As certainly as if the Father sent a miracle from heaven and shouted “you are forgiven!” For in this we remember and proclaim the death of Jesus, and join with Him in the resurrection to come. Amen.
           

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