Sermon for Maundy Thursday, AD 2022

Psalm 116:12-19; 1 Corinthians 11:23-32

What’s the point of the Lord’s Supper? Why do we come here and partake? We know this bread is the very body of the Lord, and this wine is the very blood of the Lord. We know that in these we have forgiveness of sins, that is life and salvation. Jesus gives this to us not out of our merit, but out of his love for us. We receive in faith, trusting that what he says about His Supper is true.

Does this answer why come here often? Do you know why you receive regularly? That is a fruit of faith. It is true that the supper is for weak sinners who are in need of forgiveness. Even the least faith is worthy to partake of Jesus’ supper. It is the medicine of immortality to heal the wounds of the soul. Yet that is just one aspect of the Lord’s body and blood. It doesn’t fully explain why we partake often.

We take medicine when we are sick. Maybe if we have a chronic sickness we take medicine every day. This is part of an explanation – we do have a chronic sickness of our sinful flesh. As the Lord’s Supper is a strengthening and assurance of forgiveness, we seek it the more we realize we are sick with sin. This is why Luther said anyone who takes the Supper less than 4 times a year is a not a true Christian. That person does not see their sickness and does not want the cure. It is the true Christian who sees how desperately sick he is, how he needs the strength of the Lord’s Body and Blood, and takes it regularly. If you think you are too weak, if you know you need the strength Christ gives, then this sacrament of Christ’s body and blood is for you. Take it, knowing that as surely as you taste the bread and the wine, your sins are forgiven. If you think you are strong and don’t need this, if you think Christ’s body and blood are unnecessary, then stay away, for you are not ready. Repent of your sin, examine yourself and see your need, then you can trust in Christ to forgive and strengthen.

For those who know they need the medicine, know that this is not just medicine. This is what I was saying before – there are other aspects to the Lord’s body and blood. It is also true food and true drink. I don’t mean this because it is bread and wine. The eyes can tell that this is not much of a meal if we are looking at the bread and wine. If you look in faith, it is a great meal, filling the soul. And food is not just taken when we are sick, but to sustain us every day. This is the meal of those who love God, to restore and refresh in Spirit. We partake of the Lord’s body and blood not only because we need it, but because this is what those who love God do.

The psalmist says, “I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy.” This is what a Christian says. We love God, because we needed mercy and he gave it. We were caught in sin and death and even though we did not deserve it, he saved us. “Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on Him as long as I live. The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish. Then I called on the name of the Lord: O Lord, I pray, deliver my soul!” Isn’t this just who we are in Christ. We realized that we were surrounded by anguish and death. In great distress, we needed a savior. Every Christian comes to some point where he realizes he cannot go on his own. He cannot save himself. And that is when we call on the name of the Lord. Maybe that was in baptism, maybe when you heard the gospel as an adult, but every Christian calls to the Lord and confesses, I am a sinner, I cannot survive on my own, Lord, deliver me!

The Lord has heard your voice, he knows your need for mercy. He came to die for your sins and by his blood delivered you from death, distress, and anguish. He is gracious and bountiful, and wishes to give you all good things. When you were under the shadow of death, full of tears, stumbling along, Christ came and brought you up. He put you on your feet so you can walk again. He has returned you to a place of rest. No one could do this but the Lord, and he has done so through the death of Jesus Christ.

So we do not thank him only once, as he says, “Because he has inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on Him as long as I live.” The Christian’s life is continually one of calling on the name of the Lord. This is remembering your baptism. This is trusting his word. This is taking of his Supper. For these are the things he has told us to do. As Christians, we continually call on Him and ask for his mercy, for we know we need it and he will supply it.

Sometimes we feel like we have to make up for what Christ has done for us, so we make up rules or sacrifices that we think he would like. We feel like we need to pay God back somehow. This can be a good thing, an inclination of thankfulness toward God. Yet we should know that God does not want any self-made sacrifice. The Israelites thought they could live however they wanted as long as they piled up sacrifices to God. The medieval church wrongly taught that the extra works of the monks made them especially holy over other Christians. Even today, many preachers and churches will pile up rules beyond Christ’s commandments of what it means to be a ”true Christian,” a “real born-again Christian,” or a “totally committed follower of Christ.”

Christ says, “my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” He has taken on the burden of our sins already. He has already answered our response in His Word. The psalmist continues, “What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits to me?” If I, as a Christian, recognize what God has done in Christ, what more can I do for him? “I will lift up the cup of salvation, and call on the name of the Lord, I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people.” This is what Christ desires of you, to lift up the cup of salvation, this cup of Christ’s blood, and partake in faith. He is saying, “call on me, trust in me and the salvation I promise to you here. This is the thanks I need.” To call on the name of the Lord is to trust in his Word, especially the Word of the promise of forgiveness. When we trust Christ alone for salvation in the way he has promised to give salvation then we are giving to him what he really desires from us, rather than some made-up sacrifice of our own.

Then you may say, “if there is no sacrifice of our own, what is it to pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of his people?” This is a result of taking the cup of salvation. Because Christ has freed you from sin and death you can say, “I am your servant, the son of your maidservant. You have loosed my bonds.” That is to say, “Lord, I will follow my commandments. You have freed me to do so, just as my mother did.” This may be true of your natural mother, the one who brought you to baptism so your bonds could be loosed. Even if not, it is true of your mother, the church.

The church is that true heavenly Jerusalem, where we the servants of the Lord gather to pay our vows. We hear his promises, we partake of his body and blood, we call on his name together. For what the Lord also desires is for us to come to his house together. He wishes that all his servants would do nothing more than come in thanks for his work and partake of that body and blood which he has given to strengthen them.

That is the point of taking the supper often. We certainly need the forgiveness. We need to realize that we need forgiveness and are weak without it. Also, we who love God, give our thanks and service to Him in the best way we know how, which is the way that he has told us to do. This is what we were meant to do. In this supper, we are preparing for heaven, where we will continually be participating in the wedding feast of Christ and his church. “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints,” for they have entered into that eternal feast. Therefore partake now, prepare now. Even though your sins are many his blood is greater. Lift up the cup of salvation, call on the name of the Lord. This is what the Lord considers acceptable service. Free to you, paid for by his blood, with eternal benefit. Amen.

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