Archive for the ‘Luke’ Category

It IS The Lord’s Supper You Know!

Friday, April 10th, 2009

Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
Click here for audio of this message

If you were invited to have dinner at a close friend’s home, would you even consider telling that person that you want them to prepare something else?  Would you tell that person that their dinner plans are unacceptable, and that you would rather have them take you out to an expensive restaurant instead? If your friend served prime rib, would it be appropriate to tell everyone the next day that you had hot dogs?  Yet all around us we find many different explanations about what Jesus instituted and served on that first “Christian” Passover meal long ago.  How are we to approach this Holy meal this evening?  Let’s allow our Lord to answer this question for us; After all, it IS His Supper you know!

On the night before He died, Jesus shared with His disciples the Passover, or the Seder. But in the midst of this Seder meal, Jesus served and instituted another meal, a new meal, a meal that was to be repeated, “The Lord’s Supper.”  Tonight, through eight explanations, we will explore just what kind of meal it was and continues to be today and always will be until He returns!

I.  First, it is a historical meal.  In Exodus 12, we learn that the Seder meal was instituted as a time for the Jews to remember and to celebrate God’s saving work as He led them from captivity in Egypt towards their promised land.  God did it. Not one Israelite army stood against the mighty Egyptians; not one Jew contributed anything in accomplishing their deliverance!  Freedom came in the blackest night while Israelite families huddled around the Passover table, their bags packed, waiting for deliverance. Why was it called the Passover meal?  Well, it’s because the angel of death visited only the homes of the Egyptians but it passed over the homes of the Hebrew families because they had marked their homes as God directed them-with the blood of a lamb.  The Jews celebrate that event each year with humility and praise through the Seder meal.  In that meal they remember how God alone saved them; there is no room for pride. For the children of Israel, independence from Egypt meant dependence on God. In fact, God comes back to this event throughout the Bible as a way of describing himself: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt.”

Much later, in the upper room, Jesus would give Passover night an even broader significance. In a time when Jews throughout the world were bringing out their choice lambs to slaughter, eat, and remember the blood and deliverance, Jesus would now show the world that He had been selected as the TRUE Passover Lamb, not just for the Jews, but for all of humanity (1 Corinthians 5:7). The words “When I see the blood, I will pass over you” (Exodus 12:13) came to convey a whole new meaning. The Lord’s Supper is now superior to the Passover meal in that it promises salvation not from physical slavery, but deliverance from the power of sin, death, and the devil.

II. Second, it is a Memorial Meal That Remembers Christ’s Death on Behalf of Us All. St. Paul speaks of Holy Communion as a memorial meal in this way: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me (1 Cor. 11:23-25).

Did you notice that each time Jesus delivered the elements of His Holy Supper that he punctuated it with the need to Remember Him?  Since the bread eaten is Christ’s body “for us” and the wine drank “is the new covenant in (His) blood” then clearly this meal is a memorial or a way of remembering Christ’s atoning death. In churches all across the world, we can find other Christians partaking in the Lord’s Supper and recognizing it as a meal that remembers Christ’s death. But sadly, sometime after the zeal of the Reformation wore off, some churches began to look at HIS Holy Supper as nothing more than a memorial meal.  It is here that we need to turn our hearts towards God and receive all that He is graciously giving to us in this meal, because it is so much more than a memorial meal!

III. Third, it is a Holy Meal, because God’s very Word consecrates it as Holy.  When family, friends, neighbors, classmates or coworkers ask you “Why do you believe that the bread and wine are the Body and Blood of Jesus?” you must quickly and simply answer that “It is God’s Word that makes it holy!”  You see, the words of consecration that Christ spoke at the Last Supper and which the Pastor repeats each time this meal is served are the very power of God. We do not say that a pastor or priest by virtue of their ordination has the power to transform the bread and wine, but rather it is the very Words of Christ spoken over the bread and wine that makes this a holy meal, presenting both bread and wine and Body and Blood. But why does God do this?  The answer to this question brings us to our Fourth explanation of what kind of meal this is.   

IV. It is a meal in which God feeds us with the forgiveness for all of our sins and serves us an overflowing cup of peace with God.  In our Gospel reading you heard Christ Himself say, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” If you can only remember one thing about this meal then remember this, IT IS A MEAL OF FORGIVENESS!

Just as the preached Gospel announces and gives forgiveness through the cross of Christ to all who believe, so does this meal. In the Holy Supper, the Gospel of forgiveness is not only heard but it is also seen, smelled, touched and tasted. But why?  Because we have been wonderfully created to experience God in ways even the angels stand in awe of!  You see God created us as flesh and blood.  We experience God through our senses.  Not only does God wish us to hear and see Him through His Word, but also through the Sacrament of Baptism and His Holy Table.  It is there that He gives us the opportunity to touch, see and even taste Him in a way which was designed to build an intimate and lasting relationship with Him.  Through all of our senses, God is allowing us within His Holy Meal to experience the complete forgiveness that Christ has won for us on the cross. In the Lord’s Supper, that once-and-for- all forgiveness is freely given to each one of us who by faith, believe in His promise.  God wants you to experience the assurance that all of your sins, including the ones that are heavy on your heart right now, are completely forgiven.

This is why we teach that the Lord’s Supper is for true sinners.  If you are sorrowing and struggling over your sinfulness, then Jesus says “Come unto me ye weary and I will give you rest!”  Friends, this is not a meal for people who feel worthy, but it was instituted for those peculiar children of God who cry out “Have mercy on me Lord Jesus, a pitiful and unworthy sinner!” 

V. Fifth, it is a Meal that is God’s Work for Us, Not Our Work for Him.  Just as the Jews played no part in their deliverance from the oppression of the Egyptians, we also play no part in our Salvation and the complete forgiveness of our sins.  This is all entirely the work of Jesus.  It was His blood that was poured out for the forgiveness of your sins. In this holy meal, Jesus invites us to eat and drink. Can you see that it is Jesus, not us, who is the one who offers, prepares, and serves this Divine Supper?  He serves us His body “which is given for you” (Luke 22:19). He serves us His blood “which is poured out for you” (Luke 22:20). All the emphasis is on what He gives for us. Our “job” is only to receive.

VI. In our sixth explanation we are taught that this is a Meal in Which We Eat and Drink Christ’s Body and Blood.  Most Christian traditions affirm that Christ is present somehow in the Lord’s Supper. But it’s not enough to just say that Jesus is present in this meal. Some Christians today speak of Christ’s “real” presence in the bread and wine as being spiritual.  Some will say that when Christians eat the bread and drink the wine that they spiritually ascend to Christ who is at the right hand of God. While these words of well meaning may seem harmless, we must not be deceived; remember, IT IS HIS SUPPER, NOT OURS!  Jesus clearly says “This IS my body” and “This IS my blood.”  He did not say that this represents my body and blood; nor did he say ‘I am spiritually present in the bread and wine.”  No, our Savior clearly states that the bread IS His body and the fruit of the vine “IS (His) blood of the new covenant!”

We Lutherans firmly believe that this is a meal in which we consume Christ’s body and blood along with the bread and wine. We base this on the words of institution, in which Christ offers bread and says of that bread, “This is my body.” and offers the wine and says of that wine, “This is my blood.” Do we attempt to explain how this can be? No! We simply accept the plain sense of the words that the bread, somehow, is also Christ’s body, and the wine, somehow, is also Christ’s blood.

VII. In our seventh explanation, we learn that this meal is also a Family Meal that Gives and Celebrates Unity Among Those who Eat It.  The Lord’s Supper has often been called the Sacrament of unity. Why? In part, because of the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:17: “Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread.”

These words infer two things. First, they infer that the one bread broken and distributed signifies the oneness of the body of Christ, the Church. On most Sundays this may be difficult to understand when we receive individual bite-size wafers. But tonight I will distribute the body of Christ from one large loaf of bread.  As the bread is broken and distributed think about this concept of unity. Realize that while you may be receiving only one small piece of the loaf, every one here is being fed from the same source. 

Second, the words of Paul infer that those who partake of the one bread become one body; that is, the eating of this meal creates as well as celebrates unity. St. Paul’s point is that it is wrong to enter into communion with those with which you have no true unity – and true unity includes recognizing all of the mysteries that are given in His Holy Supper.  For us here tonight, when we respond to His invitation to eat and drink, we are professing that we come together truly as a family that is one body in Christ, one in faith, and one in doctrine. When we eat this meal together, we will as one heart celebrate our Lord’s life, death and resurrection until He returns!

VIII. Lastly, in our eighth explanation, we discover that this is a Meal that is “a Foretaste of the Feast to Come.”  This phrase, taken from a Communion liturgy of Lutheran Worship, beautifully expresses another aspect of the Lord’s Supper. It is meal that is a foretaste of that eternal, heavenly meal that we will enjoy with our God. For this meal points not only backwards but also forward in time. It looks to the past and remembers, looks to the present and receives, and looks to the future and anticipates!

In this look towards the future, we are strengthened in the present.  In His Supper, we are allowed to look ahead to a time when there will be no more tears or pain, only joy and peace.  Through this Holy Communion, we are assured that no matter how difficult our current circumstances may be, through our crucified and risen Savior, we shall overcome, and feast with Him in glory forevermore!  How can this Holy Supper do all of this?  Because He says so, and after all “IT IS THE LORD’S SUPPER YOU KNOW!”  AMEN and AMEN!