Posts Tagged ‘Holy Communion’

What Is This Meal?


Thursday, March 24th, 2016

Maundy Thursday, March 24th , 2016
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA
http://www.tlcsd.org

Click here for audio of this message

[John 6:35-51] Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe.  All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.  For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.  And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of hall that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.  For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.”  They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”  Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves.  No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.  It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me—not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father.  Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life.  Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die.  I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

Listen again to these Words…

“I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.” [John 6:51a]

Those words declare a bold truth; one which summarizes all that Holy Scripture teaches: In Christ is true life that even death can’t touch; there is forgiveness in plenty which forgives everyone who sees a need for and desires this forgiveness. In Christ is the very righteousness God demands we have as His children, and it is a righteousness that Christ freely gives to us, and we should want it, because it covers all of our sins.  All of this Christ protects and gives to everyone who is moved by the Spirit of God through the Word of God to believe in this exclusive means of grace.  It is this gift of faith that signifies that we have become so intimately united with Christ in Baptism that He now lives within us and gives us a portion of all that He possesses as the very Son of God.

Tonight, Jesus declares to us, that “the bread that He gives, He gives for the life of the world in His flesh.”

This doesn’t simply mean that Christ has died and given His body upon the cross, but that He now after His blessed resurrection grants to each of us something of Himself and His eternal life.  When Jesus says that “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise Him up at the last day,” He doesn’t mean His earthly body, but His “glorified body” which to us, is a mystery.  This is one reason we call this meal a sacrament, because it is a mystery to us how His body and blood can be together, in, with, and under the bread and wine.  Somehow, in a way that is outside of our ability to understand, Christ’s glorified body is bound together with the new life that only the Kingdom of God can give.

So the Lord’s Supper is “food indeed and drink indeed” for our souls. [1 Corinthians 10:16]  The cup of blessing that is blessed by your pastor gives to each of us a participation in the Lord’s body and blood.  When we have received this gift in faith, then we are one with Christ and each other; He’s in us and we’re in Him, and together we have the promise of eternal life through Him.  And in this meal we are one with all of the others who also eat and drink this real food at the Lord’s table.

All of us participate in this one bread, which makes us members of one and the same body.

We also together as one, bear witness before those who do not come forward to the altar.  We bear witness to Christ’s death for them also.   We also understand that Christ was very serious when He said: “Do this.”  The earliest Christians celebrated the Lord’s Supper every Sunday, and maybe even more than that.  “The breaking of the bread” was valued as one of the most essential doctrines that must be observed and defended if a Christian wanted to be kept safe in the Christian faith.

As always is the case in this sinful world of sinful men and women, at various times, abuses and carelessness were found in the way the meal was celebrated.  St. Paul warns those who do this that “Any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon themselves.” [1 Corinthians 11:29]  Within this warning, we must be moved to protect ourselves from all things that may lead to a lack of repentance or a lackadaisical manner in which we might approach the Lord’s table; in other words, we must never approach our Lord’s table as we would the drive up window at a fast-food restaurant.

We must also understand that this judgment that Paul refers to does not mean condemnation and damnation, but the punishment of God, which is suppose to lead us to repentance.  For “when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.” [1 Corinthians 11:32]

Finally, Holy Communion is instituted for the disciples of Jesus.

Notice I did not say that it was instituted only for worthy guests.  No one who comes to His table is worthy, but everyone who comes to believe in the Word of Jesus is His disciple, and this is a status that the Holy Spirit Himself renews constantly through the Word of God, which gives and strengthens faith.

When you approach our Lord’s Table this evening, take note who also approaches and kneels with you… other unworthy disciples, saved the very same way you are being saved: Through grace alone, by faith alone, through Scripture alone, and all of this through Christ alone.  Like Peter, we too have proven our unworthiness by at times and perhaps many times, denying our Lord in thought, word, and deed.

None of us deserves to come to His table… no not one.  But what we must guard ourselves from is a spirit or a manner of coming that does not allow Christ to be Lord of His own meal and His own sacrament, and instead places us as the interpreter of what this meal is.

In order to be proper guests then, we must examine ourselves and judge ourselves properly… we all are unworthy!  When we have done this, then we must not stay away, but confess our sins, trust in Christ alone, and then eat of the bread and drink of the cup for forgiveness of sins, strengthening of faith, and as a memorial to our Lord Jesus Christ until He comes again.

Bread of Heaven

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

Maundy Thursday, April 17, 2014
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA 92114
http://www.tlcsd.org

Click here for audio of this message

“Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.”  And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”” [Matthew 26:26-29]

What is this meal that we are to receive this evening?  If you ask ten different Christians this question, you are likely to get ten different answers.  Each answer will have some similarities, but each answer will also have some major differences.  Because of that, this evening on Maundy Thursday, I propose that we go directly to scripture for an answer.  Our message this evening, will be brief and very much to the point, and the point is that you will know exactly what is given at our Lord’s Table.

Jesus said, “I am the bread which came down from heaven; if anyone eats this bread, he will live forever.”  [John 6:51] In those simple yet profound Words, Jesus summarized what all of Holy Scripture teaches.  With Jesus, there is true life; the kind of life that even death can’t touch.  There is forgiveness, which covers everyone, and the righteousness of God, that is a righteousness that pleases God, which we can never obtain on our own.  All of this is a gift that Jesus grants to everyone who believes in Him and the Words that He speaks.  When we believe, we have faith, and when we have faith, that faith signifies that we have become so intimately united with Christ that He is actually living within us.  And because He is living within us, He gives us abundantly from all that He possesses.

In the same passage Jesus continues to give us wisdom towards considering our question this evening in these Words: “… and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.” [John 6:51]  Now hear me church; this doesn’t just mean that Jesus has died for us on the cross, but that now, after His resurrection, He is giving us something of Himself and His eternal life.  When Jesus says, “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:54), He doesn’t mean His earthly body, but the glorified body which is bound together with the new life of the kingdom of God.

So, the Lord’s Supper, which we celebrate tonight and every Sunday, is “food indeed and drink indeed” for the soul.  The cup of blessing that is blessed by the pastor through the Words of institution, grants us a participation in the Lord’s body.  When we have received this gift by faith, then we are abiding in Christ and He is living in us and among us, and we have the promise of eternal life through Him.

In this Holy meal, we are all one with each other and one with Jesus at His table.  All of us, and I do mean all of us who participate in this one bread become members of one and the same body, the body of Jesus Christ.  And as part of His body, we exist and are sent out into our community to bear witness before those who cannot or will not come forward to this altar.  Together as one body, we proclaim Christ’s death to them until He comes again.

We understand also that Jesus was serious when He said: “Do this as often as you meet”.  The earliest Christians celebrated the Lord’s Supper each Sunday, and perhaps even more often than that.  “The breaking of the bread” was counted among the most essential matters that must be observed if a person desired to be preserved in the one true faith.

Because the Lord’s Supper was taken so often, there was a danger that complacency and abuses could slip in, so St. Paul warns sharply against them in this way: “For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself.” [1 Corinthians 11:17-20]

What are the things that might cause us not to discern the real presence of the Lord’s body?  Certainly a lack of repentance and a flippant attitude towards our sins and the gift of forgiveness when approaching the Lord’s table, would be major evidence towards that end.  An example might be those who feel no compelling need to come to His table, or those who only come in order to look religious in the eyes of others, instead of coming as sinners with a need for receiving forgiveness.

What is this judgment that we bring upon ourselves when we eat and drink unworthily?  Well, first let’s be clear that this judgment St. Paul talks about does not mean condemnation, but rather a discipline of God, so that we will recognize the body of Christ the very next time we approach His table.  Listen, as St. Paul goes on to explain this: “When we are judged by the Lord, we are chastened so that we may not be condemned along with the (unbelieving) world.” [1 Corinthians 11:32]

So, Holy Communion was instituted for the disciples of Jesus on the night He was betrayed, the evening before He was beat within an inch of His life and then hung upon a cross to die for the sins of the world; to die for your sins.

Ever since the institution of this great meal, everyone who comes to faith in the Word of Jesus—every day—is a disciple, and encouraged after instruction to receive his body and blood in, with, and under the bread and wine.  It was instituted for you this evening who have been instructed and long to experience the love of God, which is yours in and through Jesus Christ.  Here is an important point for you to remember: There are no worthy guests who come to His table; only sinners.  No one has earned the right to come. What Paul is warning against is an unworthy manner of coming to the Supper.  In order to be true guests of His table we must examine ourselves and judge ourselves to be sinful and in need of His forgiveness.  Then once this is completed, we must not ever stay away from His table, but confess our sins, our trust in Christ, and then eat of the bread and drink of the cup.

So, to the heart of the matter, here is what we Christians of the Evangelical Lutheran Church preach, teach, and confess about what we receive in this meal at our Lord’s Table:  The bread and wine are the Lord’s body and blood given and shed for the forgiveness of sins (SA III.vi); the Lord’s body and blood are put into our mouths and on your tongues (FC SD XII.105); and all who receive the consecrated bread and wine actually receive, in a mysterious way, the Lord’s body and blood (FC SD XII.26) for the forgiveness of sins.  AMEN!

It IS the Lord’s Supper Don’t Ya Know!

Friday, March 29th, 2013

Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

Maundy Thursday (C), March 28, 2013

If you were invited to have dinner at a friend’s home, would you tell that person that you didn’t want to eat what they served you, and that you’d rather have them  order pizza instead? What if your friend served prime rib, would it be appropriate to tell everyone the next day that you were served hot dogs?  Yet in churches t  throughout this nation we find many different explanations about what Jesus instituted and served on that first “Christian” Passover meal long ago.  So, how are we  to suppose to approach this Holy meal this evening?  Well, 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 whole new  meal, a meal that was meant to be repeated; it was “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 way to help the Jews remember how God led them out of captivity in  Egypt towards their promised land.  God did it. Not one Hebrew warrior stood against the mighty Egyptians; not one Jew contributed anything in accomplishing  their deliverance!  Freedom came in the blackest night while Hebrew slave 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; in this meal, 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 Corinthians 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.  Now it’s here that we need to turn our hearts towards God and receive everything that He’s lovingly giving to us in this meal, because it is so much more than a memorial meal!

III. It is a Holy Meal, because God’s very Word makes it holy. When someone asks you “Why do you believe that the bread and wine are holy in the Lord’s Supper?” 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. Now, we do not say that a pastor or priest by virtue of their ordination has the power to transform simple bread and wine into a holy meal, but rather it is the very Words of Christ spoken over the bread and wine that makes it holy, 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.” Friends, if you can only remember one thing about this meal then remember this, IT IS A MEAL OF FORGIVENESS!  Take your sins to this meal and exchange them for God’s mercy and peace!

Just as the preached Gospel announces and gives forgiveness through the cross of Christ to everyone who believes, 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.  Through all of our senses then, God is allowing us within His Holy Meal to experience the complete forgiveness that Christ has won for us upon the cross. In the Lord’s Supper, that once-and-for- all forgiveness is freely given to each one of us who have been baptized and by faith, believe in His promise.  Friends, 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.

That’s 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 His forgiveness. 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 does 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. Now 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 and drink they spiritually ascend to Christ who is at the right hand of God. While these words 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 in, with and under 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 try 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 and we let it remain within those words.

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 where he writes: “Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread.”

These words hint towards two things. First, they tell us 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 within God’s people. 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 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 gives thanks, and looks to the future and anticipates!

In this look towards the future, we are strengthened in the present.  In His Supper tonight, we are allowed to look ahead to a time when there will be no more tears or pain, only joy and peace with the God who created us to be in a relationship of love with Him and each other.  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!”  I pray that God will richly bless each of us this evening as we approach His table to hear, see, touch, smell and taste forgiveness.  I ask this in Jesus name… AMEN and AMEN!

“What is This Bread and Wine?” (The Lord’s Prayer Part-7)

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
Maundy Thursday, April 21, 2011
Click here for audio of this message

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; it was “The Lord’s Supper.”   What is this bread that they and we share and eat?  It is God’s very means of delivering and protecting us from evil; the very thing we ask for at the end of the Lord’s Prayer!  Think of the last petition that we pray in that prayer: “But deliver us from evil. Amen.”

In the Greek this petition actually reads, “Deliver or preserve us from the Evil One, or the Wicked One.” It seems to point to the devil as the sum of everything that is evil in this world; it’s as if the entire substance of our prayer is directed against our archenemy. And that makes sense because it’s the devil and his minions who obstruct everything we have asked for in this prayer, which is simply God’s name and honor, God’s kingdom and will, our daily bread, and a good and peaceful conscience.

So at the end of this prayer, we are simply summing up everything we’ve asked for with this request: “Dear Father, help us to get rid of everything that is evil.” So, in this petition God is showing us that our need to pray for His divine protection is in fact endless because the attacks of the devil and this sinful world are also endless! So, this task of praying for God’s protection is a full time endeavor, and like any endeavor we need to be strengthened for the task ahead, and this is precisely what God gives to us in His Holy meal.  This meal along with God’s Word and our baptism is God’s means of strengthening our faith so that we can receive and believe that He has truly forgiven our sins!  For if we are to live a victorious life of faith we must be assured that we are protected and delivered from all kinds of evil; we must be strengthened to keep God’s name holy and work to see His kingdom grow within us and among us; we must be empowered to see His will being done among us and believe that because of Christ’s work upon the cross and His work for in our baptism, we have complete forgiveness of sins!  We must be able to believe that in the end God will protect us from sin and disgrace and from everything else that tries to harm or injures us.

And to provide for this faith and strength, God invites us to a new meal; His holy meal that we call the Lord’s Supper!  What is this meal? Well…

The rest of the message is available in audio format by clicking here.

It IS the Lord’s Supper!

Saturday, April 3rd, 2010

Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
Maundy Thursday, April 1, 2010
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!