God’s Victory Through the Sacrament of Communion, part 3

Now the important question for us to answer on this night concerns the Lord’s command that we do this eating and drinking until He returns. It is not stated as a suggestion but it is presented by Jesus as a new responsibility for His people. Some describe it as an ordinance or a law, but I find that somewhat troubling. It is ordinance in that we are told to do it, but it is so much more than that, for it is indeed a great gift of life for all who believe. Believers are told to commune, but in communing we receive that which strengthens us and prepares us to go forth into the world as living examples of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. In a sense, the Sacrament is medicine for a sin sick soul.

All of us are physical creatures. We experience the world physically. If we burn ourselves it hurts. If we dive into a pool we become wet. If we walk out on a bright spring day we feel the sun on our faces and the breeze in our hair. We are not created to be simply minds carried about by bodies, but discreet from the body. God created mankind to be this way because this is how He wants us to be.

When I read about Jesus I have a mental experience of Jesus, sometimes even a soul experience of Jesus, but I do not have a physical experience of Jesus and His presence in my life and in the world. As important as Scripture is to our faith, and it would be hard to overstate how important it is, it cannot give us that physical experience we as physical beings crave and need. Let me give you a personal example. Our youngest granddaughter lives 500 miles away from us. We get to see pictures of her and even brief little “films” of her activities and that keeps us up to date on her growth. What we don’t often get is the opportunity to hold her or kiss her or even to change her diapers. Our general experience of Hailey is more in our minds than in our bodies. Anyone who has ever been separated from someone they love will understand why you want to hug and kiss that person the first chance you get.

As God who became incarnate, Jesus understood this as well as you and I do. And He knew how important it would be for us to be refreshed and strengthened by His true presence as we face the adversities of life and the persecutions large and small that can confront a true follower of the Risen Lord. So He instituted this Sacrament where He truly comes to us and where we truly experience Him in the most intimate way imaginable. When we receive the elements of the Sacrament we are deeply and personally and physically engaged with God. Trying to explain this is fruitless, but accepting the words, “This is my Body given for you”, “This is my blood shed for many for the forgiveness of sins”, is the pearl of great price for us. It is a taste of what heaven will be like.

The prophet Jeremiah tells us that at the heart of God’s restoration of His people there would be a new covenant that would be grounded in a new relationship of knowing God and in the forgiving and forgetting of our sins. This is the promise kept, this is the Word fulfilled each time we come to the chancel rail and take a wafer and a tiny bit of wine.

Maundy Thursday is sometimes called Holy Thursday. It is indeed, friends, it is indeed. Amen.

For parts one and two see:

God’s Victory Through the Sacrament of Communion, part 1

God’s Victory Through the Sacrament of Communion, part 2


God’s Victory Through the Sacrament of Communion, part 2

For centuries Christians have disputed amongst themselves the meaning of the new sacramental meal. Different theories of what Jesus meant with the words He used that night, those phrases we have come to call the Words of Institution. Some, as far as I know only Roman Catholics, teach transubstantiation. In other words, the bread and wine literally become the Body and Blood of Jesus and they remain that once it has happened. Therefore , unused wafers and wine, once consecrated, can be “adored” by believers for they are now considered to be permanently the true divine Body and the true divine Blood. On the other hand, those who follow the teachings of the Reformer Huldrich Zwingli say that the Communion meal is simply a remembrance of the Lord’s sacrifice for us, a physical reminder of His love displayed. Christ could not be physically present, these folks argue because He ascended bodily and has chosen to be in the Body for eternity and a physical body cannot be in more than one place at a time.

Those we call Calvinists try to split the difference, contending that Christ is truly present in the Sacrament, it is not simply an act of remembrance, but His presence is spiritual and not physical. The Holy Spirit comes into each believer as he or she receives the elements while Christ remains in heaven while non-believers would receive only bread and wine. And then there are Lutherans—don’t you know we’re out there by ourselves. We utterly reject the transubstantiation argument of Catholics because it is obvious that we still have bread and wine no matter what is said over them. But Christ said that the bread was His Body and the wine His blood, without any restrictions attached so we accept what He says as truth and speak of His Body and His Blood as being somehow under the elements. We truly receive what Christ promised and we’re willing to let it go at that. There is an urge in all of us to try to explain everything so it makes sense to us, but we can’t always do that when it comes to things divine. Faithfulness does not require a complete understanding of those mysteries that are understood by God alone. For believers it is enough to simply accept Jesus’ words as Truth and not try to parse them out so our feeble minds can somehow grasp divine meaning. As it has been said, if I could understand God and His ways completely—I would be God.

These disagreements are not going to go away until Jesus comes again. However, what we believe, teach and confess about the Sacrament does not determine our salvation. So we should remember to be generous to those brothers and sisters with whom we disagree, but neither should we ignore something so fundamentally important to our faith as the Holy Supper. Nor should we try to play down what we believe in order to have earthly fellowship, for to go against conscience is ultimately destructive of our faith.

For part one see:

God’s Victory Through the Sacrament of Communion, part 1

More to come …..

God’s Victory Through the Sacrament of Communion, part 1

This is my husband’s sermon for Maundy Thursday.  Because of the coronavirus, the congregation could not gather, but it is also posted on our church website.  I think it does a good job of explaining the different beliefs about this sacrament, and how it is a crucial component of God’s plan for victory over evil.

I think nothing has seemed so strange to me as writing a Maundy Thursday sermon knowing that the sacrament of Holy Communion will not take place that night. Nor will we strip the chancel area in preparation for a Good Friday service. It is, however, important for us not to forget these times at this most important part of the Church year. We are people of faith, faith in the Risen Lord Jesus Christ, the only Son of the living God who bore our punishment for our sinfulness and freed us all from the power of sin, death and the devil. Satan no doubt thinks he has won some sort of battle here by emptying sanctuaries around the world this paschal season, but he is not only a liar, he is a fool for, while the Lord is present in His sanctuary, so He is present in the hearts and minds of His chosen people. This week is the week of Christus Victor, the victorious Messiah, victorious over all that is wrong with creation, all that has been distorted by sin.

We see part of the Lord’s victory here in the 26th chapter of Matthew beginning at the 26th verse.

The Lord and His closest disciples are assembled in the upper room for a final meal together. Jesus has spoken of it as the Passover meal, but it is a day earlier than the calendar denotes Passover because, by the time most Jews were eating Passover, Jesus would be in the tomb. The Passover meal has many discrete parts because it is not only a time of eating but of learning and re-learning about God’s rescue of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. Each part of the meal was a discreet learning experience. Jesus starts something new that night. He establishes another meal to replace the Passover, one that is meant to teach and re-teach believers over the centuries like the Passover meal, but with a great difference between the two celebrations. The Passover meal looked back in remembrance alone, it is intellectual and maybe spiritual. God is spoken of but not present physically because He was, at that time, not yet incarnated, He had not taken on the body of a man. In Christ Jesus, however, God had become like us, He had walked among us, living like us except without sin. And He was going to stay with us in a new way, a way both physical and spiritual. And so the new meal of the faithful must be both physical and spiritual.

To be continued ……

God’s Victory Over Our Sin

“The way may at times seem dark, but light will arise, if thou trust in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him.  That light may sometimes show hard things to be required, but do not be distressed if thy heart should rebel;  bring thy unwillingness and disobedience to Him, in the faith that He will give thee power to overcome, for He cannot fail.  ‘Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world,’ so keep close to Him, and the victory will be won.  But do not, I beseech thee, neglect anything that is required, for disobedience leads to darkness;  and do not reason or delay, but simply follow the leadings of the Holy Spirit, and He will guide thee into all peace.”

Elizabeth T. King

Only Victory

A friend recently told me about a woman she knows who has cancer.  This lady is undergoing treatment, but said something to this effect:  “if I live, I win because I get to stay with my family and loved ones;  however, if I die, I also win because I will be with Jesus.”  This reminds me of something the apostle Paul said in the book of Philippians:

“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”  Philippians 4:12

He didn’t desire death because if he lived, he could continue to produce fruit for the Lord;  but death and being with the Lord would be even better.

Maybe that’s why I’m not afraid of this virus.  At my age, I have accomplished the life tasks most of us expect to complete.  I’ve had a long marriage, raised two daughters, worked at a career I feel proud of ( because my work helped others} and have even seen my grandchildren be born. I’ve been a daughter, wife, mother, sibling, aunt, friend, employee and Christian (not necessarily in that order).  Have I done these things perfectly?  Certainly not.  I’ve made mistakes, but they’ve been repented and forgiven.  I’ve had opportunities to learn and travel, to read and write.  I’ve never been in serious want.  I’ve suffered physically and mentally, and I’m now beginning to experience the limitations that age brings.  Still, all of that is only what is common to all humans.  My gratitude for my life is great and my regrets are small.  If I did die tomorrow (or today) I would be content.  I could say (again quoting Paul):

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”  1 Timothy 4:7


You see, as Christians, whatever happens, we have only victory ahead of us.

Easter Victory

Frederick Temple was an English academic, churchman and Archbishop of Canterbury from 1896 until his death in 1902.  This quote showed up in my devotional reading and it seemed very appropriate to our theme, and the church season.

“The return of Easter should be to the Christian life the call of a trumpet.  It is the news of a great victory.  It is the solution of a great perplexity.  It is the assurance of a great triumph.”

Frederick Temple

For more quotes by Frederick Temple, visit these posts:

Questions for Lent

Do You Serve Cheerfully?

Photo by Adrien Olichon on Pexels.com

A Prayer to be part of Christ’s Victory

“Teach us how to fight by faith against the power of sin, in the confidence that Christ has purchased our forgiveness and secured the triumph of all who trust in him.  Turn every evil design of the devil into sanctifying schemes of love.  Deliver us from his deceptions.  Keep the beauty of Christ clear in the eyes of our heart.  Make us instruments of Satan’s defeat until you come and slay him by the breath of your mouth.  Make us valiant in delivering others by the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, your great gospel.  In Jesus name we pray, amen. ”

John Piper from Seeing and Savoring Jesus

God’s Victory Over Evil in Us

This is a quote from my devotional by Theophilus Parsons (1797-1882)  who was a Harvard law professor.  It is important to note that for Lutherans, our choices do not affect our salvation, but they do advance our sanctification.

“Barabbas and Jesus cannot both live within us.  One must die.  Yes, every emotion of selfishness or worldliness in every soul plays the part of Barabbas.  Good influences may have prevailed for a time, and they, or perhaps motives of worldly regard, may have put Barabbas in prison, and under some restraint;  but the decisive, the fatal question remains, Shall he die?  Yes, he or Jesus.  Nor is it only on great occasions and in fearful crises that this question comes to us.  Every hour, every moment, when we resist what we must know to be the influence of our Lord, and casting that aside, give the victory, under whatever pretence or name, to that which is indeed our own Barabbas, we then do all that we are able to do to crucify our Lord afresh.  Every emotion which tempts us to refuse obedience to Him, “to make insurrection,”  to suppress and overcome whatever sense of right conscience gives –is not that the robber, rebel, murderer, Barabbas?  We may have, indeed, imprisoned him, we may have resolved that he should die–shall we now release him from restraint, and let him go free?  If we do, we know now what must happen–we know between what alternatives we choose.”



John Donne, Again

John Donne was an English clergyman and one of the metaphysical poets.  This poem celebrates the victory of God over the evil of death.

Death, be not proud (Holy Sonnet 10)

John Donne – 1571-1631

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee

Mighty and dreadful, for thou are not so;
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.
Thou’art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy’or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

For more by John Donne, see these posts:

A Quote By John Donne

John Donne on the Church

A John Donne Sonnet on Freedom


Victory in Jesus

This is one of my husband’s favorite hymns and he uses it often at funeral services.  It was written by Eugene Bartlett, an author and composer, who was born in Missouri.  This was his last work, written in 1939, just two years before his death.  It became the most well loved of his songs and has been included in many hymnals.  I have a bit of a theological problem with it because at the end of the first verse it says “I” won the victory.  Of course, Lutherans believe we do not choose or win anything, that great work was done by our Savior.  However, the music and message is uplifting, and it certainly echoes our monthly theme, so enjoy!

For more funeral songs see:

Funeral Songs

Go Rest High On That Mountain