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 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 ……

The last night

On the night on which he was betrayed, our Lord knew he would die the next day. He knew that before that happened he would be betrayed (and by whom) and denied (and by whom). He knew he would be abandoned, mocked, scorned, slapped, punched, and scourged. He knew he who was sinless would take on himself all the sins of all of us.

How would you spend your last night if you knew it would be your last night? He chose to wash the feet of his disciples. He gave bread and wine, his body and blood, and forgiveness. He gave the promise of a Comforter, the Holy Spirit. He gave a command to love one another.

Holy communion always brings us close to Christ, but never closer than on Maundy Thursday, when we are aware of that night and what he did and what he said and what he faced for us. It was profound sorrow and pure joy to be in his presence on this night of all nights.

Wash One Another’s Feet??

 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them.
“You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am.
 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.
 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.
Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.
Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. John 13:12-17
Since today is Maundy Thursday, it seemed like the right time to post about washing one another’s feet. Have you ever, literally, washed someone else’s feet?  Well, if you’re a parent you probably have. I did.   Also, when my mother was elderly, I would go to her house once a week to help her shower, and yes, I would wash her feet.  Washing feet is a humbling job, and one we’re not usually willing to do unless we love someone who cannot take care of that chore themselves.  In Bible times, feet got really dirty (walking on dusty roads in sandals) and foot washing was a job for servants.  Any way you look at it, washing feet is nobody’s favorite task.  It can be messy and unpleasant, something to avoid if possible.
But guess what?  Jesus not only washed the feet of our disciples, he washed our feet!the   Are you asking how?  Well, here’s what happened….
“… being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Philippians 4:8
In other words, Jesus chose to do what we could not do for ourselves — He made us clean, or righteous, in the eyes of God.  He couldn’t do this job without getting dirty.  He had to become human.  He had to live with all the aches and pains and sorrows that go with human life.  Then he had to die — and a peaceful death surrounded by friends, either.  He was beaten, tortured, deserted and held up to ridicule.  He died the death of a common criminal.  There’s only one reason why God would do that.  Can you guess?  He loved us!  He loved us that much.  More than we love our children or parents or spouse, when we willingly wash their feet!  Washing our feet cost Him so much more.
If He did this for us, how can we refuse to follow His example and sacrifice for others?  Many times, it just means giving our time, risking some rejection or loss of dignity.  Is this so important when people are dying without knowing Christ?  Shouldn’t we love others enough to wash their feet?

Walking through the Services

All my life I’ve gone to church on a fairly regular basis. Growing up, my parents added Sunday School and Vacation Bible Study to what we were required to attend. Then there was confirmation. As I got older, it didn’t seem so important to attend church regularly and besides, it’s hard to get the family up, dressed and out the door. Gee, I have to do this all week long, do I really have to do this on Sunday, too? This is what would go through my mind.
So when a crisis happened (my husband diagnosed with terminal cancer) we went back to church. Still not as much as we should have, but with more regularity. The children are grown so it was just the two of us. I started looking forward to the services to start my week. It made my life better.
I’m telling you all this because this Easter Season is the first time I’ve gone to all the Lenten Services and I actually went to the Maundy Thursday service last night. This was the first time I’ve attended this service and it was very powerful for me; it made Christ hanging on the cross more real to me then it’s ever been. When we stripped the Altar of all the vestments, candles and flowers I felt like I wanted to cry. It was a very solemn thing.
I’m not only planning on attending all the services this weekend, but I’m looking forward to them. Tonight is the Good Friday Service and I have an open heart for what ever happens. There are two services on Sunday and I’m looking forward to both of them.
This is a change for me. This is different. If any of you think that all these services are a pain, you don’t have time, you don’t want to take that much time for church; I would tell you to take the time, go with an open heart and I believe your life would be changed.

Would you sacrifice your time and energy to attend all the services at your church?

Whose Feet Have You Washed?

“Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the son of man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  Matthew 20:26-28.

 

In a few days our congregation, and many others will be celebrating Maundy Thursday, commemorating the institution of Holy Communion.  It is customary during the service to hear how before the meal, Jesus washed the feet of his disciples.

 

“Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper.  He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist.  Them he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.”  John 13:3-6

 

This would have been astounding.  It was customary at the time for the lowliest servant in the household to wash the dirty feet of those coming in from dusty roads.  Even peers did not wash each others feet, except on a rare occasion as a sign of great love.  I don’t know what would serve as a comparable example in our world – maybe being honored by having the President of the United States over to dinner, only for him to get up after the meal and say, “let me scrape and wash the dishes and take the garbage out for you”  How would we react?  Probably like Peter, protesting, “Oh no sir, we can’t let you do that!”

 

Jesus did this to give us an example of humble servanthood.

 

“If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.” John 13: 14-15

 

Jesus calls us to a life of sacrifice and humility.  Whose feet have you washed?

To be continued ….