Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Maundy Thursday

Maundy Thursday (C)[1]

April 1, 2010

Text: 1 Cor. 11:23-26 (ESV): 23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 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.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.

When our Lord Jesus says of His Supper, “Do this in remembrance of me” (1 Cor. 11:24, 25), He does not mean simply to “think about” Him or to “call to mind” His image or His work. Remembering, in the sense in which Jesus here speaks of it, is, in fact, to participate in Him and in the salvation that He brings. And that participation is passive on our part. It is a passive act of receiving what our Lord Christ here gives, His true body and blood, under the bread and wine, for you, for the forgiveness of sins. Body, blood, forgiveness of sins, the victory of the cross, bestowing and strengthening of faith, all of this is present because of the Word of the Lord, because He says so. For in His mercy, our Lord remembers us, and speaks His good Word to us, a living, active, powerful, liberating Word that always does what it says. When Jesus says of the bread, “This is my body,” it is His body, and we who receive it participate in His body. When Jesus says of the wine, “This is my blood,” it is His blood, and we who receive it participate in His blood. When Jesus says, “Your sins are forgiven,” your sins are forgiven, and you participate and live in this forgiveness. Remembering is so much more than calling to mind. It is participation by receiving your Lord’s remembering of you.

This was the idea when God commanded the Israelites in the Old Testament to remember the Passover. In remembering, they actually participated in an event that happened to their ancestors in the past. The LORD had remembered His people Israel, beheld their suffering in bondage, and promised to release them. And release them He did. Every celebration of the Passover since was seen as a participation in the first Passover. The people participating in the Passover remembrance received in this way the same salvation their ancestors received when they were brought by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm out of the Land of Egypt. Those who were not actually and physically there that fateful night when the Angel of Death took every firstborn of man and beast in Egypt, but passed over the homes of the Israelites whose doorposts and lintels were painted with the blood of the sacrificial lamb… those who were not there, are there in the remembrance of the Passover. They are there in the eating of the lamb and the unleavened bread and the bitter herbs and the drinking of the cup. The LORD remembers them also, and graciously grants them the same salvation from bondage that He had given His people of old.

We were not present for our Lord’s Passion. None of us have ever stood before the “old rugged cross.” But as with God’s people in the Old Testament, so for the New Testament people of God, the new Israel, the holy Church, God makes our salvation present to us here in a meal. It is a means by which our crucified and risen Lord Jesus Himself brings the cross to us. He gives us His body and blood in the Holy Supper. Receiving this, we are given to participate in the greater Passover, the fulfillment of the Old Testament Passover. We are given to eat THE sacrificial Lamb who was sacrificed on the altar of the cross, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Eating the body of this Lamb, His blood touching our lips and flowing into us, we are safe from death and eternal condemnation in hell. The doorposts and lintels of our hearts are painted with His blood, indeed, we are immersed in His blood, baptized into His death, and so the Angel of Death passes over. For God remembers us and grants us salvation. He leads us out of our Egyptian bondage to sin and death, through the wilderness of this fallen world, into the Promised Land of heaven and the resurrection.

You cannot go to the cross when you need forgiveness and salvation and life. The cross doesn’t exist anymore, and even if it did, it would be no help to you. It would be just a useless, superstitious relic. But you can come here, to the altar of God, and here our Lord Jesus will bring the cross to you. He will bring His suffering and death to you. He will bring His atoning sacrifice to you, the sacrifice that has reconciled you to the Father. He will forgive all your sins. And even as He is risen from the dead, lives, and reigns to all eternity, He will grant you new and eternal life even now, today, here, at this altar.

So, who receives this Sacrament worthily? “Fasting and bodily preparation are certainly fine outward training” for reception of this blessed Supper. “But that person is truly worthy and well prepared who has faith in these words: ‘Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.’ But anyone who does not believe these words or doubts them is unworthy and unprepared, for the words ‘for you’ require all hearts to believe.”[2] Beloved in the Lord, believe these Words. For they are God’s Words. They are the Words of the Word made flesh. Believe these Words and thus receive what they say and give, the forgiveness of all your sins, and so participate in the salvation won by your Savior. For God has remembered you, and given you this Sacrament, that you who are dying might eat and drink and not perish, but have everlasting life. You are covered with the blood of the Lamb. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

[1] This year’s Lenten series is based on Words of Life from the Cross (St. Louis: Concordia, 2010).
[2] Luther’s Small Catechism (St. Louis: Concordia, 1986).

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