Cruce Tectum

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

Location: Moscow, Idaho

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Maundy Thursday

Maundy Thursday: The Last Supper: A Place of Forgiveness[1]

March 24, 2016
Text: Luke 22:7-20

            What if they knew?  What if everyone here at Church knew the deepest, darkest secrets of your heart?  Perhaps it is some past sin or shame you’ve tried in vain to forget.  Perhaps it is an addiction or sinful habit you struggle with now.  Maybe it is simply the evil thoughts and feelings you harbor in the secret of your heart.  Imagine if we could read one another’s thoughts.  The thoughts you think about other people.  Your judgments.  Your uncharitable opinions.  Your irritation, your anger, your jealousies, your lust.  There is a reason we don’t speak these things out loud.  We would be horrified if others knew.  And even though we try to keep these things deeply hidden, even from ourselves, casting the illusion of righteousness and piety, from time to time it dawns on us in spite of ourselves: There is One who knows.  There is One who knows better than we, ourselves, know.  He knows our deepest, darkest secrets.  He knows our vilest sins.  God knows.  He knows all about you.  He knows you better than you know yourself.  He knows sin in you even you are unaware of.  “If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?” (Psalm 130:3; ESV). 
            God knows.  But what does He do about it?  He sends His Son.  He sends His Son to suffer and bleed and die on the cross for the forgiveness of your sins.  That’s what this week is all about, this Holy Week, as we focus on our Lord’s Passion, a word that literally means suffering.  He sends His Son who conquers sin and death by rising from the dead, delivering us from the devil and the yawning jaws of hell.  That is what this Sunday is all about, the bodily resurrection of the Savior, guaranteeing our own bodily resurrection and eternal life.  God knows, and God acts.  He does something about it.  He rescues us.  He saves us.  And this God who knows all of our secrets, who knows our uncleanness, our bitterness, our hatred and rebellion… invites us to a meal.  He feeds us, the true Body and Blood of His Son Jesus Christ, under the bread and wine for us Christians to eat and to drink, given and shed for the forgiveness of all of our sins.  Tremendous!  What love.  What grace.  What unimaginable, incomprehensible devotion that God should invite us sinners to His Table, and feed us with Himself. 
            Judas had a secret.  Even as he reclines there in the upper room with Jesus and the disciples, celebrating the Passover.  Even as he, too, asks who it is who will betray Jesus.  He’s a phony.  He has already made arrangements.  And Jesus knows, too.  St. Luke weaves the narratives of Judas and Jesus together in such a way, that we can’t miss the contrast.  Judas prepares for Passover by going to the rulers to make a deal… to betray Jesus.  Jesus prepares for Passover by sending Peter and John ahead to secure a place where He may eat the Passover meal with His disciples.  And this is an amazing thing.  Knowing Judas will be present… knowing Peter will deny Him and the rest of the disciples will scatter when they strike the Shepherd… Jesus desires to eat the Passover with them.  Jesus delights in eating with tax collectors and sinners, with betrayers and deniers and cowards.  Don’t miss these beautiful words in our Holy Gospel: “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (Luke 22:15; emphasis added).  Have you ever thought about this?  It is good that we receive the Supper often, not just because we need it (though we certainly do!), and not just because we desire it (sometimes our desires betray our lack of love), but because Jesus desires to gather with us around the Table and eat with us.  He desires Table fellowship with us (Peter Scaer).  Even us.  Even knowing our secrets and our sins and our half-hearted devotion.  Jesus wants you at His TableEven you.  Jesus wants to feed you with His Body and Blood and forgive your sins.  Jesus enters into the place of your secret sins, enters into you, your heart, your body, your mind, your soul, and makes it a place of His forgiveness and love and life.  You eat Him and drink Him, and He is in you, and you are in Him.
            So we gather, as He bids us, around the altar, our hearts laid open in Confession, our sins forgiven in Absolution applied personally to you by Jesus Himself this very night.  And the Feast commences, our Lord both Host and Food.  We do this in remembrance of Him.  It is not simply that we call Him to mind.  The Passover Seder was all about remembering the sacred history, how the angel of death slew the firstborn of all in Egypt but passed over the doors of the Israelites marked with the blood of the Lamb.  By participating in the Passover meal, eating the Passover lamb with the unleavened bread and bitter herbs and drinking the cups of wine, the Israelites of later generations participated in the saving events of the exodus.  And so it is with us on an even greater level.  We receive the Lord’s Supper as the fulfillment of the Passover, in remembrance of Jesus and His death and resurrection for us.  Which is to say, we eat Jesus, our Passover Lamb, under the bread.  His Blood marks the doorposts and lintels of our hearts as we drink it under the wine.  And the angel of death passes over.  We are not condemned.  We are forgiven and set free.  Free from our slavery to sin.  Free from the bondage of the devil.  Free from the sentence of death and hell.  And every time we come to the Lord’s Supper, it is a sermon to all present.  Christ has died.  Christ is risen.  Christ will come again.  And He comes now in His Supper.  “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes (1 Cor. 11:26). 
            Jesus remembers you as He proclaims you righteous and feeds you.  You remember Jesus and proclaim Him as you eat His Body and drink His Blood.  What is yours becomes His: Your sins, your death, your condemnation.  What is His becomes yours: His righteousness, His life, His glory.  He suffers your punishment and wins for you the victory of life.  “It’s hard to express the beauty of this wonder.  An artist once tried to capture it on a painting that would be used on an altar.  Around 1500, in Alsace, there was a monastery church of the Order of St. Anthony.  There Matthias Grunewald created what is now known as the Isenheim Altarpiece.”  This is worth Googling sometime so you can see it.  “It is a carved shrine, with two painted wings that open over a closed painting, like doors on a cabinet.  There are two views for which this altarpiece is remembered: one stands on the outside, when the wings are closed; the other stands on the inside, when the wings are opened.  When the wings are closed, the altarpiece shows the crucifixion.  This view could be described as gruesome.  Christ is hanging on the cross, His body discolored by a greenish hue.  His wounds are torn flesh covering an emaciated body.  When the wings are opened, however, there is a radically different view.  Here, the painting is of the resurrection.  Christ bursts forth from the tomb in an explosion of color.  His hands are raised in blessing.  Behind Him, in orange and startling yellow, a sun rises
against a brilliant blue sky.  His body is wrapped in swirls of clothing: yellow, white, red, and blue garments.  But most amazingly, the artist has placed rubies in His hands and His feet and His side.  The wounds of Jesus have been transformed by the artist.  They are precious jewels that shine with the brilliance of the resurrection.  In that simple act, this artist has captured the wonder of this night.  Christ’s body will bear scars.  These scars come from a punishment we will never know.  But after His resurrection, these scars will stay with Him.  Only they are jewels, for they tell the world of a perfect love” (Places of the Passion).  And they are given to you as a gift in bread and wine.
            Tonight the Savior invites you to His Table with wounded hands.  These wounds, these scars, are the marks of a God who truly knows you, knows your suffering, knows your sin, and knows intimately the punishment and death you deserve, because He suffered it.  But remember, these are the scars of a Savior who is risen from the dead.  He carries them still, as a testimony.  Yes, He knows.  He knows your deepest, darkest secrets.  And it is for this reason He was wounded.  Now He hides you in His wounds.  Now He knows you, not just as sinner, but as forgiven and beloved.  He knows you as redeemed.  He knows you as His own.  And He gathers you to His Table.  Rejoice.  Come, and eat.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.                                        

[1] Based on the Maundy Thursday sermon from Places of the Passion (St. Louis: Concordia, 2015).


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