Saturday, April 16, 2022

Communion Encouragement. . . .

Sermon for Maundy Thursday evening, preached on Thursday, April 14, by the Rev. Daniel M. Ulrich.

    All important meals are communal meals.  We sit down together around our tables with family and friends and we have fellowship together.  We share stories and memories; converse and laugh.  And that fellowship is the point of these meals.  Holiday feasts aren’t about the food.  Thanksgiving dinner isn’t even about the food.  These meals are about our relationship with those with whom we eat.  And this is true for the Lord’s Supper as well.  The Sacrament of the Altar is a communal meal, a Holy Communion.  It’s a feast of fellowship with our Savior and with one another.  That’s why our Lord gave us this meal and why He invites us to come and eat and drink often.  

    Our traditions and histories are lived out around our tables; and this is true for all people.  Every group of people around the world have traditions that are centered on communal meals.  Whether it’s a harvest festival like Thanksgiving or a celebration of an important date in t history like the 4th of July, these times are celebrated with food.  Many of our memories come from these shared meals.  

There was one communal meal in the history of God’s people that was foundational for them: the Passover feast.  God specifically instituted this meal all the way back when the Israelites were still slaves in Egypt.  Before the 10th and final plague of death, God commanded His people to take a one year old lamb, without blemish, and sacrifice it.  Then they were paint the doorposts of their home with the blood of that, marking all in that house as God’s people so that when the angel of death came that night he’d pass-over that home.  But that wasn’t all.  God also instructed the Israelites to eat a meal from that sacrificed lamb.  Roasted meat, unleavened bread, bitter herbs, that was the Passover feast, and after the Exodus, God told the Israelites to eat that meal every year as an annual remembrance of His salvation.  Every year as they ate that meal they recalled and told the next generation about everything God had done.  It’s within this context of the Passover feast that Christ gives His feast.  

    There’s a detail in Luke's record of Christ’s institution of the Lord’s Supper that isn’t found in Matthew or Mark.  Before Jesus instituted His Supper, He said to the disciples, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (Lk 22:15).  Jesus desired to eat THAT specific Passover with His disciples.  But why?  Was it because it was the last Passover He’d ever eat with them?  Maybe.  But more likely He desired to eat that Passover He was going to give them a greater feast, a feast that was the fulfillment of the Passover.  

    The original Passover feast was a sign that pointed forward.  It wasn’t just about remembering what God had done in Egypt.  It wasn’t about past salvation.  It was about the present salvation that God was working, salvation from slavery to sin and death.  It was about God sacrificing His only-begotten Son, the true Lamb without blemish, for the sins of the world.  It was about Christ’s blood atoning for your sin, His blood marking you redeemed by His cross.  When Christ took that bread and gave it to the disciples saying it is His body, when He took that cup and gave it to them saying it is His blood, Jesus gave them the true feast of salvation.  And that’s what He continues to give to you and to all His saints in His Supper today.    

In this feast Jesus gives you His very body and blood to eat and drink for the forgiveness of your sins.  This meal isn’t only a remembrance meal, a symbolic meal, a re-enactment that we partake in to help us remember with our heads what Christ has done.  No, this meal truly gives what Jesus promises.  The bread is His flesh.  That cup is His blood.  We feast upon the very sacrifice given to pay for our sin, and in that eating and drinking we receive that very forgiveness.  Eating this feast takes our sin away and brings us back into a right relationship with our Lord.  We have communion with Him, and we have communion with all the faithful who eat and drink.  

We didn’t hear it in our Gospel reading tonight, but after Christ’s instituted His Supper there wasn’t much communion between Him and His disciples.  Right away Jesus prophesied Judas’ betrayal.  Then the disciples argued about who was the greatest.  And then Jesus said Peter would deny Him three times.  Not much community or fellowship there.  But that’s exactly why we need the communion meal of the Lord’s Supper.  We need this meal so that we might receive the forgiveness of Christ that brings about unity and communion between us and the Lord and each other.  

  We’re not meant to be alone.  God created us to have community and fellowship with Him and one another.  Our sin breaks that unity and it’s only by Christ’s forgiveness won on the cross and given to in this meal that unity is restored, a unity that encourages us in the faith until we feast together in the Kingdom of God on the Last Day.     

It’s important for us to come together to eat and drink the Lord’s Supper.  This communal meal isn’t something we can neglect.  We need the forgiveness, life, and salvation that Christ gives to us in the food of His body and blood; and we need the fellowship with each other as we eat and drink.  When we collectively come and kneel at this table we encourage each other; we build one another up in the faith.  Eating and drinking the Lord’s Supper isn’t just a “you and Jesus” thing.  You share this meal with your brothers and sisters in Christ; and when you’re absent, you’re missed.  When one member is missing the whole body suffers, just like at Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner when a loved one’s seat is empty.  Nobody wants to have that.  Nobody wants a brother or sister to miss the Feast our Lord has prepared.  So come. Our Lord invites us to His table every Sunday.  He said eat and drink often.  Often has no limit.  Often can never be too much.

Our Lord has given us His Supper to be a Holy Communion with Him, a feast of His very body and blood for the forgiveness of our sin.   But it’s also a communal meal that we eat and drink together.  Through Christ we’re joined together as brothers and sisters.  Together we come to this table and receive forgiveness, life, and salvation.  And in that unity with our Savior and each other, we’re encouraged unto life everlasting.  In Jesus’ name…Amen.      


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