LORD’S SUPPER: TESTAMENT OF CHRIST’S LOVE FOR OUR FAITH JOURNEY !
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
Friends, as we begin our journey towards the cross of Christ, tonight our focus is on Holy Communion, precious gift Christ has put in place for us. No doubt, eight young people were prepared and are now ready to receive their First Communion tonight. In this, from Pulpit, I would like to commend parents, grandparents and God parents of these young ones, for their support and encouragement. On Ash Wednesday, these young people started the journey and they are now at a point of receiving their first ever Holy Communion, praise be to God for this!
Are you excited young ones? What about those who have been receiving Communion all their lives, are you excited to receive Holy Communion today? Do you have same excitement as the children here today? Can you recollect any confirmation lessons on Holy Communion and it means for us? Do you remember what blessings we might receive every time we commune?
Let us pray:
Jesus Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world have mercy on us. Feed us today with your Word and Body and Blood. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, our Rock and Redeemer. Amen.
If I were to ask you: next time you are visiting your best friend’s place, what is the last thing you want to say or even do before you leave their company? Another way to look at is: how would like to show your love and care to someone when you are saying goodbye to them? How would you want people to remember you, if you are leaving them and taking off on a holiday? What measures and plans do you set up prior to your departure? One of the most common ways people do this is to leave a gift.
I remember a time when I was a child, my grandparents would visit me, my grandmother used to spoil me with her delicious recipes, and my grandfather used to leave me some pocket money. My grandfather died over 20 years ago, but I still remember him for all those things he gave me. As a child, I used to look forward to their visit. When I think about it and remember those times, there are so many things he gave me besides pocket money; plenty of experiences, times of laughter, told me stories, and even taught me how to do a tie knot! Aren’t grandparents like that? They care and love us enough to spoil us at every given opportunity, whether they give gifts, or teach us things, and tell beautiful stories, etc? No wonder, we all remember people for their love. A gift they give is like a testament of their will and love before they conclude their visit and depart. Even when someone is preparing for death, people usually leave a will or a testament behind to look after their loved ones. Will and testament cannot be changed after they pass away, but it must be received for what it is.
Over 2000 years ago, when the time for Jesus’ departure from this earth had come, on this very night he was betrayed, he left us a departing gift. A testament of his love for us, viz, Lord’s Supper!
As our Corinthians reading said, at the meal Christ 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, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” This meal is a testament to Christ’s abiding presence with us. His body and blood coming to us through this meal. This testament and this will of Jesus shows his absolute love for us. This precious gift offers promises of forgiveness, salvation and life to us all as often as we partake it. Such is the precious nature of this gift we come to share today!
Unfortunately, overtime, people can lose how valuable this gift truly is for their lives. If we forget the value of something, then generally speaking we tend to overlook its benefits. Corinthian Christians, to whom Apostle Paul wrote this letter were like that. Overtime, they lost sight of the preciousness of this meal and received it without reflecting on what it means for them. Instead of looking at this meal as Christ’s love and testament, they made it all about themselves. Unfortunately, that was their pitfall! As a result of this, they came together to the Table whenever they like. They ate and drank, as if they were hosts gathering whenever they felt like it. They lost sight that, Christ is the host of the meal not them. Prior to God handing Christ for our sake Christ himself handed over this supper to us. Therefore, it is his supper and we need to treat him and his supper with respect always. In faith we must come to the table, are you noting this point? Especially, children receiving First Communion?
Lack of this perspective, can tempt people to desecrate the Lord’s Supper. Corinthian Christian story is one of that nature, their own private suppers disregarded sacramental nature of this meal. That is why we need to examine our hearts. To know what God does at this table, allows us to give praise and thanks to the Lord. After all, this is no ordinary meal, but a meal of Christ’s love and testament towards us.
The ordinary meals we partake around our dining tables, normally, works to nourish our bodies. When we eat or drink food, we expect it to give us enough energy to live and go about life activities. This Holy meal, however, goes even further than that, it offers plenty of supply for our soul, mind, and body. Calling us from sin to salvation, rescuing us from death to life. Bread and wine, with Christ’s body and blood does this for us! Hence, Jesus gave us this testament on the last days before death.
But some of you ask: how could this be? How can a simple piece of bread and wine achieve this remarkable life-saving work for us?
Is there magic in the bread and wine? Ask first communion children they will tell you, the magic is not in the bread and wine but in God’s Word and promises. They have heard me say, God rescues his people through His word but the physical elements are for our benefit only.
Take for example, the Old Testament reading for today, when God instituted Passover. Let me give you a background story before I explain Passover.
When God decided to rescue Israelites from their slavery in Egypt (because God remembered his covenant with Abraham), God sent Moses to Pharaoh. The message Moses gave to Pharaoh was ‘‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has sent me to say to you: Let my people go, so that they may worship me in the wilderness’ (Exodus 7: 16, 8:1, 9:1). God’s plan was to rescue His people from slavery, from every kind of bondage, so that, they could live their lives freedom and in worship to God. The word ‘worship’ is not really about music but to worship someone is to ‘bow down’ and ‘to serve’. To worship God is to serve God. The pretext to worshipping God is His work of salvation in our lives. We serve Him because of what He has done for us!
As far as Israelites were concerned, they could truly worship and serve God because He rescued them from slavery in Egypt. After the Tenth plague Pharaoh, let people go. Remember the Tenth plague? Every first born in the household died when the angel of death came by the land of Egypt. Only those who were spared were people living in households that had the blood of the lamb on the door posts. Exodus reading you have heard today explains, God spoke and gave guidelines to His people. God said to Moses and Aaron that each man is to take a lamb for his family that is a household unit. Now God also gave specific instructions/guidelines to people as to what to do if they households were too small to eat an entire lamb (invite neighbours). God asked people to take care of the lamb for 14 days, and then they were required to kill the lamb, dip a hyssop into the blood and put it on the door posts (like graffiti). That night, they were required to eat the lamb and get ready for the journey ahead.
God also gave further instructions and guidelines of how to get ready for the journey on foot from the land of Egypt towards Promised Land. This Passover meal was meant to give them energy and sustain them for travel ahead.
God said: ‘this is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s Passover.’ Their salvation would be so near. Soon after Passover they would experience freedom, and ought to be ready to get going. Just as God said he did. When the angel of death came by the land of Egypt and saw ‘the blood of the Lamb’ it passed over houses of Israelites, sparing them, while Egyptian households lost their firstborns. God commanded people to remember this incredible rescue, and commemorate this event every year.
So, God’s people did this generation after generation. Each year they worship God by partaking in the Passover meal. Jesus also celebrated Passover during his time on earth. At his last supper, however, Jesus redefined human salvation. This time, God saves the world through the Lamb of God whose blood was shed for our sin.
You see friends, instead of us receiving punishment for our sins, instead of us going down the paths of death, Jesus took all our guilt, all our shame and punishment upon himself. Like John the Baptist proclaimed: Jesus became ‘the Lamb of God who took the sin of the world’ upon himself. Jesus died in our place and that is the gospel. So from that night onwards we remember the sacrifice of the Lamb of God. Jesus gave the baptised his body and his blood to eat and drink, because they are set free.
By this meal we are brought from slavery to sin, devil and death, and our journeys are sustained and led by gospel. As you can see, bread and wine we receive offer more than what meets our eyes. In/with/under/around the bread and wine we receive Christ’s body and blood. It is a mystery we get to celebrate! Like any mystery we receive it in faith. Small Catechism teaches us, by the power of His word (that we hear in the words of institution – added), the sacramental union happens (234-235). So clearly, the magic is not in bread and wine but in the words of Jesus.
By His word, God set Israelites free from Egypt, in the same way, God sets us free through the words of Jesus. The physical elements of sacraments, like water in baptism, or bread and wine in Holy Communion are for our benefit so we can see, touch, smell, taste our salvation without second guesses. Because Jesus said ‘do this’, his word is enough to save us. So dear baptised friend, trusting Jesus words receive all His promises. Not that we are worthy or deserve it, but by grace through faith we receive promises of God. Every time you come in faith to receive these promises of gospel, rejoice in the work of your Saviour. In gladness, come to the Table.
As I look forward to closing, let me leave you an alert. When you forget this teaching, the risk is we not only forget God’s saving work in our lives, but become weak in faith. We become vulnerable each time we pass out on opportunities to receive gospel. Let me share this true story from my life:
Long time ago, when I was studying to be a Pastor at seminary, we are usually given a supervisor to guide us to write our first sermons. The procedure at Australian Lutheran College was, those preparing to write sermon have to submit a few things to supervisors at allotted time. We were required to submit things like: Bible translation from original text, interpretation of the texts, and draft version of sermon manuscripts. I had to do all of that over a few weeks, I could only preach my sermon after receiving approval from my supervisor. Now, for one of my sermons, it so happened that I was extremely busy with a few things going in my life and those around me. To cut a long story short, I did not complete the task at hand in time, and so I went to the scheduled meeting to face my supervisor. I began with apologising and explained the tough week and so could not finish all my tasks. I thought, he would be really upset with me, but my supervisor asked me, ‘what do you think devil would like to take away from people to expose us and make us vulnerable?’ I thought about it for a while and came up with bunch of answers. But seeing my professor was not pleased, I asked him about his thoughts: what would you say devil would do to make us vulnerable? His answer was, the devil wants to take away God’s word from people’s lives. The evil one has been at it since Garden of Eden, because he knows without God’s word people do not have promises of the gospel, without the promises of God, people are exposed and are vulnerable; In which case, the evil one can do whatever he likes, because people forgot the blessings of the gospel. Now, I share this with you baptised child of God, so that, in the busyness of life, you may not neglect coming to receive all precious gifts Jesus has put in place for you. His love and testament for you remains today, tomorrow, and always, yes even in times of your every need.
Christ commands us to do this as often as we can in remembrance of him. By simply partaking in this meal, you become a missionary, advocating for God’s work of salvation in this world. By coming together to receive the promises of God at church, you proclaim hope to the world that is otherwise busy on Sunday morning’s.
Each time you respond to the words ‘body and blood given and shed for the forgiveness of your sins’ with ‘amen’, May Jesus strengthen your faith journey.
To this purpose the body and blood of Jesus strengthen and preserve you in body and in soul to life eternal. Amen.
Rev. Jaswanth Kukatlapalli
Pastor at Mackay Community Lutheran Church (Mackay), and
St. Martin’s Lutheran Church (Cannonvale)
Office Address: 44-46 Wellington Street, Mackay, Queensland, 4740