Thursday, April 5, 2007

Maundy Thursday

O Lord Jesus, since you have left us a memorial of your Passion in a wonderful sacrament, grant, we pray, that we may so use this sacrament of your body and blood that the fruits of your redeeming work may continually be manifest n us; for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Today receives its name, curiously enough, from the "command" of Jesus to "love one another," from the Latin mandatum. This command to love is recorded only in the Gospel of John, along with the traditional foot washing that is still practiced in some parts of Christendom.

However, the focus of today is more specifically the institution of the blessed Sacrament of Holy Communion, or the Lord's Supper. The Three-Year series Gospel is Luke 22:7-20.

This account would actually play well for a Reformed preacher this evening. Given the fact that Jesus' words from the cross "Father forgive them..." are recorded only in Luke, I am a bit surprised that the gift of forgiveness is not recorded here in the institution of the Supper as it is in some other accounts. The Reformed would naturally emphasize "Do this in remembrance of me" as Luke does record. Now remembering Jesus in the sacrament is good and salutary. But it is not all there is. This is not a memorial dinner for an absent master. This is a meal where the Host himself is living and present. "Is not the cup a blessing which we bless a participation in the blood of Christ?"

For Lutherans and other sacramental faiths, the truth of Jesus "real presence" and what that means for the Christian at the Table, is the heart and core of the meal. When the psalmist says "Taste and see that the Lord is good," we actually can taste and see the real goodness of God in our midst in the living and resurrected person of Jesus Christ. And with that presence we have the gift of forgiveness, and as Luther reminds us, life and salvation as well.

Each year in the Passiontide we seek to 'reenact,' in a way, the spirit of those moments so long ago. Tonight the altar will be stripped as we recall how our Lord was stripped of his clothing in humiliation before his suffering and death. However, our worship tonight and this week is not about reenactment, as such, but about the reality of that Savior with us yet today. We merely remember one who is no longer here, as we might at a typical funeral. But this is the one who promised "Lo, I will be with you always, to the very end of the age." Tonight we dine with the living Savior who gives us his true and real body and blood. Tonight we touch and see and taste the Savior on our hands and on our lips.

What a blessed gift we celebrate today! For the Christian church this has historically been the center of its worship for 2,000 years. The Early Church included the "Breaking of Bread" as one of the four essential components of its worship, and they "broke bread" weekly as did even the early Lutherans themselves. May we this night remember what has been given to us in this Sacrament, and may we take true delight in its wonderful gift of forgiveness and new life.

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