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Scripture Readings for Maundy Thursday, 2012C

LastSupper

 Collect of the Day

O Lord, in this wondrous Sacrament You have left us a remembrance of Your passion.  Grant that we may so receive the sacred mystery of Your body and blood that the fruits of Your redemption may continually be manifest in us; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Old Testament: Jeremiah 31:31–34

31“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. 33But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

Epistle: Hebrews 10:15–25

15The Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,  16“This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,” 17then he adds,  “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”  18Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.

  19Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Gospel: Luke 22:7–20

7Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. 8So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying,  “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat it.” 9They said to him, “Where will you have us prepare it?” 10He said to them,  “Behold, when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him into the house that he enters 11and tell the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you, Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 12And he will show you a large upper room furnished; prepare it there.” 13And they went and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.

      14And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. 15And he said to them,  “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said,  “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. 18For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying,  “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying,  “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”

___

Before Judas betrayed Jesus, before Peter denied our Lord, before His agony, suffering, and death, Jesus ate with His disciples.  But this was no ordinary meal.  It was Jesus’ Last Supper with His disciples.  It was the meal of all meals, the meal of the Passover, which found fulfillment in Christ, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).  Because Jesus was the sacrifice to end all sacrifices, the Passover had its end (Hebrews 7:27).

On that night, Jesus instituted The Lord’s Supper, also known as The Sacrament of the Altar, The Eucharist, and Holy Communion.  This Supper of our Lord, as our Lord’s Meal, is the meal of salvation for all who believe according to Christ’s Word.  Jesus gives bread and wine.  He also gives His true body and blood.  And He gives these for the forgiveness of sins.  This calls for faith, for faith alone believes the Word and promises of Christ.  Such faith takes God at His Word.  And taking God at His Word, the recipient of Christ’s body and blood in, with, and under the bread and the wine receive what God truly gives.  And where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation (Luther’s Small Catechism).

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Meal of Salvation

17Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the Passover?” 18He said, “Go into the city to a certain man and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is at hand. I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’” 19And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover.

      20When it was evening, he reclined at table with the twelve. 21And as they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” 22And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” 23He answered, “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me will betray me. 24The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” 25Judas, who would betray him, answered, “Is it I, Rabbi?” He said to him, “You have said so.”

      26Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

      30And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. (Matthew 26:17–30)

These Words of Christ in which He instituted the sacred meal are the very Words of our Lord on the night that He was betrayed.  On that night, Jesus held what is called the ‘Last Supper’ with His disciples.  But that ‘Last Supper’ is not ‘Last’ for us.  Our Lord says, As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes (1 Corinthians 11:26).

The meal in which we partake of Christ’s very body and blood is a proclamation of the Lord’s death till He comes again in His glory.  It is a meal of remembrance.  It is also a meal in which the Lord Himself distributes what only He Himself gives.  Though the eyes see one thing, the ears hear another.  We see bread and wine, but the Lord says that more is going on than meets the eye.  The Lord would have us believe what He says.  This is how one eats and drinks the true body and blood of our Lord worthily, by faith in the very Words that the Lord speaks.

Though your eyes and reason say something different, believe what God speaks in His Word, and His promises are yours, even the forgiveness of all your sins.   You might not understand it, but that’s ok.  The Lord would not have you to understand it.  He would have you believe it, not according to your eyes, but according to His Word.  This is where true confidence and lasting peace are found.  This is where we hear the words, given and shed FOR YOU for the forgiveness of sins.

In the Lord’s Supper, in the meal offered for your salvation, our Lord Jesus gives His body and blood.  By these, God really remits all your sins.  Think not, ‘how can this be’?  Believe rather that because the Lord says it, it must be so.  What He offers and what He gives is your salvation.

As one before has said, “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.” (Luther’s Small Catechism, The Sacrament of the Altar, ‘Who, then, receives such Sacrament worthily?’)

We partake of the Lord’s Supper on the basis of God’s Holy Word, having faith in that and not in ourselves.  True faith is not just going through the motions.  It is not simply doing things because everyone else is doing them.  True faith is of the heart and takes God at His Word, seeing there His Son, for us, not only in Word, but in bread and wine and body and blood.  To not believe the Words of the Lord as they are is unbelief.  To believe is belief.  To those who do believe, God offers the promise of life and salvation.

It is for this reason that the Lord’s Supper is offered in our churches, offered and not forced.  We cannot coerce anyone to believe.  We do not force anyone to receive the Sacrament of the Altar.  The Lord does not give it to burden consciences.  He gives it to comfort and to gladden the heart.  He gives it that you know that you are forgiven according to His Word.

Jesus says, Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28).  Even as the Lord gives rest in His Gospel, so also does our Lord give rest in the Lord’s Supper.  In the Lord’s Supper, the Lord gives you this rest for your weary soul.  Here, He provides and nourishes you unto eternal life.  Here, He strengthens and preserves you to life everlasting.  He forgives your sin and gives Himself FOR YOU.

If you feel or think that you are not worthy to receive the holy things of God, know that true worthiness does not consist in you.  Your sincerity of confession or the sorrow of your heart is not the basis for going to the Lord’s Supper.  What is the basis for eating and drinking at the Lord’s Table is not you, but the Lord’s Word.

If you are waiting to feel worthy, you never will.  Believe His Word.  Though you know yourself to be unworthy, this supper is prepared for you, not because of your own righteousness, but because here the Lord gives you forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation, “For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation” (Luther’s Small Catechism, The Sacrament of the Altar, ‘What is the benefit of such eating and drinking?’).

Christ’s words are to be taken as they are.  Many add to them or take away from them.  But this is not the right way.  What we cannot understand, we leave in God’s hands.  There, we are safe.  Anything else is going too far.  Sticking to the words of our Lord, we are on solid ground.

Christ gave bread and said, This is My body.  Christ gave wine and said, This is My blood.  He could not be more clear than that, saying what He means and meaning what He says.  If this Word is not enough, St. Paul also says, The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? (1 Corinthians 10:16)

What the Bible gives in one place will also be supported in another.  All interpretations of Holy Scripture therefore that contradict what Scripture says are against Scripture and not Christian.  The inconsistencies that abound in Christendom are the result of not everyone being faithful to the Lord’s Word.  True unity doesn’t consist in ‘agreeing to disagree’ or in ‘tolerating different opinions’ when it comes to the things of God.  It consists in this, believing what God says and confessing the same.  Because all churches do not say the same thing concerning the things of God, there is not true unity.

Because we are not united in the faith, we are not able to express true unity.  If we were, then we could commune at the Lord’s table with others, and they with us.  As it is, all do not agree with reference to what God says in His Word.  This is the problem.  We cannot express Christian fellowship where there is none.  To do so would be to deny Christ and His Word.

For this reason, our churches and the Christian church throughout her history has practiced ‘close or closed communion’.  This is not the unloving practicing of welcoming all to the table, regardless of creed and confession.  It is the loving practice of clearly proclaiming Christ and Him crucified to a confused world, declaring that Christ and His Word does matter, and that Christ’s body and blood, truly and really present with the bread and wine, are given for life and salvation.

This we believe and this we confess.  The Lord offers the Sacrament of the Altar for our salvation.  Here, God gives the forgiveness of sins.  It is not the bodily eating and drinking that does this, but the words here written, “‘Given and shed for you for the remission of sins’; which words, besides the bodily eating and drinking, are the chief thing in the Sacrament; and he that believes these words has what they say and express, namely, the forgiveness of sins” (Luther’s Small Catechism, The Sacrament of the Altar, ‘How can bodily eating and drinking do such great things?’).

To the Lord’s Words we cling.  It is here and in what He gives that you find rest for your soul and the promise of eternal life.  Hear it often.  Receive it plenty.  Amen.

“The Word of God and the Work of the Pastor”

In a recent survey, entitled, “US Religious Knowledge Survey” from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, several revealing findings surfaced. Although the findings might not be surprising in the current zeitgeist (spirit) of the times, they do give a jarring dose of reality to any who would consider Christendom, and Christians in general, to be as healthy and strong as they might think themselves to be.

The sampling of the survey was only over 3400. It’s findings, of course, are limited. But at the same time, these can be helpful for us, not only for indicating where Christendom as a whole might be. They can also impress upon us the need for self-reflection and self-evaluation of where we stand, and why.

One editor in the Wisconsin State Journal began his column about the survey with these words, “Say this about American Christians: We hold our beliefs dear and will defend them to the death. Now, if only someone would tell us what they are”(Wed, Oct 6, 2010).

The same editor had also written that, “Pew research has found about 60 percent of American adults say religion is “very important” in their lives.” Then he comments, “But not important enough to learn much about, apparently.” In addition, he also wrote, “If only American Christians would spend as much time researching religion as they do spouting off their opinions about it.”

Generally speaking, I think this editor is quite correct in at least these comments. Americans, as a whole, talk a lot about religion (and an increasing amount about spirituality), but they talk a lot about what they seem to know little about.

For the most part, it seems, quite a few are just plain ignorant (they just don’t know, or care) about the teachings of the Bible, let alone the teachings of the particular Christian denomination they claim to be a member of…

2Tim3.14-4.5, Pentecost 21, 2010C.pdf

Dare 2 Share in Chicago–Are you going?

 

 

 

 

Dare 2 Share’s 2010-2011 un. Conference, Chicago

“Inspired, Equipped and unleashed to share their faith.  That’s what will happen to your teens at Dare to Share…” (www.dare2share.org)

“There’s nothing quite like a Dare 2 Share conference.  It’s a fun amazing weekend where your teenagers receive solid Biblical teaching and high impact evangelism training that they put into practice-right at the event.”

“Last week Grant knew he should share his faith…but didn’t.  Today, after a Dare 2 Share conference he’s ready to do it…and will.”

With words like these, who wouldn’t want to send their teen to such a conference?  Who doesn’t want teens to be “inspired, equipped and unleashed to share their faith”?  I’m sure “that’s what will happen” at this conference.

I’m sure that this “will happen” because of the speakers, featuring Greg Stier, Zane Black, Propaganda, Shane & Shane, DJ Promote, and Clear Vision.

I’m sure that teens will be inspired “to share their faith.”  But this is a different inspiration than the one spoken of in Scripture.

Note these words from St. Peter, “Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15).

It’s not our faith we are to share, but the faith which we are to proclaim.  More specifically, it’s Christ!

St. Paul says it this way, “The righteousness of faith speaks in this way, ‘The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart’ (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation (Romans 10:6, 8-10) [Italics mine].

I’m sure that a majority of the teens at the Dare 2 Share conference will be moved to action, but will it be the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ that they confess (James 2:1)?  Will they be emboldened to say what God has done in Christ for the sinner?  Of this I’m not so sure.

“Solid Biblical teaching” is hard to find these days.  In such a venue as Dare 2 Share and other cross-denominational groups and gatherings, the solid Biblical teaching which one seeks might, in reality, be quite lacking.

On the other hand, a watered-down Gospel and a lowest common denominator doctrine of Jesus is more likely to be advanced, with little or no mention of God’s means of Word, Holy Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper, or, if these are mentioned, they will likely be spoken of in a degrading, ungodly kind of way which is at odds with Holy Scripture.

I pray that this is not the case, that I am wrong, and that this conference and others like it are founded on nothing but the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ being the cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20), but I have my doubts.

I would encourage teens to  receive Holy Communion on Sunday morning, and be fed with the Word of life, hearing that their sins are forgiven, that they partake of the very body and blood of Christ in the bread and the wine of the Lord’s Supper, rather than attend a “Dare 2 Share” conference, for in the Lord’s House, they can be sure of God’s grace and favor in Jesus Christ, and there, too, the Lord Himself preserves and strengthens their faith that they live for Him and “Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples” (Psalm 96:3; Mark 5:19), not that they “share their faith,” but clearly confess Christ.  But, I’m guessing, many of the attendees (and the speakers) might be looking for something else other than this kind of Christ who gives Himself in Word and bread and wine.

In the end, it’s not about “my faith” at all.  This doesn’t save anyone.  Christ does!

The Use of Wine in the Lord’s Supper–Not Grapejuice

During Christ’s institution of the Lord’s Supper, Mt 26, Mk 14, and Lk 22, the Lord gave to His disciples unleavened bread and what is called ‘the cup’.

ATP.GrapejuiceOrWine.pdf

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