Soli Deo Gloria. Amen.
Invocation: In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
1. Throughout this season of Lent, we've heard much of the blessings of Christ's blood. We have heard the Biblical account of Christ's Passion. We've meditated on book of Hebrews. Through it all we've been strengthened in our faith that we share Christ's blood; that his blood cleanses us, pardons us, speaks forgiveness to us, and gives us access to the heavenly Jerusalem of God. Tonight we reach the highpoint of our discussions of Christ's blood; for tonight we celebrate our Lord's institution of the Sacrament of the Altar.
2. The Holy Apostles, Sts. Matthew, Mark, Luke and Paul write:
Our Lord Jesus Christ, on the night in which He was betrayed, took bread, and when He had given thanks he broke it and gave it to the disciples and said: "Take, eat; this is My body, which is given for you. This do in remembrance of Me. In the same way also He took the cup after supper, and when He had given thanks he gave it to them, saying: "Drink of it, all of you; this cup is the new testament in My blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.
3. In this sacrament, we receive not only Christ's blood, but also his precious body. Let there be no doubt: the bread you eat at this altar IS the body of Christ. The wine you drink IS the blood of Christ. Jesus quite clearly states: "This IS my body. This IS the new covenant in my blood." Moved by the Holy Spirit, St. Paul gives witness to this holy truth.
[I Corinthians 10:16 NKJV]
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?
The answer to both questions is, "Yes."
4. To deny the true, physical presence of Christ our Lord in the bread and the wine is to bring judgment on yourself. Again, St. Paul writes:
[I Corinthians 11:27-29]
Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.
5. If you can sin against the body and blood of Christ in the Sacrament, they must be truly present. So tonight we did exactly what God would have us do. We confessed our sin. Perhaps we would never deny Christ's true presence in the sacrament with our words, but our actions do bear out our sins. Have you ever grumbled that having communion makes church take too long? How often have you left worship before communion in order to make it to some other appointment or function? If ever you avoid worship altogether on a communion Sunday simply because you didn't "have the time" it takes to celebrate and do so properly, you have sinned against the body and blood of the Lord. These are all subtle, but sinful ways of denying the presence of Christ in the sacrament. For when we truly believe that Christ is physically present with his body and blood in the Sacrament, nothing can keep us away. With faith in Christ's true presence, we do not worry about how long it takes to receive the body and blood of the Lord. With faith in Christ's true presence, we are bold to schedule everything else around worship, and tell the world to wait, for this meal is the most important event in our lives. With faith that we receive Christ's true body and blood we faithfully attend the services of God's house. We long intensely for this heavenly food for body and soul. To long for the sacrament in this way, to desire to receive Christ's body and blood is to hunger and thirst for righteousness. This hunger is given us by God through his word. This thirst is poured into our souls by God every time he says, "You are forgiven." So tonight, before we did anything else, we confessed our sinful denial of the true presence of Christ in the sacrament. We examined the depths of our hearts and laid our sins before God. We confessed our denial of the true presence. And in his grace, God forgave us. Through the words of absolution and the laying on of hands, Christ instilled in you once more the hunger and thirst for the body and blood of Jesus. By his forgiveness Christ instills in us the longing for the blessings of this holy sacrament.
6. With his Word and his body and blood, Christ fulfills this longing. As the catechism says, Christ's words:
[Small Catechism: Holy Communion: III]
"Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins," show us that in the Sacrament forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are given us through these words. For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.
7. Christ says that this new covenant forgives our sins. This forgiveness makes us right with God.
(God) has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight without blemish and free from accusation.
Christ's body and blood make us holy in the sight of God, our Father. By his body and blood, Christ removes every blemish of sin from our bodies and souls. By his body and blood, Christ frees us from every accusation that Satan, the Accuser, could ever hurl our way. Forgiveness is knowing that whatever the devil accuses you of--no matter how bad, no matter how true--through this sacrament, Christ wipes it all away. Through this meal, Christ makes us right with God.
8. With forgiveness comes life. The life God gives us in the Sacrament is eternal life. Christ himself says he will not eat this meal again until he celebrates it anew with us in the Father's kingdom. As we gather around this altar and receive the precious body and blood of our Lord, Christ brings heaven down to us. He serves us heavenly food. He pours out heavenly drink. He speaks and grants us never-ending life. The high point of our life is lived right here at the altar, as we receive Christ's body and blood. Here, at this altar, Christ, the life of all the living gives us everlasting life in the Sacrament. He fortifies our faith by giving us himself. By this holy mystery, Christ strengthens and preserves us in the faith until that day when we will eat this meal together with him in heaven.
9. In this Sacrament, Christ also gives us strength for this life. As we gather at this altar, Christ seals and strengthens our bond of unity with him. By this bond he gives us life here and now. With his body and blood Christ makes true for us what St. Paul confessed to the Church in Galatia:
I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.
Christ unites us together in his mystical body with his physical body and blood. Therefore, we confess with St. Paul:
[I Corinthians 10:17]
Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.
We all eat the same bread. We all partake of the same Christ. Communing at this altar is our confession that we are one with Christ and with each other. At this altar, everything that hinders unity is laid aside. Bring no grudges to this altar. Bring no conflict to this altar. Bring no hatred, envy, malice or strife to this altar, because here you confess that you are one with your brothers and sisters in the faith. Here, you stand arm in arm with the entire church. Here, we are made one by the one loaf, our Lord Jesus Christ. When we eat and drink of the body and blood together we give thanks to the Lord for every member of his body, and we say in faith: We are one. We love another as the redeemed. One thing is true at the altar of God, and nowhere else on earth. Around this altar
There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
The Sacrament of the Altar is our sign and seal from Christ himself that we have thus been made one with each other, and with him.
10. Thus forgiven and made alive by Christ in the sacrament, in faith we hold fast to Christ, who is our salvation. We come to Christ's table tonight and always, trusting in his words:
Whoever comes to Me I will never drive away.
So tonight, we come to Christ. As the Church has done from earliest times we devote ourselves to the Apostles' teaching, and the the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. (Acts 2:42) We do so confident of Christ's forgiveness, life, and salvation which he gives us through his holy Word, and through his precious Body and Blood. We celebrate the Sacrament of the Altar because through this great mystery, Christ brings the great feast of heaven down to us and feeds us with his heavenly food. Here, Christ joins us to the Church of all ages and says of us all:
Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb.
We are blessed indeed. So come to the supper of the Lamb. Come in faith and receive the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Come, and receive from him your forgiveness, your life, and your salvation. In Christ's name. Amen.
Blessing: The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
Rev. Keith R. Weise
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