Maundy Thursday (C)

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A meditation by Pastor Robert Schaefer

First Lutheran Church

Maundy Thursday – April 8, 2004

Text: 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

Friends in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Tonight we dine with Jesus. Tonight we take the bread and the wine. Tonight we hear again those precious words: “Given. Shed. All for you.” Tonight we kneel together before the altar. Tonight we commune…four of us for the very first time. To everyone who will come to Jesus’ table tonight: Welcome.

Communion is your gift. That means two different things: It means that communion is your gift, the gift that has your name on it – the one you receive. It also means that communion is your gift, the one that you give to someone else. How can communion be both a gift you receive and a gift you give all at the same time? Let’s think about it.

Communion is God’s gift to you. It’s always been that way, from the very beginning. When Jesus gave his friends bread, he told them to eat, because this food was for them. It was his gift. Later, when he gave those friends the cup of wine, he told them the same thing – they should drink and be satisfied, because this was also for them. His gift.

Jesus gave himself for us on the cross, but in Holy Communion he goes so far as to give himself to us. He has promised us that he’s with us in the wine and bread, when we his friends eat and drink together. Jesus is true to his word, and you can be sure that each time you receive the gift of communion, Jesus is there with you.

When Jesus gives himself to us in the bread and wine, he takes away all our sins, and puts in their place the strength and desire to serve God. Everyone who believes that he is really here, really with us at the table tonight will be given more than enough forgiveness and grace. Communion is your gift; it’s given to you by a God who loves you very much.

Communion is also your gift to the world. We don’t usually think about it that way, it’s true. Communion seems like a private thing, and maybe even a little selfish. We come inside our church once a month to eat these morsels of bread and sip these tiny cups of wine, and we do it because we can feel how much our souls need it. It looks like it’s all about us receiving what we need and desire, doesn’t it?

But the apostle Paul saw it differently.

Listen carefully when we read from his letter tonight: he tells us that every time we eat and drink like this, we proclaim Jesus to the world, right up until the day that Jesus comes again. When that day comes, the world will see and know him, and won’t need our little confession! But in the meantime, we have communion, and somehow our communion shows Jesus to the world.

How can it do that, you ask? Because it is our act of faith, and our act of remembering. When we share communion together, we live out our faith. It wouldn’t mean a thing for Jesus to call our bread his body and our wine his blood if he were not really the Son of God. If Jesus were a phony, there wouldn’t be any reason for us to eat and drink: no forgiveness, no grace, nothing at all. When we gather at the altar rail, shoulder to shoulder, we are making a statement – that we believe that Jesus is exactly who he said he is, and that he can give us everything we need in this sacrament we call communion.

We also give our gift of faith to the world by remembering. As time goes by, it can be easy to forget even the most important things: The sound of a grandparent’s voice. The feel of our first kiss. Sometimes even the warmth of the sun when it’s the middle of winter. We need to be reminded, to be refreshed.

Communion does that for us. It reminds us of Jesus and of his love for us. It reminds of his promises to us, and that he is always faithful. And as it reminds us, it is also a reminder to the world. As long as Jesus’ friends continue to eat and drink and remember him together, we know that the good news of what he has done for us will be told in the world.

Communion is your gift. Receive it tonight as the special gift that it is, whether it is your first time or your thousandth. And give it tonight so that the world can see your act of faith and your remembering of our Lord. Communion is your gift – may it be a blessing to you. Amen.

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