Maundy Thursday 2017

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“This is my body.”

“This is my blood.”

Praise the Father, who from heaven
Unto us such food has given
And, to mend what we have done,
Gave into death his only Son.

Then hold fast with faith unshaken
That this food is to be taken
By the souls who are distressed,
By hearts that long for peace and rest.

If your heart this truth professes
And your mouth your sin confesses,
Surely you will be his guest
And at his banquet ever blest.

— “Jesus Christ, Our Blessed Savior,” CW 313:7-8.

He is the word made flesh given to us.

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Maundy Thursday 2016

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God’s presence filled the temple in Jerusalem.  The Lord entered the temple when the

priests brought the ark of the LORD’s covenant to its place, into the inner sanctuary of the temple, to the most holy place, beneath the wings of the cherubim…  The temple, the LORD’s temple, was filled with a cloud.  And because of the cloud, the priests were not able to continue ministering, for the glory of the LORD filled God’s temple.

— 2 Chronicles 5:13-14, HCSB.

The curtain of the temple separated the ark of the Lord’s covenant from the people.  Only the high priest entered that most holy place, and only on the day of atonement.

But the high priest alone enters the second room, and he does that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offers for himself and for the sins of the people committed in ignorance.

— Hebrews 9:7, HCSB.

On Good Friday, God ripped that temple curtain in two.

Jesus shouted again with a loud voice and gave up His spirit.  Suddenly, the curtain of the sanctuary, was split in two from top to bottom…

— Matthew 27:50-51, HCSB.

God removed the barrier.  God removed the barrier of sin between us with blood.

And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.”  And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it.  And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.

— Mark 14:22-24, ESV.

Our bodies are the new temple of God.  He gives us his spirit.  (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).  He also gives us his very body and blood.  This is his real presence.  The “body and blood of Christ are truly present and distributed to those who eat the Lord’s Supper.” (AC, article X).  (1 Corinthians 10:16).

It is important to recognize the real presence of God.  Those who do not recognize the holy presence suffer judgement.  The “Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.”  (Exodus 34:14, ESV).

Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord.  Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.  For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.  That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.  But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged.  But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.

— 1 Corinthians 11:27-32, ESV.

The Lord is merciful.

Kyrie eleison.

Maundy Thursday 2015

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The Lord was in the temple, but on one good day Jesus Christ tore the temple curtain in two, from top to bottom.  (Matthew 27:51).  Was it so we could go in to him?  Or was he coming out to us?

He has come out to us in the Lord’s Supper.  And where he is, is a new temple.

Now 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.”  And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

— Matthew 26:26-28, ESV.

Our bodies are the new temple of God.  He puts his very real presence into us.

May the Lord bless your Maundy Thursday and Triduum.

Merry Christmas 2014

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Merry Christmas!

On this day, it is my prayer that you were able to not only remember the incarnation of the Lord in word and song, but that you were also able to physically participate in His incarnation by eating His very Body and Blood.  (Luke 22:17-20).

But if you, like me, were not able to receive the Lord bodily, there can still be a real spiritual communion.  God gave Christ to Mary bodily, but to the shepherds by proclamation and sight.  God gives Christ to us in both Word and Sacrament.

Unto us is born a Savior!  He is Christ the Lord!  Merry Christmas to all!

Mild, he lays his glory by,
Born that man no more may die,
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth:
Hark! the herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn King.

— “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing,” text by Charles Wesley.

Merry Christmas!

In Flesh, In Us

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The church was fairly dark when I took this photo.  The sky shown in through the blue stained glass windows, illuminating the chalice, and enhancing its silver tone.  The altar area was gently illuminated by amber track lighting, which caused the gold on the altar to glow, and gave the background a warm color.  The crucifix was illumined by purple lights inside the altar.  (St. John recently purchased, and installed lights around the crucifix that can change their color according to the season).  I used a time delay, and let the camera’s lens drink in the light.  The picture is still a little dark, but I wanted the photo to reflect the dark reverent stillness of Lent.

The church was fairly dark when I took this photo.  An organist was practicing, but the place still felt quiet, silent, reverent.  The quietness of a holy place is a powerful solid stillness found in the whisper of God’s word and the awe of things sacred.  (1 Kings 19:11-13).

During our Lord’s first Supper, it was probably quiet.  The words He spoke were sacred: “This is my body.  This is my blood.  Given for you, for the forgiveness of sins.”  The reality was quiet and hidden, but it was also no less momentous than at any other time the Lord was with His people.  He was with His people through the sea and in the dessert.  He was with His people in the Tabernacle and in the Temple.  At the dedication of Solomon’s Temple

fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple.  And the priests could not enter the house of the Lord, because the glory of the Lord filled the Lord’s house.  When all the people of Israel saw the fire come down and the glory of the Lord on the temple, they bowed down with their faces to the ground on the pavement and worshiped and gave thanks to the Lord, saying, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.”  [2 Chronicles 7:1-3, ESV].

The Lord was in the Temple, but on one great day, from one sundown to the next, Christ tore the Temple curtain in two.  Was it so we could go in to Him in Jerusalem’s Temple?  Or was He coming out to us?  He has come out to us in the Lord’s Supper.  And He puts His real presence into our bodies.  We, our very bodies are the new Temple of God.  We are God’s Temple/Church/Congregation.  When His Temple assembles in congregation, there He is in the midst of them.  There He is inside of us.

Take and eat.  This is my body.  This is my blood.  We are our bodies, and we are the physical Temple of God.  We are the physical place on earth where God can be found, where He puts His very real presence.  He is in human flesh, in bread, in wine, in us.

May you have a blessed Maundy Thursday.

Intrepid Lutherans Discuss the Cup

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Pastor Rydecki posted an excellent discussion of the Cup of Christ on the Intrepid Lutherans blog entitled: “A Pastoral Rationale for Using the Common Cup.”  It is recommended reading.  I especially appreciated this description of the Lutheran tradition:

We are not minimalists in the Lutheran Church.  We don’t ask the question, “How little do we have to do to get by in following Christ’s words and institution in order to have a valid Sacrament?”  Instead, we simply stay as close to his words as possible, and rejoice in the blessings we receive through them.

I have attended church where there were so many communicants that they used five “common” cups (all chalices).  It is not the number of cups that is important:  Every Sunday, the one universal Church communes with countless cups the world over.  However, what we confess by our practice is important, and cheap disposable plastic cups are a poor confession of the physical reality.

The gifts God gives us are physical gifts, and they should be treated with not just spiritual reverence, but also physical respect.  Jesus is not just calling us on the telephone, he is actually present.

Shortly after the first post, Pastor Rydecki published a follow-up entitled: “Not exactly the image I had in mind.”  That second article partially inspired the production of the photo at the top of this post, although, I had been trying to take a picture of a chalice for years.  My old congregation (St. Peter in Freedom, WI) had lost their chalice, so I was not able to photograph it.

The chalice featured in this post belongs to St. John in Center, WI.  When the silver and gold chalice is filled with red wine, and the life-giving blood is poured into the Congregation of Christ, then it is very beautiful for the Sacrament, the physical presence of God, and for the forgiveness of sins.

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Happy Epiphany, and God’s blessings.

My Soul Magnifies the Lord

My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.

From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.

His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.

He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.

He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
even as he said to our fathers.

Virgin Mary.

This is the Magnificat by the holy Virgin Mary as recorded in Luke 1:46-55 (NIV).  It received its name from the first line which is often translated: “My soul magnifies the Lord.”  Mary sang this paean after the Almighty God became incarnate inside her.  Every time we receive the Lord’s Supper, we receive the incarnate body of Almighty God in us.  May our souls, like Mary’s, magnify the Lord in response to His great gift.

Maundy Thursday

When people are about to die, they often gather their closest family and friends, and give them what is most important as a last will and testament.  On the night Jesus was delivered to his enemies, he gave his Church everything he had.  He would have given her the shirt off his back, but his enemies would take even that from him.  (John 19:23-24).  Instead of the shirt off his back, he gave his very back: his very body and blood.

He gave his Church his body, his blood, his life.  He gave her everything.  Some would say that he really had nothing to give, but the life he gave is eternal.  (Hebrews 7:16).  He gave us his own eternal life.  And each succeeding generation bequeaths our Lord’s gift onto the next.  Paul wrote:

“For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you:

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“The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 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.’  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.’  For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

“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.  That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep.”  (1 Corinthians 11:23-30).

He may not have had a shirt to give, but he did have an eternal life to give; and he gave it for you and me.  Believe his words, “This is my body … for you,” and approach his table in fear and trembling, for there we receive his greatest gifts: his forgiveness, his peace with God, his eternal life.

History, the Cup, and Hygiene

img_1973-stj-inri-cup When Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, he used one cup: “after supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it…'”  (1 Corinthians 11:25).  The Scriptures never refer to the Lord’s Cup in the plural.  (Matthew 26; Mark 14; Luke 22; 1 Corinthians 11).  The common cup was the universal practice of the Church for almost twenty centuries; but in the 19th century pasteurization was invented.

In 1869, Thomas Welch successfully applied a new process called pasteurization to Concord grape juice to produce the first so-called “unfermented wine” for use in holy communion.  He did this because he was a member of the Temperance Movement and was opposed to the use of alcohol in the Lord’s Supper.  “His achievement” marked “the beginning of the processed fruit juice industry.”  (Welch’s History).

Welch and the Temperance Movement were very successful in converting Protestant churches to use his new grape juice invention.

Such a transition from wine to grape juice was especially prominent during Prohibition because it was difficult for Protestants to justify using a banned substance for a religious act that [merely] symbolized Jesus’ blood.  But without the alcoholic content of the wine, there was concern about the spread of infection with the common cup. [The Blessings of Weekly Communion by Kenneth Wieting, 252-253].

Because American Protestants no longer used alcohol in their communion services; for hygenic reasons, they began to pour their grape juice into individual glasses.  Lutherans continued using wine, but many followed the example of their fellow Americans by pouring the wine into individual containers.

Thus it was not a scriptural or confessional reason that caused this change in practice; rather, it was an action that imitated the example of American Protestantism and also proceeded from heightened but errant concerns for hygiene…

Regarding the concern for hygiene, a helpful article in Lee Maxwell’s Altar Guild Manual states:

“The use of the chalice (or ‘common cup’) used to be universal in Lutheranism but in the last century its use has become infrequent.  One of the reasons for replacing it with ‘individual glasses’ was hygiene.  People believe (mistakenly) that germs are easily transmitted by using the chalice.  However, the combination of the noble metal of the chalice (such as gold or silver) and the alcohol content of the wine makes the possibility for germs to be transmitted almost nonexistent.”  (102).

[The Blessings of Weekly Communion by Kenneth Wieting, 252-253].

Wine is the natural result of the fermentation process, and can be consumed many years after being bottled.  There are no hygenic reasons to reject the chalice.  In fact, our Lord used a common Cup, and we can trust that his blood is clean.  We are the ones who are dirty.

Have a blessed Holy Week and Easter.

Lord’s Supper: Remaining Elements 2

The Lutheran Reformers were concerned about reserving the consecrated elements for Christ’s instituted sacramental use.  In other words, consecration, distribution, and eating were sacramental; but a Corpus Christi procession was not sacramental.  Nonetheless, they did not countenance disrespect for any consecrated element:

When a young clergyman named Adam Besserer

“carelessly mixed consecrated and unconsecrated hosts, he was suspended from his duties and placed under arrest pending a ruling from Wittenberg.  Luther’s written opinion declared that the pastor was guilty not only of negligence but also of despising God and man by publicly treating consecrated and unconsecrated hosts alike.  His judgment was that the pastor should be released from prison but expelled from the churches.”

The Blessings of Weekly Communion at 254, by Wieting;
citing Stephenson, “Reflections on the Appropriate Vessels,” 16.

Luther also wrote to another pastor who had cited the doctrine of sacramental action to justify mixing consecrated with unconsecrated hosts saying, “Perhaps you want to be considered a Zwinglian,” and “the Lord whom you oppose will oppose you in return.”

IHS represents Jesus\' name in Greek.

(Luther’s First Letter to Wolferinus: Concordia Theological Quarterly; October 1979).

The Formula of Concord incorporates Dr. Luther’s definition and explanation of the sacramental action (in the Solid Declaration, Article VII The Holy Supper, paragraph 87).

The consecrated elements must always be treated reverently, in other words with fear, respect, affection, and honor.