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.

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.

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.