HOLY THURSDAY

DATE OF SERMON: 
Thursday, March 24, 2016

HOLY THURSDAY RCL C

HERE WE ARE—GATHERED WITH MILLIONS OF PEOPLE AROUND THE WORLD

IN THIS WEEK WE CALL HOLY—

CELBRATING OUR LORD’S INSTITUTION OF

THE HOLY EUCHARIST.

 

WITH ELABORATE CEREMONY WE WASH FEET

AND EAT A TINY PIECE OF BREAD

AND TAKE A SIP OF WINE.

 

“WHY DO WE DO IT?”

MOST OF US WOULD PROBABLY ANSWER

WITH SIMPLE WORDS THAT WE COME HERE

TO RECEIVE THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS—

FOR WE BELIEVE WE RECEIVE

AS LUTHER PUT IT,“IN WITH AND UNDER”

THIS BREAD AND WINE

THE TRUE BODY AND BLOOD OF

OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST FOR THE FORGIVENESS OF SIN.

AND THIS IS MOST CERTAINLY TRUE.

 

FAR TOO OFTEN, WE VIEW THE GIFT OF FORGIVENESS

WE RECEIVE HERE TOO NARROWLY.

WE COME AS IF GOD IS STANDING BEFORE US

WITH A CHALKBOARD

LISTING ALL OUR SINS—ONE BY ONE—

AND THAT—IF WE WILL JUST CONFESS OUR SINS

AND PROMISE TO LEAD A NEW LIFE—

WE WILL FEEL CLEAN.[i]

 

BUT , AS RICHARD HOYER REMINDS US,

SOMETHING DEEPER AND FAR MORE MEANINGFUL

IS HAPPENING HERE THAN SIMPLY ERASING

THE BLACK MARKS WE HAVE AGAINST US.

 

FOR SIN IS NOT SIMPLY THE THINGS WE DO WRONG,

AND THE GOOD THINGS WE FAIL TO DO—

SIN TEARS US AWAY FROM GOD—

IT IS A RUNNING AWAY FROM HOME,

LIKE THE PRODIGAL SON FLEEING AWAY FROM HIS FATHER.[ii]

 

WHAT HAPPENS HERE IS A FORGIVENESS

THAT RESTORES US TO GOD AND

LIBERATES US FROM THE POWER OF SIN AND DEATH,

FOR HERE WE ARE GIVEN A NEW PROMISE FROM GOD:

 

“I SHALL BE YOUR GOD AND YOU SHALL BE MY PEOPLE.

WE SHALL BE TOGETHER, WE SHALL HAVE FELLOWSHIP.

WE SHALL BE FATHER AND [SONS AND DAUGHTERS].

NOTHING WILL SEPARATE US—NOT EVEN YOUR SIN,

FOR  I FORGIVE IT.”[iii]

 

THIS FORGIVENESS IS GIVEN TO US WITH

NO IFS, ANDS, OR BUTS—

PURELY OUT OF LOVE—DECLARING BOLDLY AND CLEARLY

“I AM YOURS! I AM YOUR GOD,

I GIVE MYSELF TO YOU.”[iv]

 

FORGIVENESS IS A COMING HOME TO GOD.

IT IS NOT A MATTER OF ERASING BLACK MARKS—

IT IS GOD RUNNING OUT TO MEET US,

THROWING HIS ARMS AROUND US.

 

IN CHRIST GOD GIVES HIMSELF TO US—

HIDDEN IN MAJESTY AND GLORY

BENEATH THE FLESH AND BLOOD OF JESUS.

GOD GIVES HIMSELF TO US—

THE REBELS WHO HAVE RUN AWAY,

THE WEAK, THE EVIL, THE SINNERS, THE UNCARING[v].

 

JESUS DOES NOT RUN AWAY OR FLEE FROM OUR SINS.

HE DOES NOT DESERT US OR ABANDON US

IN OUR FAULTS—

BUT OFFERS HIMSELF TO AND FOR US.

 

HERE, IN THIS HOLY EUCHARIST,

IN A MYSTRY BEYOND UNDERSTANDING OR EXPLANATION

GOD GIVES HIMSELF TO US IN LOVE.

HERE GOD ENFOLDS US PERSONALLY—

SAYING TO US: “I AM YOUR GOD. I GIVE MYSELF TO YOU.”[vi]

 

HERE IS NO SIMPLE WIPING THE SLATE CLEAN—

HERE THERE IS NO SIMPLE SUBSTITUION

OF A SINLESS VICTIM IN OUR PLACE—

SOMEHOW PAYING GOD BACK FOR THE DEBT OF OUR SINS,

AS IF GOD IS A CONDEMNING JUDGE

INSTEAD OF A LOVING AND WAITING FATHER—

EAGER TO HAVE US COME HOME.[vii]

 

HERE WE DISCOVER, AS DAVID LOSE SAYS,

“---THAT THE ULTIMATE ANSWER TO SIN ISN’T PUNISHMENT—

NOT EVEN IN THE NAME OF JUSTICE—

BUT RATHER MERCY, RECONCILIATION, AND NEW LIFE—

THAT GOD’S ANSWER TO SIN ISN’T PUNISHMENT

BUT INSTEAD IS LOVE.”

** [DAVID LOSE: IN THE MEANTIME]

 

FOR HERE THERE IS ONE IN WHOM GOD IN CHRIST

GOES BEFORE US—

EXPERIENCING DEATH AND HELL IN SOLITUDE—

IN COMPLETE ISOLATION GOD IN CHRIST

EXPERIENCES GODFORSAKENESS—

HE BECOMES GOD WITH US

SO THAT WE EXPERIENCE ALL THINGS

NOT IN SOLITUDE, BUT IN HIS COMPANY.

AND IN HIS COMPANY WE ARE LIBERATED AND SET FREE,

AND WE BECOME HIS.[viii]

 

GOD GIVES GOD’S SELF TO US IN SUFFERING LOVE—

GOD IS WITH US, NOT AS A CONDEMNING JUDGE—

BUT AS ONE WHO REACHES OUT TO US

IN A MYSTERY THAT REACHES BEYOND EXPLANATION

OR UNDERSTANDING

IN THE TRUE BODY AND BLOOD OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST—

GIVEN AND SHED IN SUFFERING AND LOVE

FOR THE FORGIVENESS OF OUR SINS.[ix]

 

SO COME NOW, KNEEL,

RECEIVE THIS HOLY SACRAMENT

AND HEAR GOD SAY TO YOU:

“I GIVE MYSELF TO YOU, YOU ARE MINE”,

AND AS YOU HEAR THESE WORDS

KNOW THE FREEDOM TO SAY:

“YES LORD, I AM YOURS—

I GIVE MYSELF TO YOU.” AMEN.[x]

 

 

 

[i] Hoyer, Richard O., THE WORD FROM THE CROSS, Saint Louis, Concordia Publishing House, 1968. This sermon is largely based on the sermon in this volume, pages 71-77 entitled A New Covenant. I wish to give credit for the basic outline and much of the content of this sermon in preparation of the present sermon. The core ideas arose in my response to reading Hoyer’s sermon.

[ii] Ibid. page 72.

[iii] Ibid. Bracketed portion my wording of text.

[iv] Ibid. page 73

[v] Ibid. page  73-74.

[vi] Ibid. page 74

[vii] Ibid., page 72

[viii] Moltman, Jurgen, THE CRUCIFIED GOD, New York, Evanston, San Francisco, London, Harper and Row Publishers, ©1974, pages 262-263.

[ix] Hoyer, page 75.

[x] Ibid. pages 76-77.