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Archive for April 19th, 2019

FOR YOU

 “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”-John 12: 32, for Holy Tuesday

Congregations, churches, pastors, priests fret over the question:  how do we attract new members?   I  have asked that question and that is more than a simple admission and more like a confession.  Is it our choir? Our youth program?  Our peppy service?  Our warm and welcoming people?  Our meals on wheels?  etc. etc. etc.  All those things can be fruit of the Gospel but they are not the Vine from whence comes the fruit.  

What is our “draw”?  There is only one “draw” in the Church, for the life of His world and you in His new creation:  Jesus Christ.   It is written that our preaching is Christ and Him Crucified (1 Corinthians 1:22-24), not was.  Holy Baptism is into His Crucifixion and Resurrection (Romans 6:2-4 ; Colossians 2:10-12 ), not “was”.  Holy Communion is the preaching of the Lord’s Death (1 Corinthians 11:26) and is His Body and Blood from the self-same Body and Blood given unto death is our life, not “was”.    The Cross stands at the center, radiating out, Christ Jesus embracing us in His forgiveness. No Cross, no Savior.  No Cross, no resurrection. No Savior, no salvation. No Savior and the good works He prepared to be our way of life. If there is no preaching of Christ and Him crucified, then the preaching of human works follows in order to ‘gain’ salvation; then there is no grace and Christ died in vain.  Our self-chosen works become a hollow spirituality.  In the national hospice organization, a chaplain is a “spiritual/slash/existential therapist”!  No law of God, then no Savior who fulfilled the Law. Evangelism is not only for those who have not heard of Christ, or those who have but have forgotten:  it is for every Christian as we tend to forget and need His forgiveness and life day by day.

I’m struck by how hollow American Christianity can be. I love that so many say that Jesus is Lord, but I wonder whether there’s a center, or whether the Easter bunny is hollow.

There was a time when Seder meals were all the rage, combining the Jewish Passover with Holy Communion.  I see Christians commenting on the tradition of it, how holy it seems to be, how it links us to the past. Really? Why do Christians find such solace in the Jewish rite? Perhaps, because they have no holiness of their own. Jesus told his disciples that he wanted to celebrate with them the Passover. The Passover. The term comes up over and over again. But what happens? The Passover meal passes into the Lord’s Supper as Jesus is the Passover Lamb:

Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (1 Corinthians 5)

The Lamb of God offers finally not an unblemished lamb, but his own flesh as heavenly food.

American Christianity has no holy place. And we substitute our Founding Fathers for church fathers. We have no holy place, and we idolize the land of Israel. But there is a holy place, and it is not just a place of the spirit. It is a flesh and blood place, the place where our Lord feeds us with himself, his body and blood, in a holy of holies holier than any Old Testament priest could ever hope for. Why in the world would we hope to rebuild the temple? We just heard from the Epistle reading, Christ is with us, body and blood, wherever his Supper is celebrated. Notre Dame Cathedral has been called a “monument”, a national French monument.  I don’t go to the Lincoln Memorial to worship.  Yet, at Notre Dame Mass is said, confessions heard, people are baptized and the song of the Church goes on. Maybe, the secularists are telling us that Notre Dame is a monument to a dead idea;  maybe that’s what’s being said. That’s sad. But it’s not a mere monument. From Notre Dame to this little temporary Sanctuary sanctified by the Word and the Holy Spirit in the Lord’s Baptized sons and daughters.  Jesus was clear:  He is the Temple, not made with human hands.

Now, given that fact, the fact of our Lord’s bodily presence, we should act like it. We should sing, “Let all mortal flesh keep silence, and with fear and trembling stand.” Our Lord comes to us, every week, wherever the Supper is rightly celebrated. Let’s celebrate that.

This sermon, Good Friday Meditations, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday sermons will reflect on the Questions from the Passion. IN this evening of the Lord’s Supper, when he said that one of you shall betray Me. The disciples asked:  Is it I, Lord?  In Da Vince’s famous painting, the Last Supper depicts this moment.

Is it I, Lord, for whom You took frail flesh, from the womb of Your Mother, and died for us?

Is it I, Lord, for whom You preached, and taught the Word of God as the Word made flesh for us and salvation?

Is it I, Lord, for whom You said from the Cross, Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.

Is it I, Lord, for whom it can be said,  My sins crucified Thee.

Is it I, Lord, from whom You gave me my brothers and sisters in You, my Lord and my brother to encourage one another as we see Your Day approaching?

Is it I, Lord, that I should kneel in service to my brothers and neighbors?

Is it I, Lord, for whom You washed me in Holy Baptism and made Your own to be built as living stones into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ?

Is it I, Lord, for whom You gave the Church the Office of the Keys for forgiving and binding my sins?

Is it I, Lord, for whom You give your Body and Blood in this Holy Supper?

And as St. Paul said, whenever we do as our Lord commanded in remembrance of him, we proclaim his death until he comes again. So it is, word and flesh belong together, and in our spiritualized and gnostic world, there is so much more we need to say and even more to pray. In 43 days, there is another important Thursday in the Church Year, Ascension Day. The two Thursdays are intimately connected in Jesus Christ because the ascended Lord, bodily and spiritually, deigns to be with us in His Supper, proclaiming His death until He comes again.  The Crucified and Ascended Lord commands His Gospel be preached and He will be with us:  This is my body, this is my blood. Lo, I am with you always even until the end of the age as He commanded baptism for all. When we confess and are forgiven, then as He said, Where two or three are gathered together in My Name, there I am. He draws us forth by His Body and Blood and by the same draws forth the toxins in body and soul in joyful repentance and sends us forth to proclaim the deeds of Him who called us out of darkness into His most marvelous light.  In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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