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The Sounds of Lent: Singing, Breaking Bread, and Pouring Wine
Matthew 26:26-30


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Maundy Thursday—April 1, 2010

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Several months ago as a Christmas present for my mother and brothers and sisters, I scanned onto CD’s hundreds of slides taken by my father in the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s.  It was probably the pictures from our family Thanksgiving celebration in 1966 that caused me one night to have a very vivid dream, in which I was a young child at such a family gathering.  It was so vivid that I could hear the familiar voices, actually taste the turkey, and I looked longingly at the pies on the dessert table.  I come from a big extended family, and we had a lot of family gatherings like that when I was a child.  It was all so familiar, something I experienced dozens of times, and it was wonderful to be back there for a few moments.

For the ancient Hebrew people, the Passover celebration was like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter, all rolled into one.  It was major religious festival, commemorating the great salvation event of the Old Testament, as recorded in this evening’s reading from Exodus, when the angel of death “passed over” the Israelites, and they were released from bondage as slaves in Egypt.  “This is a day you are to commemorate,” Moses told them, “for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord—a lasting ordinance.”

And, like our Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter, Passover was for the Israelites not only a religious observance, but also a traditional family celebration.  Each year families would gather together for the great feast.

So, for the disciples, the Passover celebration they gathered for in the Upper Room on Thursday of Holy Week was at first all so familiar: singing, breaking bread, pouring wine—sounds, sights, smells, and tastes they had experienced dozens of times since they were children.

But, tonight, the head of their family of disciples transforms the familiar ritual, explains its true prophetic significance, and gives it forever a new meaning for his extended family: “Take, eat; this is my body, which is given for you. This do in remembrance of me. . .  Drink of it, all of you; this cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.  This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

Like the ancient Israelites, we were held in bondage.  As Jesus says, “Everyone who sins is a slave to sin.”  Paul says in Galatians, “Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin.”  And Hebrews says that Christ came, “To free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.”

Like the ancient Israelites, we were held in bondage, slaves to sin, Satan, and death.  But, Paul says in 1st Corinthians, “Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed for us.”  The blood of the ancient Passover lamb, which caused the angel of death to “pass over” the Israelites, prophetically pointed forward, to the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”

“Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed for us. . .  shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”  Because the Lamb of God shed his blood for you, your sins are all forgiven.  Just as the doorposts of the ancient Israelites were marked with the protecting blood of the Passover lamb, through faith in the Lamb of God you are marked with his blood, and the angel of death passes over you. 

“For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. . . I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even though he dies, yet shall he live.”

Christ, your Passover Lamb, marks you with his blood through the Word of God, as Paul says in Ephesians, “You also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation.”

Christ, your Passover Lamb, marks you with his blood in the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, as Paul says in Romans, “All of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death.”

Christ, your Passover Lamb, marks you with his blood in the Sacrament of Holy Communion.  “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life,” Jesus promises, “and I will raise him up at the last day.”

It was only a dream that I was present again at a childhood family gathering.  But, Christ’s presence with us in this Supper is not just a dream, it is a blessed reality.  As Paul says in 1st Corinthians, “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ?  The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?”

This evening we experience many of the same sounds, sights, smells, and tastes as the gathering of Christ’s first disciples in the Upper Room for the first Holy Communion: singing, breaking bread, pouring wine.  And we also receive the same blessing which Christ bestowed that night on those first disciples.  For, this familiar ritual still has for you the same power and promise which Christ gave it that night: “This is my body, which is given for you. . . this [is] my blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” 

Amen.

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