Sermon for Maundy Thursday 2017

The Collect Prayer for Maundy Thursday

ALMIGHTY Father, whose dear Son, on the night before he suffered, did institute the Sacrament of his Body and Blood; Mercifully grant that we may thankfully receive the same in remembrance of him, who in these holy mysteries giveth us a pledge of life eternal; the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who now liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

Stand, Listen, Participate. In our lessons for this night, we listened to the Word of God regarding participation. Maundy Thursday speaks of the mandates Jesus gave to His Disciples at the Last Supper. The idea of issuing someone a mandate is that the person obeys through participation. It is not obedience for a child told by his parent to water the garden for the child to say that he did so by sitting down and thinking about it or drawing a picture of watering a garden, or even telling another person to water it for him. The actual watering of the garden by the child is to participate in the life of the family. This is the value of learning obedience in the little things. The same rings true of the mandate for us to participate in what Jesus tells us to participate in through the mandates He gave at His Last Supper. Thinking about these events in our homes without leaving for His House of worship is not participation. Proper participation in what Jesus requires with the events of this night requires our presence at His Table, in His Church. This evening, let us reflect on the importance of participating that moves us beyond thinking about it to actual obedience by grace through faith.

Participation in the Lord’s Supper

      First, on this night, we encounter the call of Jesus to participate in the Lord’s Supper through the Epistle in I Corinthians 11. The chapter before this one in I Corinthians 10:16, states, “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” The word participation means, “the share which one has in anything, in the benefits of Christ’s death.” 

      Participation means we first think about the commandment. Second, participation means we act out of the conviction that the mandate for us to participate is valid to make our way towards participation through showing up, presence. Then, within the confines of the Sanctuary, we participate in the body and blood of Christ as we read in I Corinthians. We participate through obedience in the benefits of Christ’s death. Participation in regards to Holy Communion is “that we may thankfully receive the same in remembrance of Him, who in these holy mysteries giveth us a pledge of life eternal.” To participate in the Lord’s Supper fully, we must receive the bread and the wine.

      This reception encourages us in the benefit of Christ’s death for us. See, it is not just enough to dream and think about what He did for us. He has called us to remember through doing, through participating in an action He commissioned. It is faithful obedience in the promises of the Covenant through the Covenant signs or sacraments. Now, if Christianity were about a passive remembrance with no bearing in life, Jesus would have commanded non-participatory remembrance. Our remembrance has a proclamation component. I Corinthians 11:26 states, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” The Christian faith is manifested through taking part in the Body of Christ through worship. We need one another as the Church in terms of our presence and coming together around the Table to hear the Word and to partake of the Holy Supper.

Unfortunately, some sit on the sidelines talking about how we can do things better and then when we get to par with their standards, they might participate with us. This is a Pharisaical approach. It is not grounded in Holy Scripture. It is grounded in separation and the false belief that those that separate themselves are holier and better than those they refuse to join with in participating in the Lord’s mandates. Participation means taking part with fellow redeemed sinners, through the pain and the joy such involves. We cannot grow through life in Christ without being part of each other through our presence and participation together in worship.

Participation in Acts of Humility

      The last area we encounter the Lord’s call of participation from the Last Supper occurred in the Gospel, of the washing of the Disciples’ feet. Jesus calls us to a life of humility with each other, a life of loving sacrifice for each other. This is symbolized with the washing of another person’s feet.  Another reason some throughout the history of the Church have tried to make up lame excuses NOT to join with other Christians in the local Church stems from not wanting to deal with other redeemed sinners. It is much easier to say that I am so superior to other Christians that I cannot be tainted by being with inferiors in worship and other aspects of life in the local manifestation of the Body of Christ.

      Jesus with washing the Disciples’ feet showed how the Church must stay together in humility and loving sacrificial service. See, when one states that either local membership in the Church is not necessary officially or unofficially through a lack of active participation, they in some ways disobey Christ in this passage of humbly serving one another as the Body. Peter’s exchange with Jesus about not wanting His Lord and master to stoop to such humility to wash his feet is often what we grapple with in not wanting to get too close to one another in the Body of Christ. Practically, this means not wanting to be with other Christians in worship. We are all called to disciple each other in Christ. Part of this is what Jesus showed to the Disciples with washing their feet, of serving. As Jesus said at the end of the Gospel tonight, “For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.”

      Christians manifest two approaches when coming to grips with Christ’s mandates of participation as it applies to sin, repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation. One, they ignore Christ’s example of humility and take on a prideful tone. Two, they are humble even if they were the wounded party, relying only on God’s grace to move through situations to God’s glory. See, the types that do not like really dealing with all Jesus meant with humility and loving one another will find ways to drift away in pride when problems arise. They do not want to do what it takes to submit to Christ for Him to work His grace out for full reconciliation. With such, they never mature but always drift and become functionally the same as the person that believes he is too good to be with other sinners. With the type that submits to working through sin through repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation and staying put; they find grace and mercy abound as well as a deepening maturity. See, when people submit to each other in the discipline and the love of the Lord, people grow in sanctification. When people flee from submission to each other, they will remain stagnant because they feel they are good just the way they are and are not in need of growth. The beauty of God’s work in us is that even people that have acted in pride when it comes to problems can change through God’s grace. This is why it is the duty of all Christian in terms of participation to pray for all those the Lord has placed in their lives for God’s grace to work. Participating in the humility of Christ involves never writing off a brother or sister in the Lord. It is to pray for them without ceasing.

Conclusion

      On this Maundy Thursday, let us contemplate anew how deep God’s love is for us. Let meditate as we prepare for the Supper of our Lord upon how we are called to participate through our presence and obedience. Let us participate fully in the Lord’s Supper as often as we can to the glory of God, to be with our fellow brothers and sisters in word and in deed. Let us participate fully in humility with each other, through the difficult times and through the wonderful times. In these things, let us be mindful that the Lord is preparing our hearts and our minds to proclaim Christ to all we encounter. “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” Amen.