Holy (Maundy) Thursday
Delivered By
Pr. Mark D. Lovett
Delivered On
March 28, 2013
Central Passage
1 Corinthians 11:23-32
On the Holy Supper


In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

On this night wherein our Lord instituted His holy meal, His body and blood for us Christians to eat and to drink, it is good to meditate on the blessed Sacrament and to consider its purpose, benefits, and blessings. And since there are so many that we cannot cover them all in a single sermon or even a life-time of sermons, we must constrain ourselves to focus on one or two.

The first and greatest blessing, of course, is that with the bread and wine you receive the body and blood of Jesus. Not the dead flesh and lifeless blood of a dead Master, but the living and eternal flesh and life-giving blood of the risen and ascended Savior. The chief blessing in this sacred meal is that the body and blood that were given into death for you on the cross are now given to you for life and salvation. For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.

But that is not the only blessing of this holy meal. So the apostle teaches us that though we are many, by partaking of the one bread we are one body. This sacred meal, though it seems small and quick, is the true fellowship of the saints of God. All other fellowship – from potluck suppers to Easter breakfasts – is a shadow of the true fellowship of the saints found in the breaking of this bread and the sharing of this cup.

So the Reformation did away with private masses. A private mass has only the priest there with no – or very few – congregants. And no one but the priest partakes of the Sacrament at a private mass. This is an abomination for many reasons, including the fact that the meal is not given only for the priests and ministers of Christ but for the whole congregation. And unless you actually eat and drink the offered body and blood, you don’t receive the Supper. The words of our Lord are the power of the Sacrament, but unless one actually eats and drinks of it, they have not shared in it. So there are no private masses but only the common mass, only the common meal shared by all. There are no private masses in our hearts either. There is no participating only in our hearts. For unless you eat and drink you have not received that which is given. That doesn’t mean you’re going to hell if you don’t eat and drink, it means that what is given is given for you to eat and to drink. And in eating and drinking you participate in what is given, hearing and believing the words of our Lord.

But so many think themselves strong and refrain from this life-giving food. They act as though they are such strong Christians that they have no need of it, as if our Lord gave it in frivolity and without true reason; a mere redundancy. Some allow themselves to be hindered and held up by the excuse that they don’t hunger and thirst for it, that they don’t feel the need for it. Some pretend it’s a matter of personal freedom and unnecessary. They pretend that it is enough to believe without it. And they go away and become hardened toward it, never seeking or desiring it. (Excerpt from the Large Catechism V, 39ff.)

But what does our Lord give for our salvation that is frivolous or unnecessary? What does He give that is free to be ignored or to go without? Certainly not the very meal that He instituted on the night when He was betrayed, that most holy and weighty night. Certainly not that by which He joins us to Himself in one body by one bread. For the bread that we break is a participation in the body of Christ. And the cup that we bless is a participation in the blood of Christ.

But, we argue, it cannot be necessary because that would make it a work by which we gain salvation because of what we have done. But we might as well say that about hearing the gospel, too. It is our ears that heard. We availed ourselves of it. Is that not our work? But it is not in our hearing that we have salvation, but in God giving us faith to cling to what we hear. Hearing without faith is not hearing. So with the Sacrament. It is not merely our eating or drinking that gains the benefits, but clinging to the promises given in the Sacrament. Participating in the Sacrament isn’t just eating and drinking but to participate is also to hold fast to the promises delivered in and with the Sacrament.

So we learn and teach our children that it is not bodily preparation that prepares us to receive this blessed gift – though bodily preparation is good for discipline and reverence – but that person is truly worthy and well prepared who holds fast to these words: Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.

That is why we should be diligent in bringing our children to this blessed meal that their Lord gives to them also. For nowhere in the Bible are children forbidden to receive this. Rather our Lord says, “Let the little children come to me, for of such is the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:20). They, too, need Christ and are one with us in faith, hope, and love. Who indeed believe better and quicker than we who are older and have been schooled in the art of doubt and self-reliance. It is the children who so often need little or no encouragement to desire the things of God. And yet it is they who are kept from it because of our fears and reason. God save us – or more pointedly – God save our children from our reason, from our traditions, and from our sins.

And He does. He gives us His body and blood for the forgiveness of our sins; to give us life and salvation. He does not look at our sins or our laziness in spiritual matters and decide that we are too sinful or too stubborn or too insignificant for His mercy, but He gives in abundance. There is no limit to how often or how much you can have and receive. There is no limit to His mercy, love, and forgiveness. Come, beloved of Jesus, receive what He gives for you; receive what He gives for your salvation

+ In Nomine Iesu +