Thursday, March 20, 2008

What Is True Preparation?

Maundy Thursday
Sunday, March 20, 2008
Matthew 26:17-30

The disciples weren’t prepared for Jesus’ institution of the Sacrament of the Altar. They were a little mixed up. They meant well, of course. People so often do. They wanted to help. I’m sure Jesus appreciated that. And we don’t see any sign that Jesus got on them for not having a clue as to what would really be happening. No, He just went right along with what He had planned. They had their own idea of what was happening, that they were the ones preparing the meal, but that didn’t stop Jesus from giving them what only He could.

They were faithful Jews. They asked Jesus where He’d like them to prepare the Passover meal. Boy were they in for a surprise. There would be no Passover this time. Something completely different. Something they could never prepare. You wouldn’t waltz into Emeril’s kitchen and cook dinner. He would be the one to prepare the meal.

The first thing we need to remember about the Lord’s Supper is that it is the Lord’s Supper. He is the one who prepares it. We do not do anything to bring about what it is. It is the Sacrament of the Altar, His Holy Supper, the Meal He has prepared for us to eat and drink. Most of us could no more make a fine meal like Emeril than could we provide the Body and Blood of Christ with a meal of bread and wine. It is the Lord who does that. He is the Host. He has prepared this meal for us.

So what do we do to receive this meal? Christ wants all to partake of it. He doesn’t give gifts only for some. He wants all to share in His gift He gives of His body and blood. But good things often are not just to be partaken of in any old way. Medicine is a wonderful gift from God. People throughout history have been grateful that there are things we can take to help heal us and provide relief from pain.

But just because medicine is good and beneficial doesn’t mean we can take it in any old way. If you take too much of it it could harm you and you could possibly even die. If you take some medicine that conflicts with a condition you have or some other medicine you’re taking, you could actually end up worse off than you were before. So no one denies that medicine is good. But we also realize that we must receive medicine with the proper preparation.

Jesus’ Holy Supper is medicine for your soul. It gives healing for your weary soul. You have a sickness and this is the balm for that. You were born in sin and you sin against God daily. That is why Jesus, the Great Physician, gives you His medicine of immortality.

And like a doctor He guides you in your preparation for His Holy Supper, His medicine for your soul. In your first two years at seminary you’re assigned to a field work church, a local congregation where you assist the pastor on Sundays and begin learning the ropes of the Ministry. One day in Bible Class the pastor asked what it is that makes us worthy to receive the Lord’s Supper. I shot my hand up and said, “You are worthy to receive the Lord’s Supper when you believe that you’re not worthy to receive it.”

Now first and second year seminarians think they know a lot of theology. But that’s not enough for them—they think everyone else needs to know that. What they don’t realize is how little they know and how much they have yet to learn. And yet, on this particular occasion this particular seminarian could not have given a better answer.

The fact is that we are not worthy to receive the Holy Supper of Christ. It is a pure Gift. He alone is worthy. He alone is holy and righteous. We are unworthy, unrighteous. In short, we are sinners. To believe this is to begin our preparation for the Lord’s Supper. If we think we have any merits of our own before God then we are despising Jesus’ gracious gift of the Sacrament. If we think we don’t need this gift then we are ungrateful to Him for His mercy.

While He is the one who prepares this sacred Meal for us, He desires that we prepare to receive it so that we may receive it to our benefit. So that we may receive it for the forgiveness of our sins rather than to our soul’s harm. That is why we confess our sins. We continue to sin against our Lord so we need to continue to confess our unworthiness. The Good News we hear from our Lord is that He forgives our sins. Having forgiven you of your sin He invites you to His Meal.

He gives you faith to believe what He offers there: His Body and His Blood. Because you could never comprehend with your mind that in the bread and wine of this Meal is given to you the very Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. Your preparation is never of an intellectual understanding of the presence of Christ’s body and blood in the Sacrament. It is always one of faith, of trusting that the Lord who brought God to the world in a baby is the one who brings Him to you in bread and wine. That the Lord who secured salvation for the world in a lowly figure suffering and dying on a cross is the one who forgives your sins through these ordinary elements of bread and wine.

What is true preparation? It is humbly receiving a gift you don’t deserve. It is rejoicing that He gives it to you because that is what He loves to do. He loves to give Himself to you. He did that in His suffering on the cross and He does it here for you this evening at this very altar. Come and receive it. Amen.


No comments: