The Lord’s Supper — Vespers Sermon by Pr Rolf Preus

“The Lord’s Supper”
Vespers Sermons on the Ordinaries of the Divine Service

And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. Matthew 26:26-28

The Lord Jesus offered up his body and blood on the cross as the once and for all sacrifice to God for our salvation. His body and blood were sacrificed but once. He gives to us this same body and blood to eat and to drink in the Lord’s Supper. We eat his body that bore our sins on the cross. We drink his blood that was shed for us for the forgiveness of sins. He who offered up his body and blood for us is he who offers his body and blood to us.’ We prepare to eat his body and drink his blood. That portion of the Ordinary of the Divine Service that comes right before the bread and the wine are consecrated to be Christ’s body and blood is known as the Sanctus. Sanctus is Latin for holy. We sing with the angels in Isaiah’s vision: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole world is full of his glory.” Then we turn our attention to Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. We join with the Palm Sunday crowd and sing, “Hosanna to the Son of David. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.”

The vision recorded in Isaiah chapter six is very different from the sight of Jesus riding a donkey into Jerusalem. When Isaiah saw God in his vision, he cried,

Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people with unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.

The word hosts is Sabaoth in Hebrew. Lord God of Sabaoth is Lord God of hosts. A host is an army of angels. Isaiah saw God his King in all his glory. Though it was just a vision, it was enough to frighten him and make him cry out, “Woe is me!”

Who can stand before God? Who is clean? Who has a clean heart, clean lips, and a clean life? Who has the courage to face God as God is? When we hear the words, “Holy, Holy, Holy,” What must We be thinking? He is what we are not. That’s what Isaiah thought and what he felt as he was confronted with the holy God in his vision.

We sing the triple holy and then sing the triple hosanna. Hosanna means: “Save, now!” It is taken from this evening’s psalm, Psalm 118, where we say:

Save us, we pray, O LORD!
O LORD, we pray, give us success!
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD!
We praise you from the house of the LORD.
(Psalm 118:25-26)

He who comes in the name of the LORD comes to save us. We of unclean lips, who live arnong people With unclean lips, who haven’t the right or the courage to look God in the eye, now see God riding on a donkey on his way to die.

How can God become a man and die? God knows. How can ordinary bread and wine become the body and blood of Jesus? God knows. How God does what God does is not our business to know. That he does what he does is what we believe. Through this faith we receive the treasures provided by this holy sacrament.

The Sanctus became a part of the Divine Service by the end of the first century and has remained a part of it ever since. It helps us to understand the Sacrament. There are two things we must always keep in mind when we receive the Lord’s Supper: what it is and what good it does.

What is the Lord’s Supper?

It is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, under the bread and the wine, given to us Christians to eat and to drink, instituted by Christ himself.

God joins his creation. God became a tiny little preborn baby in the womb of the Virgin Mary. The baby she bore was God in the flesh, which is why the church has given her the title, “God-bearer” or mother of God. God joined his creation in the person of Jesus Christ who was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary and was made man.

God joins his creation in the Lord’s Supper. Jesus says of the bread, “Take eat, this is my body.” He says of the wine, “Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” Jesus is God. The bread is his body. Jesus is God. The wine is his blood. Our minds, bound to the thinking and reasoning of this earth, are confronted with what is clearly impossible. How can God be a man and have body and blood? How can ordinary bread and wine be that body and blood? How? Let God worry about how! The fact is that God joins his creation.

The glory of the LORD God from which Isaiah shrank in fear is hidden under the humility of Jesus as he rode into the holy city on a donkey to claim his kingdom. The glory of the LORD God is hidden under the bread and the wine. Jesus won his kingdom on the cross. Jesus reigns today. He is God in the flesh. His body and blood are given to us to eat and to drink in this holy sacrament. The Lord’s Supper is Christ’s body and blood.

What good is it? What good is Christ’s body and blood? It is of the greatest good. Philosophers talk about what they call the greatest good. Some say it is happiness. Others say wisdom. Some say pleasure. Some will point to certain cardinal virtues. One thing on which all of the great philosophers agree is that the greatest good is a habit, condition, or quality in us. Ultimately, the greatest good lies in us

To which we Christians say no. No, no, no. The holy, holy, holy God and we unclean, unclean, unclean sinners shuts the door to human achievement as the greatest good in our lives. The greatest good is Christ’s body and blood.

It is God with us, never to leave us. It is God joined to us, his body and blood within our very bodies, as the medicine of immortality, raising us from the dead on the last day.

It is God with us, to forgive us all our sins. “Shed for you and for many for the remission of sins” is what Jesus said. What good is Christ’s body and blood? How much does a sinner need the forgiveness of sins? It is for us our very lives. When God’s body bears our sin and his blood is shed to forgive us our sins and when we eat that body and drink that blood, God brings that forgiveness deep inside of us where it works to transform us

The good of the body and blood of Jesus is the forgiveness of sins. The good of forgiveness is not only that it makes us acceptable to God and draws us to him as trusting children, but that it penetrates us and changes us. Luther once wrote of the benefit of this Sacrament:

To give a simple illustration of what takes place in this eating: it is as if a wolf devoured a sheep and the sheep were so powerful a food that it transformed the wolf and turned him into a sheep. So, when we eat Christ’s flesh physically and spiritually, the food is so powerful that it transforms us into itself and out of fleshly, sinful, mortal men makes spiritual, holy, living men.

The Lord’s Supper was part of the Divine Service from the very beginning. The pulpit and the altar go together. What the preacher preaches from the pulpit, the Lord Jesus bestows at the altar. The preaching of the preacher focuses on the forgiveness of sins freely given to unworthy sinners for the sake of the bitter suffering and death of Jesus. The Lord’s Supper confirms this preaching. We receive into our bodies the very body and blood of God for the forgiveness of our sins. Every time we eat and drink this Sacrament, we proclaim Christ’s death until he comes.

We eat and drink in faith. No one but God can see our faith, but the church and her ministers have the duty to require that all communicants faithfully confess the true faith. This is why we do not offer the Supper to those who have not yet been catechized and have not yet publicly bound themselves to the true teaching taught in the Catechism. This is also why we do not offer the Supper to those who commune at churches that teach false doctrine, for by communing with false doctrine they are confessing that false doctrine.

We approach the altar filled with hatred of all our sins, and full of confidence that God here forgives us all our sins of thought, word and deed, known and unknown. We meet our God at the Supper. Jesus, the LORD God in the flesh, comes in the name of the LORD, and he comes to save us. As he joins us to himself, he joins us to one another. We receive his forgiveness and we give it to those who receive it with us. The next time you talk with a so called “born again” Christian who asks you when you got saved, you know what to say.

Say, “I get saved every time I receive the Lord’s Supper. When I eat and drink God’s body and blood, he saves me.” Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest! Amen

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