Friday, March 29, 2013

Sermon for Maundy Thursday: "Jesus' Blood is Your Life"

+ Maundy Thursday – March 28th, 2013 +
Redeemer Lutheran, HB

“Jesus’ Blood is Your Life”

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

             Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.  Blood purifies.  Blood atones for sin.  Blood cries out for justice.  Blood is a substitute. Blood redeems from death.  A crimson canopy for shameful sinners. A scarlet robe of righteousness made white in the blood of the Lamb.

            Where there’s a covenant – there’s blood.  Hurled upon the altar.  Sprinkled on the OT priests– covering his vestments, placed on his ears, his lips, his forehead, his heart – he entered the holy place by means of the sacrificial blood.  Blood even poured out upon the people.  “Behold the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you.”  Forgiveness is a bloody affair. Why? Life is in the blood (Lev. 17:11).

            Given all that, perhaps the paraments should be red tonight.  But they’re white instead. For this is how God now sees you in Jesus. Though your sins were as scarlet, you are white as snow. Jesus’ blood is your life.

             In the OT, if God wasn’t using blood, he used something of His creation to bless His people. You’d be hard pressed to find a promise that God makes – Old or New Testament – where He doesn’t attach His Word and promise to us in the physical earthly things of his creation.

 Adam and Eve were clothed in animal skins to cover their naked, guilty flesh.
Cain received a mark upon his forehead to save him from certain death.
Noah was given the bow in the sky, a visible sign of YHWH’s covenant with creation.
Abraham was given the sign of circumcision.
Moses was given the blood and flesh of the Passover Lamb.
Gideon was given the dew upon the fleece that YHWH kept His Word.
Elijah was given bread in the wilderness.
Isaiah was given a burning, cleansing coal upon his lips.
Ezekiel ate the bitter-sweet scroll of YHWH’s Word.

            The Lord works no differently in the New Testament. The Water and Word of your Baptism rescue you, clothe you in Christ and forgive sins. Christ’s Word and a human voice declare your sins forgiven in Holy Absolution. Christ’s body and blood in the bread and wine forgive your sins in the Supper.
            There, in the upper room - once again - the shedding of blood provides forgiveness of sins. All the blood of the OT sacrifices and covenants flows downstream to Jesus’ cross. Life is in the blood. Jesus’ blood is your life.
            This is a night of remembrance. A night of forgiveness. 
           This is the night in which God remembers the blood of the first sacrifice, shed to clothe Adam and Eve in their naked, sinful shame.
            This is the night in which God remembers the blood of circumcision as the sign of His promise to the faithful remnant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
            This is the night in which the blood of Isaac is spared for the Lord Himself is the Lamb.
            This is the night in which the blood of Christ speaks a better word than Abel’s.
            This is the night when the Lamb of God is led to slaughter and His blood paints a doorpost of safe passage from slavery to freedom and death to life.  Without the blood you’re dead.  Under the blood of the Lamb, you are safe.  Death passes over.

 Yes, this is a night of remembrance.

            But how easily we forget: our prayers, our study of God’s Word. How easily we grumble like Israelites in the wilderness and forget God’s promises. And how quickly we think of ourselves. How quickly we remember the speck of our neighbors’, our spouses, or our fellow members’ sins all while failing see the forest of our own sin and repent.

            This is also a night to remember that we do not remember, at least not as we should. We’re no different from the Israelites. Oh, we may echo their promise, “All that the Lord has spoken, we will do and we will be obedient.” – but unlike the Lord, we don’t live up to our promises. Israel was disobedient. And so are we. We stand before God naked in Adam’s sin. Uncovered. Ashamed. Humiliated. Dead. Nothing to cling to except our mortality.

            But, this night isn’t only about our remembrance.  For as much as the Israelites remembered YHWH’s salvation at Passover, more importantly, the Lord remembered them. He remembers His covenant and promise.

            And though we remember many things tonight, most important of all, Christ remembers us.

             On the night in which He was betrayed, once again, God uses His creation and attaches His promise to it: bread and wine are now His body and his blood.  But Jesus does something new. In place of the endless animal sacrifices, Jesus provides an everlasting covenant in this Sacrament. In place of the blood of beasts, He pours out His own holy, precious blood securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls purified and made the flesh holy, how much more then, will the blood of Christ, offered without blemish before God, how much more will His blood purify and make us holy. A new promise. A new testament. A new meal.

            This Sacrament is a bridge from Jesus’ cross to the altar, from Jesus’ crucifixion to you, from the Passover Lamb who is sacrificed for us to the Lamb’s high feast. This is what the Albrecht Durer picture on your bulletin insert illustrates. See how the angels are collecting the blood of Christ in the chalice. It’s a visual sermon. What Christ shed for you on the cross is poured out for you in the chalice. Jesus blood is your life.

            The Lord’s Supper brings you forgiveness straight from the source – Christ Crucified – right where it’s needed, our sin-filled lives. What a superb image to have in your heads as you come to the Lord’s Supper, here, where all the signs and promises of the Old Testament point.

            Christ our Passover – our Paschal Lamb – has been sacrifice for us. Once and for all. This Supper is an everlasting sign – both physical and spiritual – that points you to Jesus’ death and gives you the fruit of Jesus’ death in the forgiveness of sins. Jesus’ life is in this blood.

             Behold the Lamb of God who pours out His life to forgive your sins. See on His face the spit He received in order to restore you life and wash away your sin. See the marks of the blows He received in order to refashion your warped nature in His image. See on His back the marks of the scourging He endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back.

            Everything is taken away.  Jesus is stripped. Laid bare. Betrayed.  Garments removed.  There He stands: nailed to the tree.  Naked before God in the sin of all mankind. Uncovered. Ashamed. Humiliated. Forsaken.  Nothing to cling to except our sin and His cross.  All of this He does for you.

            And so, tonight the Church reflects Her Lord.  Everything is taken away.  The chancel is emptied.  The altar is stripped.  Garments, paraments all gone.  Laid bare.    Tonight the church is naked.  Uncovered.  Humiliated.  But not forsaken.  We cling to our Lord Jesus and His New Covenant. 

            And He longs to share this Passover, this New Testament with you. His Table is set.  He’s gathered you here. The Paschal feast is ready.  The Cup is full. The Bread is broken.  All is now ready. 

             For the sin-sick man, here’s your medicine of immortality.
            For the dead man, here’s your antidote that restores life.
            For the poor beggar, here’s your sacred treasure.
            For the lonely, here’s your communion of saints.
            For the one attacked by the devil, here’s your trusty shield and weapon.
            For the hungry, here’s your Living Bread from heaven, food for body and soul.
            For the thirsty, here’s your cup of blessing overflowing with Jesus’ forgiveness.
            For the faint and weak pilgrim, here’s your sustenance for the journey.
            For you, Jesus’ blood is life.
                        Christ lays before you the gifts of His cross and says, “These are for you.”

            Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness…But wherever and whenever Christ’s blood is given and shed, Jesus is there forgiving your sins.

            Jesus’ blood is your life.

 A Blessed Maundy Thursday to you all…

 In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


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