November 15, 2020

"The Body and Blood of our Lord"

Scripture Readings: Exodus 12:1-13, Matthew 26:17-30

Throughout the Bible we read about the God who comes among us in Jesus Christ. Even in the life and times of King Saul – a less than perfect king over Old Testament Israel – we still see God at work moving all things towards the establishment of his Kingdom of grace in Jesus Christ. Within the Church this Word of God is at the heart of our worship. We have a high view of Scripture and we listen to all of it because we believe all of it is inspired by God and reveals God’s plan for the renewal of all things in Christ.

When Jesus was on earth he prescribed two sacraments by which we could better understand God’s Word and our place in it. Jesus taught us to observe Baptism and the Lord’s Supper as reminders of our salvation. Both sacraments emerge from the Old Testament story of Israel. Baptism is seen as the fulfillment of the Old Testament ritual of circumcision. The Lord’s Supper is the fulfillment of the Old Testament feast of the Passover. In both sacraments the Church of Jesus Christ remembers the God who brings us out of slavery to sin and into the freedom of life in the Kingdom of God. This is the God who has come among us!

Questions:

What does “Immanuel” mean? What difference does it make that God came in the flesh?
What did the people of Israel remember when they celebrated the Passover?
Where did they put the blood of the Passover Lamb? To what event does this point forward?

Baptism and the Lord’s Supper remind us of who we are and to whom we belong. Sacraments are visible reminders of our salvation which is given by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Sacraments display the gospel of Christ. Connected to the Word they bring Christ to us and they put us in Christ in his death and resurrection. More than that, they are a reminder that our God does not and never will practice “social isolation” or “social distancing” with us. God in Christ is the Immanuel. God is with us and the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper declares this truth.

Questions:

Is the bread a wine just a symbol of Christ’s body and blood or is it more? What does Jesus say about them?
What are we called to remember and believe when we celebrate the Lord’s Supper?

The Real Presence of Christ: Belgic Confession, Article 35

The Belgic Confession says “Truly we receive into our souls, for our spiritual life, the true body and true blood of Christ, our only Savior. We receive these by faith, which is the hand and mouth of our souls.” Later the Confession says, “We do not go wrong when we say that what is eaten is Christ’s own natural body and what is drunk is his own blood – but the manner in which we eat is not by the mouth but by the Spirit, through faith.”

In another Reformed confession that comes from France it says,

“We confess that the Lord’s Supper is a witness of the union which we have with Christ inasmuch as he not only died and rose again for us once, but also feeds and nourishes us truly with his flesh and blood, so that we may be one in him, and that our life may be in common. Although he be in heaven, still we believe that by the secret and incomprehensible power of his Spirit he feeds and strengthens us with the substance of his body and of his blood. We hold that this is done spiritually, not because we put imagination and fancy in the place of fact and truth, but because the greatness of this mystery exceeds the measure of our senses and the laws of nature. In short because it is heavenly, it can only be apprehended by faith.” (French Confession of Faith, Article 36)

Questions:

What does a person needs to believe in order to participate in the Lord’s Supper?
Should the Lord’s Supper be somber and serious or joyous and celebratory? Or maybe both?

Faith remains at the center of it all. Only those who participate in the Lord’s Supper with a sincere faith – being sorry for their sins, loving Christ, and seeking new life in him – receive the benefits of Christ’s spiritual food for the nourishment of their spiritual life.

The Word for the sacrament is the Gospel Word that reminds us of Immanuel – God with us. There is no “social distancing” or a “virtual presence” here. This is real. When we celebrate the Lord’s Supper we celebrate with Christ who is present among us by his Word and Spirit. Christ invites us and we come. When we participate in faith we are nourished, body and soul, for life right now and in eternity in the Kingdom of God. Amen.