Summary: A Maundy Thursday Sermon, comparing the Passover with Holy Communion
Maundy Thursday April 13, 2006 “Series B”
Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Let us pray: Dear Heavenly Father, we come before your altar as your people, baptized into the death and resurrection of your Son, Jesus the Christ. Yet we come before you with humble hearts, for it is not that we have claimed you as our God, but that you have claimed us as your own children, through the torn flesh and spilt blood of Christ. Through the power of your Holy Spirit, enable us to gain a greater appreciation for you for your redeeming grace, and grant us increased faith, that we might live our lives more fully reflecting your love to those around us. This we ask in Christ’s holy name. Amen.
[Note: The following sermon is my edited thoughts from a sermon that came in a Lenten drama series that was entitled “God’s Own Sacrifice Complete,” written over twenty years ago. The author and publisher I have long forgotten.]
It was a bad night in Egypt. After years of hearing the people of Israel cry to be set free from the tyranny of bondage, after months of warnings issued to the pharaoh, God was about to act decisively to set his people free. This was the night of the first Passover. It was a bad night in Egypt, because the air was heavy – filled with the thought of imminent death.
It was a bad night in Jerusalem, some twenty centuries ago, as a small group of persons gathered in an upper room to celebrate the anniversary of the Passover. Once again, God was about to act decisively to set his people free – this time, to free from their bondage to sin and death. And once again, the air with heavy – filled with the thought of imminent death – our Lord’s death.
It should be a bad night in [Greenville]. The world has not changed that much over the centuries that have gone by – nor have we. On this Thursday night, in this week we call “Holy,” with patient love, our Lord calls to our generation as he has called to hundreds before us, urging us to repent, to believe and to live.
Once again the air should be heavy – filled with the thought of imminent death – our death! For if we truly wish to grasp the significance of what God has done for us and for our redemption, the thought of death needs to be heavy in the air. For it is only when we think about our own death, our life ending on this planet we call earth, that the true significance of what God has done for our salvation, can truly be grasped and lived!
Interestingly, on these bad nights, it has historically been the custom of those who are the children of God, to gather together in the presence of their Lord, and in one another’s company, to share a meal. That almost sounds a little bit strange. On a night in which death is heavy in the air, God’s people gather to eat! Of course, we don’t do it in order to be silly, or foolish, or to diminish the significance of the night, or of the situation. Rather, we gather to eat in appreciation for God’s grace.
One of the reasons that we do this, is in obedience. Even though we may feel that there are other things we might rather do on a night like this, we come to our Lord’s table because he has commanded it. For example, God gave Moses specific instructions about the meal they were to eat as they gathered in their homes, on that night in Egypt, when death was heavy in the air. They were to eat the Paschal lamb, with unleavened bread, bitter herbs, as they sang psalms and drank wine.
And on that bad night in Jerusalem, Jesus also gave us a command to eat, saying, “Do this, in remembrance of me.” Of course, Jesus shortened the menu, making the elements much easier to prepare – just bread and wine. But still, it is a meal in which we eat, in obedience to his command.
Of course, throughout history, God’s people of faith have gathered to eat these sacred meals, not just because they were commanded to do so, but more specifically, to remember! God commanded Moses: “This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord.” And to this day, the people of the Jewish faith celebrate the Passover, eating that seder meal, remembering how God redeemed them from bondage, as the angel of death passed over their homes, setting them free. They remember the blood of the lamb on the doorposts, God’s guarantee that he would pass over their homes, as cries of death filled the air from their neighboring Egyptian families. They remember that on that bad night, God freed them from slavery and made them a free people again.