Friday, April 2, 2010

The Traditional Ceremony by which You Live and Worship the Lord Your God

Maundy Thursday, A.D. 2010

To live is to worship the Lord your God; and to worship Him is life.

The Lord calls you to this life and worship, by serving you, by feeding you, and by caring for you in body and soul.

He does it by means of this sacred Tradition and this solemn Ceremony, whereby the Father hands over His Son, and the Son hands Himself over for you, and gives Himself to you as Food.

The life by which you live is in the Blood of this Lamb; as life is in the blood of man and beast. For the blood brings oxygen and nutrition to the body, and it cleanses the body of infection and death. So the Lamb is sacrificed for you, and His lifeblood is given for your life, that you not die. His flesh is given and His lifeblood is poured out for you, to feed you, to quench your thirst, and to cleanse you and forgive you of all that poisons you and kills you.

In this way, the beloved Son, who is the Lamb of God, worships the Father, and He loves you, by and with His Blood.

That is what makes His House your home, your place of peace and rest.

For here the Ceremony of His Supper is delivered to you, as He has ever handed it over to His disciples. By this means, He gives you Himself as your Food, your Meat and Drink indeed. He pours out His blood to cover you, to mark you, to shelter and protect you, here within His House.

Holy Baptism is the door of this House, by which you have entered, and wherein you have been signed by the Cross with the blood of the Lamb: upon the lintel and the door posts, your forehead and your breast, your head and your heart.

He has given these rites and ceremonies to be done for His remembrance — to be administered in His Name and stead by those whom He has called and sent — as signs for you of His great deliverance; and that the Lord your God would see this Blood of the Lamb, marking you and this house where you live, so that He would pass over you in mercy and no plague befall you or destroy you.

This Ceremony and Tradition of Christ, the Lamb, is the first and foremost of days and weeks and months and years, and truly the beginning of eternity for you. It is a memorial for you, for heart and mind, body and soul, which you celebrate as a Feast to the Lord your God forever.

It is also by this Meal of His Body and His Blood that you are all one household and family of God, and fellow members of one Body in Christ. Because you have one Lord, one faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of you all. And you have one Lamb, given for you, upon whom you Feast, and in whom you live. You eat His one Body and drink of His Cup, and so you are bound together in Him — bodied and blooded together — one Holy Communion in Christ Jesus.

To love your neighbor, then, is to love Christ in your neighbor. And you do so, as Christ loves you, because He also lives in you, in both body and soul.

You wash your neighbor’s feet; not only metaphorically, but sometimes for real. You tend his wounds, and you tenderly care for his needs and his feelings. You feed his body, cover his expenses, clothe his nakedness, and forgive his sins. You visit him in his affliction, in the house of bondage, and grieve and mourn with him in the cords of death and the grave. You comfort him with such love, and you give your neighbor life by your own blood, sweat and tears.

But, surely, if you examine yourself rightly, and if you examine this Body of Christ to which you belong; and if you consider even these neighbors here with you, who are your brothers and sisters in Christ, who are nearest and dearest to you, then you know that you have not loved as Christ has commanded you to love.

You have not let His love have its way with you, and so your love for others has failed. There are those whom you have hurt, and those whom you have failed to help. Your thoughts, words and deeds have been soiled with sin, marred by selfishness, lust and greed. In yourself there is nothing but this sin and death, from which you cannot set yourself free.

Yet, the Lord has called you out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage, and has delivered you from sin and death. Not because you were more prosperous or stronger than all others; nor because you were more pious and faithful and sincere; nor because you were more Lutheran, more confessional and orthodox. It is not because you were more plain and simple, nor because you were more formal and elaborate.

But He has called you by the Gospel of forgiveness. He has passed over your sins in mercy, and He remembers them no more. He has spared you from death and the grave, and He has brought you into life. He has done so for His own Name’s sake, for the sake of His own divine and holy love in Christ Jesus, the Lamb who has been slain for you and your salvation.

He has named you with that Name, by calling you out of bondage and bringing you into His House of peace and rest, through the waters of Holy Baptism for the forgiveness of all your sin.

The Father has sacrificed the unblemished Lamb for you at Twilight, and He has marked your door with His Blood. He catechizes you here with His Word, and seats you here at His Table, and He washes your feet with the Absolution of Christ, so that you are clean by His grace.

Here the Father feeds you with the Lamb whom He has chosen from before the foundation of the world; as He fed even Judas and Peter and Thomas, and all the disciples, not because of their faithfulness, but by His own. For He is faithful. The Father loves the disciples of Jesus, whom He has called and chosen; and so does He love you, as Christ Jesus loves you, even to the end.

It is by this love of God for you in Christ, by the Body and Blood of the Lamb, that you live and worship the Lord your God in body and soul; and that you also love, as you are loved, forever.

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

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