Lenten Midweek 2013—Williamsburg Circuit, IDE
Pr Nicholas Huelsman, St John's, Victor
Preaching the Sixth Chief Part
Part Five: Beneficial Eating and Drinking!
[Read 1 Corinthians 11]
Parishoner: “I’m coming to communion today, Pastor.”
Pastor: Wonderful. Now tell me. What do you expect to receive with your mouth at the Sacrament?
Parishoner: “What do you mean, Pastor?”
Pastor: What is it that I will put in your mouth to eat and drink?
Parishoner: “Oh, I get it. Bread and wine.”
Pastor: Is that all?
Parishoner: “Of course. It’s just bread and wine.”
Pastor: But don’t you believe that you also receive Christ’s Body and Blood for the forgiveness of your sins?
Parishoner: “Are you kidding me. No way! It’s only bread and wine. There’s no body. And certainly no blood! I’m no cannibal, Pastor! And I don’t go for forgiveness! It’s just a memorial meal where I show I’m obedient to the Lord.”
To put it plainly, if a pastor would let someone like that go to the Sacrament, / this most holy gift would be like glass in his belly.
Tonight's sermon, in this Series on the 6th Chief Part of the Catechism: The Sacrament of Holy Communion, tonight's theme is the Blessing of Beneficial Eating and Drinking. And this is precisely why Christ gave us His Holy Meal, so that we would benefit from it. I know that's kind of obvious, perhaps not even worth mentioning, but the fact of the matter is: there is also an un-beneficial (a harmful) eating and drinking of Christ's Supper. And it is important to know what this also means.
For example, for the man described in that conversation, the Lord’s Body and Blood would not be beneficial for him. Instead, it would harm him. / As another example, the Corinthian congregation (which you heard about in sermon text), they had members who were being harmed by the Sacrament. St Paul documents that some of them were weak, sick, and even dying.
But this really shouldn't have been a surprise to them. After all, what did they expect to when they were profaning the Lord’s most holy Body and Blood like that? Paul says they were “guilty of the Lord’s Body and Blood.” And the reason? (And this is also important for us, for this still stands as a warning to all who would approach the Lord's Table.) The only reason that Christ's Supper was harmful to the Corinthians, was because they didn’t recognize the Sacrament for what it really is: the Lord’s Body and Blood / for the forgiveness of sins. They’d partake of the Sacrament / but believed it was only bread and wine. This is an unworthy eating and drinking. The Lord only meant His holy and blessed Meal / for those who believe His Words.
So, what does the Lord say? “This is my body which is for you. The cup is the new testament in my blood shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”
The person who believes the Lord’s words is truly worthy and well prepared to receive the Sacrament; and to benefit from it. When Jesus says that His Body and Blood are “for you,” He wants you to believe what He says. His words are certain and sure. Jesus doesn’t lie to you. And His promise gives exactly what it says.
The Sacrament is for you and for your benefit. “For in this sacrament (Luther said in the Large Catechism) [Christ] offers us all the treasures he brought from heaven for us. [His Body and Blood are] the soothing medicine that aids you and gives life in both soul and body,” Another theologian explains it like this: “[It is] the medicine of immortality, the antidote that we should not die, but live forever in Jesus Christ.”
“I believe Jesus' words,” you might say, “but I feel so totally unworthy. I try to get better but I get nowhere. Two steps forward. Three steps back. Maybe I should just stay away.”
Nonsense! The Lord’s Supper is precisely for sinners like this! I would provide the same counsel to those who feel unworthy as I did to those who desregard or don't know Jesus' Words. I would say, “stop focusing on yourself. Keep all your attention on Christ’s words that come from Christ’s mouth. You are included in the words “given and shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins.”
Eat and Drink and receive the love of God. For this is how God loved the world, that He sent this same Jesus to die for all of your sins. / God still loves the world by sending His Son, Jesus. It's just that He sends Him hidden under the forms of bread and wine. But the effect is still the same. Jesus comes as Savior. Receiving the Lord's Supper also teaches us this most important truth of the Gospel. After, as St Paul also said, when you eat the bread and drink the Cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes back again. He died, remember, to save you. He hides Himself under bread and wine, to save you still.
And yes, you still need saving. Again, something that might go without saying, (but I'll say it anyways...again). And I'll say it like this: because we go to receive the forgiveness of our sins in the Lord’s Body and Blood, we also learn from this holy Meal to be horrified by our sins and to regard them as very serious. “This is my body...this is my blood, shed for you.” He gives you the very Body and Blood sacrificed on the Cross. Salvation is not cheap. It was very costly. It cost God’s Son His life. It is this very costly and precious Body and Blood that we receive in the Lord's Supper.
But as we eat and drink “in remembrance” of Him; it's no time for self-justifying guilt trips. Again, that would be to focus on yourself. Stop that. And you can learn how to stop thinking so much of yourself / only by shifting attention to Christ alone. The result? We find joy and comfort beyond measure, / for in finding Christ our Savior, we find what we need the most: we find our salvation / again.
Now don't get me wrong, we are saved by Christ alone and through faith alone, not by any of our efforts or “finding”. Christ found you first in Holy Baptism. And in finding you and giving you faith in Him, you now know where to look, for you know what He looks like. So when He holds up a piece of bread and speaks the truth, saying, “this is my body,” / well, then you go to Him, your Savior. For what? For the forgiveness of sins. And where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also / life / and salvation.
To seek out and find that Bread and that Cup, which is truly Jesus' Body and Jesus' Blood / is to seek out and find your salvation, again, and again, and again; until finally He calls you home and declares / your seeking and finding is over; come, see me face to face; hidden no longer. Let sin trouble you no longer.
Come, Lord Jesus. Come quickly.
In the Name of +Jesus.