Maundy Thursday, at least when I do it, is usually about the institution of the Lord’s Supper. This is still that, but this year I picked the alternate text. This text is the foot washing from the Gospel according to John. It is a more challenging text, but worth it from a Law and Gospel meditation. Because both are in this. And I’d bet that we miss it normally.
Maundy Thursday is the night of the institution of the Lord’s Supper. The celebration of the Supper is, if not the central focus, one of only two in Christian Worship. Christian worship has since its beginning been divided into Word and Sacrament. The Word portion typically includes lessons and the sermon, but it can include things like the confessional address here which leads into corporate confession and absolution. The Word is where were hear both the teaching and the proclamation. The Word invites us to the sacrament, where God gives us himself. This particular sermon focuses on two pictures in the text. First, two unnamed characters that are necessary to prepare the meal, and second the table itself and what it tells us about this meal. How we are invited to be free members of the household of God. And the responsibilities of freedom.
Maundy Thursday is the night the Christians remember the institution of the Lord’s Supper. Liturgically we celebrate it, and then the altar is stripped. The service does not really end, no “Now Let Us Depart in Peace”, no benediction, no closing hymn. It continues with Good Friday. If follows to the garden and the trial and the cross and the grave. It finishes on Easter Morning.
The meal is a Passover meal, it is also as it is called a “last supper”. It is a reading of the last testament of Jesus. And what Jesus grants us is himself. He gives us his righteousness. He gives us unity with God. And he does this by giving us his body and blood with the bread and wine. This sermon is a reflection on that great miracle.
The job of a pastor could be described as putting forward very old things, things we all know by heart, in ways that make the heart recognize them again. That is how Paul starts his presentation of the the sacrament of the altar: what I received, I delivered. Part of what he delivers are two suggestions or even injunctions: 1) discern or recognize the body and 2) examine yourself. This sermon attempts to put forward at least three ways of recognizing the body, and then leaning on Luther’s preparation questions and the confessional address we started the service with is presses the examination.
The Confessional Address in the title was something we as a congregation heard at the start of the service. If you have a Lutheran Service Book you can see one very much like it on pg. 290. These things as the sermon will say used to be standard in communion services. They would be prior to the Lord’s prayer and remind all what and why we are doing in the Lord’s Supper. Seeing as the entire point of Maundy Thursday is to receive Christ’s mandate, whether that is taken as “love one another” or “do this in remembrance” it seemed a good liturgy to use and understand.
Maundy Thursday is the night of the institution of the Lord’s Supper. This sermons keys off of two things: 1) the idea of preparation. The disciples asked what they needed to do to prepare the Passover. What is a fitting preparation for the Lord’s Supper? The text helps us answer this. 2) What are the effects of reception? There are two groups who receive the first – the 11 represented by Peter and 1 represented by Judas. Again in this we get a glimpse of our answer.
I’ve left in the recording the Choir singing O Perfect Life of Love, and the congregation singing Aquinas’ Now My Toungue The Mystery Telling (LSB 630) and the first verse one of the classing Lutheran Chorales Soul Adorn Yourself With Gladness (LSB 636)
John’s gospel is what is sometimes called thick. This is my attempt to ponder John’s Last Supper, which is a Last Supper and not one at the same time. The icon at the left is the footwashing. That is what John talks about when the synoptics relate the institution of the Lord’s Supper. This sermon meditates on how John captures the sacramental life: Baptism, Lord’s Supper and Confession in one scene. And then relates how we live that sacramental life.