O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
A Meal for the Wounded
A Meal for the Wounded
Based on Exodus 24:3-11
Preached on March 28, 2013
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Fellow baptized saints, did they realize, did they have the first clue, what they were agreeing to? "All that the Lord has spoken we will do." We do not need to think about all the Lord had commanded to realize the hopelessness of their response. We can think merely of the two chief commandments, as our Lord gives them from the Law: love the Lord your God with your all, and love your neighbor as yourself. "We will do, and we will be obedient." Really? With your all? And from the depths of your being? Have you ever tried it? To love God with your all, I mean. Your heart undivided by competing loyalties, but given to God and to Him alone. Your only desire to enjoy His presence and to do His bidding. Your only fear that you will cause Him some displeasure. You go give it a whirl, and let me know how it goes! And then there is your neighbor, the one made in God's own image. Love this one as yourself. Or, again, as our Lord paraphrased, do to others as you want others to do to you. Have you given it a yeoman's try? You most certainly should!
But I am afraid you and I would end up about as successful as the people of Israel who put up the big promise, then promptly fell flat on their faces. Their journey through the wilderness to the Promised Land was hardly characterized by love of God above all and love of neighbor as self. Instead, there was grumbling against God and the way He led them; distrust that He would provide them with water, with food; neighbor squabbling with neighbor and wearing Moses out as he sat on the judgment bench from dawn to dusk to try to settle their petty squabbles. "All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient." Not so much.
So despite their words, despite their foolish trust in themselves and in what they could muster, the covenant was sealed with blood. Part of the blood went on the altar; part, on the people. And with the blood went forgiveness. For there is no remission of sins without the shedding of blood. And it was as the blood sprinkled the people that Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy elders of Israel climbed the mountain to see the wonder of God's glory. They saw Him, and the beauty wounded their hearts. There He was upon His throne, and at His feet a pavement as of sapphire, blue and crystal clear as the sky above. And in God's presence, as the blood-covered ones, they were able to sit down and to eat, and they did not die, but lived-though they knew they had no right to see such holiness and continue breathing. They lived despite the fact that they did not keep their end of the covenant. They lived despite the fact that love for God did not characterize their all. They lived despite the fact that they did not love their neighbor as themselves. They lived because they were under the blood, and under that blood the presence of God came to them as an experience of life, not death.
Today is Maundy Thursday. We are well aware that we have failed to keep this covenant of the Lord. The Ten Commandments, which spell out the shape of love in our lives, accuse us without end: No, we do not love the Lord with anything close to our all. No, we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. Like Israel of old, we have not kept the words of the Lord to do them, no matter how many times we have promised to do better, to change. Yet Jesus still comes to us this night and readies a gift for His people that has been on the heart of God from before time began and that will go on sustaining His own until the day of His glorious appearing. He would provide a meal for His wounded people, His broken people who do not live up to the covenant of love. He would feed them with His own body and blood so that they might live, so that they might be forgiven, healed, and restored.
And do you realize why there is life in that body and blood? Because it is the body and blood of the One in whom there was nothing but love-love for His Father with all His heart, mind, soul, strength, with His all. And just as surely, there was love for the neighbor, for you and me and for every member of our fallen race. Jesus loved us as Himself,
indeed more than Himself. For us He will allow that body to be nailed to the tree and that blood to stain the earth, wiping out the curse of the Law that is against us. You see, the Law can never condemn Him, for His whole being-His every word and thought and action-was always and only love. And He calls us to live under that blood. To live under that blood is to taste something better than the food Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the other seventy elders of
Israel ever knew. We not only eat and drink in the presence of the All-Holy One, but also through our faithful eating and drinking, He-the God of Israel, who appeared in glory to the ancients, who is now made flesh-comes to us, to enter us with His forgiveness, and to plant within a wounded people a life that death cannot overcome. We live because of what He gives us to eat and to drink: the body and the blood of Him who is Love-Love incarnate, Love crucified, Love risen and triumphant and coming in glory.
"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you" (John 13:34). The strength of your love for one another and for Jesus will now always pour into you from this gift of His love for you. His gift in this Supper guarantees that what you now enjoy in a hidden and mystical way will be your eternal joy in the life to come. His gift gives you the courage and strength to sing and pray, even as death comes to you, as the words of Simeon in the Nunc Dimittis cry out:
Lord, now you let Your servant go in peace, Your Word has been fulfilled, My own eyes have seen the salvation, Which You have prepared in the sight of every people, A light to reveal you to the nations, And the glory of Your people Israel.
Enfolded in His cross, marked with the blood of the covenant, fed with the body of Him who is immortal Love, you will be prepared for your passion, suffering, and death whenever it comes. You will be held by a love that is stronger than death and a forgiveness that is greater than all your sin. To Him alone be glory forever-our Lord Jesus, who gives us wounded His love in this meal. In His Holy Name, Amen. Rev. Cameron Schnarr