HOLY THURSDAY – APRIL 17, 2014
TEXT: JOHN 13:1-15, 34-35; 1 COR. 11:23-32 EX. 12:1-14
FAITH AND LOVE LIKE CHRIST’S LOVE!
IS YOUR MANNER OF COMMUNING WORTHY?
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting


Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  As He came to wash Peter’s feet in the upper room Jesus said to him – “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.  When Peter protested Jesus said, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.”  After Judas went out into this night of betrayal Jesus summed up His washing and teaching in this way: A new commandment I give you, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples.


Dear friends in Christ, He who is clothed with light as with a garment laid aside His outer garments.  He who wraps the heavens in clouds wrapped round Himself a towel.  He who pours water into rivers and oceans and lakes poured water into a basin.  He before whom every knee will bow (Phil. 2:10) knelt down on His knees to wash the feet of His disciples.  The fingers of the one who crafted the universe scrubbed dirt and dust from between men’s toes.  This duty of the lowest slave the Master performed for His disciples.  Adding to His humility is the fact that He also washed the feet of the very man who would soon betray Him.  Why?

HOLY THURSDAY – APRIL 17, 2014
TEXT: JOHN 13:1-15, 34-35; 1 COR. 11:23-32 EX. 12:1-14
FAITH AND LOVE LIKE CHRIST’S LOVE!
IS YOUR MANNER OF COMMUNING WORTHY?
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting


Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  As He came to wash Peter’s feet in the upper room Jesus said to him – “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.  When Peter protested Jesus said, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.”  After Judas went out into this night of betrayal Jesus summed up His washing and teaching in this way: A new commandment I give you, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples.


Dear friends in Christ, He who is clothed with light as with a garment laid aside His outer garments.  He who wraps the heavens in clouds wrapped round Himself a towel.  He who pours water into rivers and oceans and lakes poured water into a basin.  He before whom every knee will bow (Phil. 2:10) knelt down on His knees to wash the feet of His disciples.  The fingers of the one who crafted the universe scrubbed dirt and dust from between men’s toes.  This duty of the lowest slave the Master performed for His disciples.  Adding to His humility is the fact that He also washed the feet of the very man who would soon betray Him.  Why?


The Holy Spirit inspired John to tell us why.  When Jesus knew that His hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.  One translation reads – he now showed the full extent of his love (NIV).  Jesus loved those who followed him and the one who would betray Him.  Jesus also loved those who fled from Him and denied Him in the fullest possible way – to the very end.


Jesus could have placed at the center of this time – an act of betrayal.  He could have passed over devil-infected Judas when washing everyone else’s feat.  But He didn’t.  In holy love – divine love – self sacrificial love – agape love – He loved them to the end.  His is love that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (1 Cor. 13:4-7).  That’s what makes His commandment to love a new commandment.


Already in the Old Testament God’s command to love is clear – you shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Lev. 19:18)  What makes this commandment to love “new” is what is now taking place.  The suffering servant says - Love one another just as I have loved you.  The magnitude of this love is beyond calculation!  The Son of God loved us more than He loved Himself!  With a love not owed to us the Holy One of God humbled Himself in sacrificial, cleansing love!  The removal of His outer garments to wash dirty feet foreshadowed the coming day’s removal of all His garments to wash dirty hearts with His blood.  Indeed, the context of the very meal in which He washes their feet is His gift of the Last Supper – the sum and substance of the Gospel.  “If I do not wash you, you have no share in me.”  This is true because - the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7)  For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:17) 


Dear Christians, His serving, cleansing love did not end with the disciples that evening.  Every time Christ serves us His Supper – He places His intensive, unwavering love in our midst.  When He gives us to eat of His body/bread and to drink of His blood/wine He washes us with His forgiving love.  He who first washed you in Holy Baptism has not ceased His humble, loving service to cleanse you from all your sin!


This truth pertains directly to the words the Holy Spirit caused St. Paul to write to the church at Corinth regarding their reception of the Lord’s Supper.  Whoever, therefore, eats the bread and drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord.  Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 


The Greek word for “worthy” means to bring up the other end of the scale – that is – to balance things out.  To receive the Sacrament “in an unworthy manner” is therefore to receive it in a manner that doesn’t square with the gift given.  St. Paul is not encouraging pietism here!  He is not saying – “look for certainty for worthy communing inside yourself.”  He is not saying – “if you feel you are doing well enough and your moral quality is worthy enough and your repentance is strong enough - then come.”  In context “worthy manner” does not denote a moral quality but rather an attitude determined by the Gospel.


Consider those to whom St. Paul writes in the church at Corinth!    He notes their jealousy and strife.  He confronts the eating of food offered to idols and those arrogantly sinning against the weak in this matter.  He warns against compromise with sexual immorality in that harbor-town culture.  He identifies false claims of wisdom in the proud debaters among them.  Some in Corinth boasted a festive/victorious religion that took offense at St. Paul’s unimpressive appearance and his humble attitude of fear and trembling (2:3).  Yet He promises that they will not be tempted beyond their ability and exhorts them to do all to the glory of God. 


His words about eating “in an unworthy manner” have their own immediate context as well.  When they came together each one went ahead with their own meal.  One goes hungry, another gets drunk – Paul writes (11:21) Do you not have houses to eat and drink in?  Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing?  Paul does not commend them.  He proceeds with the words we have heard.  For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you.  In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood.  Do this as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”  The Greek word for “delivered” implies a formal process of instruction.  It implies knowledge of doctrine and practice (what we call catechesis)!


Everything else that Paul says here follows from Jesus’ Words of Institution – His words of giving – This is my body – This cup is the New Testament in my blood.  That’s why - anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drink judgment on himself.  The KJV wrongly translated not as judgment but as damnation.  The right translation is judgment and the reason for it is failure to discern that Christ’s body and blood are truly present.  Communing in an unworthy manner of not discerning the true nature of this gift profanes both the body and the blood of the Lord.  A person’s lack of faith does not alter the fact that Christ’s true body and true blood are received.  However, lack of faith does prevent a worthy reception and instead calls down God’s judgment.  This is sinning against faith - the faith that Paul has faithfully handed over to them.  It is one of the reasons for careful catechesis and the loving practice of closed communion.  At Corinth this wholesome medicine of immortality had proved physically harmful to some.  Like Ananias and Sapphira received a special case of judgment – so sickness and death resulted for some in Corinth at this time.  While the threat of speedy physical sickness and death is not forecast for all who commune in an unworthy manner - it is clearly stated that all such ones do eat and drink judgment on themselves.


Not only sin against faith – but also sin against love results in communing in an unworthy manner.  Recall Paul’s prior words – One goes hungry, another gets drunk…do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing?  Those who were full of themselves were failing to love horizontally.  Those who were full of themselves were ignoring a central purpose of the Sacrament - to sustain the unity of Christ’s body – the church.  A new commandment I give you that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  Some at Corinth were openly acting contrary to love!


How about you?  Jesus’ new commandment is to love one another just as I have loved you…  How are you doing in giving to others the fullness of sacrificing, serving, forgiving love?


Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.  To examine yourself means nothing else than to consider well the disposition of your heart – the thoughts of your mind – the deeds of your life.  Test and weigh yourself in view of the perfect love Christ commands and do so in view of His immediate presence in His Supper. 


To receive this meal with a proud and stubborn heart willfully planning to keep on sinning is to commune in an unworthy manner.  To receive this meal full of spiritual swagger convinced that you deserve it is to commune in an unworthy manner.  To receive this meal while intentionally withholding forgiveness from others is to commune in an unworthy manner 


But, to sadly recognize how imperfect your love is for your spouse, your pastor, your fellow Christians, your enemies – and for God - is not to receive Holy Communion in an unworthy manner.  To feel all kinds of temptations – to be weary and heavy laden by sin that clings to you – is not to receive the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner.    To confess to be a wretched sinner who does not deserve the pure love Christ gives at His Table is not to receive it in an unworthy manner.  To recognize how dull and ungrateful your heart can be – also to the incomparable treasure of the Eucharist – to desire greater thankfulness joy and love - is not to receive it in an unworthy manner.   Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be satisfied.


You see Christ did not give the disciples this Supper because they were pure enough to be worthy.  He gave this meal to forgive and strengthen those who were sinfully weak.  If I do not wash you, you have no share in me.  That’s why what you have learned by heart is so wondrously true – that person is truly worthy and well prepared who has faith in these words: “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”  In this giving and forgiving meal Christ delivers comfort and rest and refreshment to weak and troubled hearts – not a fearful, demanding ordeal to be dreaded.


When God struck the land of Egypt – only the blood of the Passover Lambs provided rescue from death!  In our Exodus from the tyranny of sin and death – only the blood of Christ rescues us.  Your baptism was into His death (Rom. 6) where His blood is poured out.  In this meal – He is present to serve you with the very blood He shed on Calvary that finished your redemption.  If I do not wash you, you have no share in me.  What He won there, He delivers to you here!


So if you feel your weakness, and are anxious to be rid of it and desire help, you should use the sacrament as a precious antidote against the poison in your system.  Come joyfully to the sacrament and let yourself be refreshed, comforted, and strengthened.  In doing so, however, never stop with only self-examination!


Test and weigh Jesus presence and His gracious invitation.  He is a generous host.  He comes with real forgiveness for real sinners.  If I do not wash you, you have no share in me.  See what Christ so tenderly gives - this bread of blessing – which is communion of the body of Christ.  Here is the true fountain of grace and the inexhaustible supply of mercy.  This most holy medicine heals the wounds of your sin.  This holy banquet changes your soul!  Why?  Because with intensive love – love to the end – love to the fullest extent - the heavenly Bridegroom comes to banquet you!  In so doing He unites Himself with you - His beautiful Bride.  You may therefore rejoice and be refreshed at His Table!


In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
(414) 332-5732 |lmcusc@lmcusc.org

Divine Service: Sundays - 9:00a Mondays - 7:00p Bible Study & Sunday School: Sundays - 10:45a