The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God, and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
1 Corinthians 10:16-17 & 11:23-29 “16 Is the cup of blessing which we bless not a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is the bread which we break not a sharing in the body of Christ? 17 Since there is one loaf, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one loaf . . . . 23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it, and said, ‘This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ 25 In the same way He took the cup also, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new testament in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’ 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. 27 Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself, if he does not judge the body rightly.”
“For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you,” Paradidomi is the Greek word. It means “handing over.” Our translation uses the word “delivered.” I also delivered to you. The idea is that all St. Paul is handing over the teaching and practice of Holy Communion just as he had received from Jesus Christ.
That the principle duty of the church. We are to paradidomi, to hand over to those who follow us what we ourselves received. That’s what Maundy Thursday is about.
In regard to Holy Communion, this is the day that we consider that which Christ gave to St. Paul and St. Paul handed over to the church. For our part, we are going to consider that which was given to us by virtue of Paradidomi. We are going to do this through the examination of the various names of Holy Communion.
The English word “Maundy” comes from the Latin “mandatum,” which means “commandment.” Namely Jesus’s commanded us to “do this in remembrance.” He commanded us to offer and participate in what would later be called Holy Communion, the Lord̓s Supper, the Sacrament of the Altar, and also known by some as the Eucharist.
From the very beginning of the New Testament church the Sunday worship service was marked by the celebration of the Sacrament of the Altar because the apostles and the first generation of Christians took Jesus’s words and doctrine seriously. When Jesus commanded them saying, “Do this in remembrance” they understood they were come together to worship and repeat the words of Jesus over bread and wine, and participate in the Lord’s Supper to receive remission of their sins.
This sacrament is called by different names and each name emphasizes a different aspect of the sacrament. That is the focus of this evening sermon– the different names and the reason for the different names.
So let us start with the word “sacrament” itself. The English word “sacrament” comes the ecclesiastical Latin word, sacramentum, In Latin sacramentum refers to a transaction, a deposit, as binding oath. One party is given the other party something of value. But in ecclesiastical Latin, sacramentum means “mystery,” a secret, something that is not understood.
The Greek New Testament word is mysterion as Matthew 13:11 “And Jesus answered them, ‘To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.’” The Sacrament of the Altar is such a mystery that has been given to us for our benefit.
Different church bodies define a sacrament differently. For our part, we define a sacrament as a “sacred (holy) act instituted that God, which has physical elements, and through which we receive forgiveness of sins.”
Some Christians maintain that the Sacrament of Jesus is more accurately called “a sacrifice,” as in the Sacrifice of the Mass. These folks believe that Jesus Christ is sacrificed anew each time the Lord’s Supper is celebrated. This Jesus is sacrificed in the sacrament on behalf of the people.
The English word “Mass” comes from the Latin word missa, which means to be “sent.” The word is used during the conclusion of the celebration, when the priest says in Latin, “Ite, missa est,” “Go, it has been sent.”
Thomas Aquinas wrote in his Summa Theologiae, “And from this the Mass derives its name … the deacon on festival days ‘dismisses’ the people at the end of the Mass, by saying: ‘Ite, missa est,’ that is, the victim [Jesus] has been sent to God through the angel, so that it may be accepted by God.”
We don’t speak like this about the Sacrament of the Altar because Roman 6:9-10 says, “knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all time.” Since Jesus died one for all time, there is no need for any additional sacrifices. Christ’s work and crucifixion are perfectly sufficient.
The Lord’s Supper is no sacrifice. It is a sacrament where the Son of God comes to us and presents us with His Body and Blood in, with, and under the elements of bread and wine, which are to be eaten and drank in remembrance of and in faithfulness to Jesus for the remission of our sins.
Other Christians believe that Holy Communion is just a symbol or a memorial meal. They make the case for this argument by quoting Jesus when He said, “Do this in remembrance of Me.” But that doesn’t address the issue of what the sacrament is in itself. It avoids the question. It ignores that Jesus also said, “This is My body,” and “This is My blood.” The first quote tells us that we are to administer and celebrate the sacrament. The other statements point to the nature and purpose of the sacrament. This bread is My Body. This wine is My Blood given and shed for the “for the remission of sins” tells us why we are to “do this in remembrance.”
This sacrament is also sometimes called, “the Sacrament of the Altar,” because it is consecrated on the altar. We partake of it before and around the altar. The altar itself reminds us of Christ’s once and for all time sacrifice for sin on the cross of Good Friday. That’s why most altars also have a cross on it, or above it, or both.
This sacrament is also called “The Lord̓s Supper” because it was given to us to believe and do by the Lord. He is our host. He is present in a mysterious way in, with, and under the elements of bread of wine. Thus the pastor distributes the elements of bread and wine by saying, the body of Christ. The blood of Christ.
It is called “supper,” because the word “sup” originally meant “to eat.” “In the same way He also took the cup when He had supped [eaten], saying, ‘This cup is the new testament in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’”
The sacrament of the Lord’s Supper is the meal that serves as a foretaste of the wedding feast of heaven, which our Lord has given to us to eat (“sup” on) – as we wait till He comes again when all Christians will be of one heart and one mind and eat of one heavenly banquet. (That’s why I like the alternate Thanksgiving response in the liturgy. “As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup you do show the Lord’s death till He come.”
Perhaps the most common name among Lutherans for the sacrament is the name “Holy Communion.” Communion means “fellowship,” or “sharing,” or “participation together,” which is what the Greek word “koinonia” means.
“Koinonia” points to our fellowship, our sharing, and our participation together in the Gospel and in the sacraments. This fellowship is to be based on our common understanding of the teachings of the prophets, apostles, and Christ Jesus.
Holy Communion is a good name for this Sacrament because in this sacrament, we participate in the mystical communion between God and man. In Holy Baptism we are grafted into Christ’s body and in Holy Communion we take Christ into our bodies. In Holy Communion we participate in a fellowship with God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit that is a mystery that transcends reason.
At the same time and in the same act, we are in fellowship/communion with one another, with those who believe what the sacrament is and gives, not only with each other in the here and now, but with the saints who came before us and the saints who will follow us.
Thus Paul’s rhetorical question; 16 “Is the cup of blessing which we bless not a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is the bread which we break not a sharing in the body of Christ? 17 Since there is one loaf, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one loaf.” The word for “partake” here is “koinonia” /communion.
Some Christians call this sacrament “the Eucharist.” Most Lutherans don’t like this name. The word means “to give thanks.” On the one hand Lutherans recognize that the worthy reception of the sacrament is something we are to be thankful for. The body and blood of Jesus gives the remission of sin and as such it is a wonderful gift, the holy of holies in the New Testament.
But Lutherans tend to think that the name Eucharist places the emphasis in the wrong place, namely on our response rather than on the gift itself. Now the scripture says that “in the night in which He was betrayed [Jesus] took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks” . . . , but that is not the thanks that the name Eucharist is referring to.
On the night in which He was betrayed Jesus changed the highest celebration of the children of Israel, the Passover, into something else, something much greater. He chose the Passover for its significance.
As the angel of death passed over all the homes that were marked by the blood of lambs, the angel of death passes over all who were covered in the blood of the true Pascal Lamb. Passover was a foreshadow of what Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world was going to accomplish on the cross.
The Lord’s Supper was given to us as our Passover in that we have received and continue to receive the forgiveness of sins and where there is the forgiveness of sins there is life and salvation.
We eat the “symbol” merely to remember a past act or a future hope. We eat the body and blood Christ because of what it is and what it does. That’s why St. Paul warns the would-be participant. 27 “Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. . . 29 For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself, if he does not judge the body rightly.”
When the children of Israel offered a sacrifice, they were returned a portion of the meat of the sacrifice to eat, which served as evidence that the sacrifice had been completed for them. It was a seal of the blessings of God. We, too, receive that which was sacrificed for us – evidence and a seal of the forgiveness and salvation given in the Lamb of God.
After the Passover supper had been eaten, Jesus took bread, He gave thanks, and broke it. The Passover meal was done. It was time for Jesus to do something new, to give us something to remember, to do, and receive.
There is an interesting Passover custom that arose among the Jews, probably in the period between the Old and New Testament. It is thought that it was an import from the Greek world. It is called the Afikomen. The Afikomen is a piece of matzah bread. Toward the beginning of the Seder meal, three pieces of matzah (which remind Christians of the Trinity) are taken and set aside. The three pieces are laid out next to each other. The second piece, the middle piece is taken and broken. That ought to serve as a reminder that our Lord was broken for us.
The broken piece is then placed in a bag and hidden – just as Christ was buried – while the other portion of the second piece is returned to the three piece grouping of matzah. The hidden piece is the Afikomen (literally, the piece that comes after).
After the meal, the children look for the Afikomen. The finding of the Afikomen reminds us of the resurrection from the dead. When they find it each participant at the Passover Seder receives a little piece. Strangely enough, the Afikomen is eaten at the end of the meal, in memory of the Passover lamb. Just as they chose bread, broke it, and gives it to His disciples to remind us of the Passover Lamb slain for our sins, and to bring to us in sacramental mystery the very flesh of the Lamb.
The next step in the Passover Seder is the third cup of wine – the Cup of Redemption. For the Jew it represents the blood of the Passover lamb which was painted on the doorposts and lintel of the houses of the Children of Israel in Egypt. By the way, this cup of wine and redemption is also called “the Cup of Blessing.” St. Paul was given to write, “Is the cup of blessing which we bless not a sharing in the blood of Christ?”
Jesus took the Cup of Redemption, the symbol for the blood of the Passover lamb, and filled it with His own blood, no longer a symbol only, but a precious reality – the blood of the Lamb slain to atone for our sins.
25 “In the same way He took the cup also, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new testament in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’”
So “I received from the Lord that which I also Paradidomi/delivered to you,” “Take eat this is My Body and take drink this is My Blood given and shed for you for the remission of sin, this do in remembrance of Me.
May the peace that surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.