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Encounter God and Commune – A sermon for Holy Thursday

Encounter God and Commune
Exodus 24:3-11

† I.H.S.†

May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ convince you of the feasts to come, and that you will dwell in peace until those days are here.

74 out of 2.4 Million

It struck me, as I was starting to write this sermon tonight, that while 74 of the leaders of Israel communed with God that night, it was 74 out of 2.4 million people camped there at Mount Sinai.

Those their share in the covenant meal, on behalf of those who were below.

I have to wonder if those gathered in the presence of God, eating and drinking, were aware of those who were not there with them? Did it affect their mood?

What about for the apostles in the upper that night, some 1990 years ago.  Did some think of who they wished were there?

This is getting me to think of all those I wish could be here, when things are normal, and who are not.

Some of those people are far away, in places like New Hampshire, or Sicily, or Michigan.

Others are in heaven, friends, and family who rest in God’s peace.

Some have moved on to other places, other churches.

Some, sadly to say, are struggling with sin, and are losing. Or they don’t know God loves them, and are not ready to listen to that news… quite yet.

There are a lot of people that I wish could be here… and yet, there is just a handful.

Let’s look back to the feast in Exodus, for there, we will find peace, and hope – that is a vision for the future.

But look at the feast – and what didn’t happen.

I want to read one verse again, listen to it well,
1`11  And though these nobles of Israel gazed upon God, he did not destroy them. In fact, they ate a covenant meal, eating and drinking in his presence!

I love this picture!

There they are – in a room blazing with brilliance, the glory of God reflecting off of everything. A light that only God’s holiness could create! Looking at God – gazing at him!  They mouths dropped open, then eyes bugged out wide,
Despite the fact they were sinners, they were welcomed into God’s presence, so welcome they were fed a meal guaranteeing the relationship with God – for that is what a covenant meal is – that is what communion is, a meal to celebrate the relationship. It is given as a guarantee of it.

Eating and drinking in the presence of God.

With no fear of His wrath, with no hint of wrath or even disappointment on the part of God.

This is a little picture of a more substantial feast to come.

As is this covenant feast at this altar tonight.

This isn’t the feast we long for, it just helps our desire for that feast.

Just as that feast in Exodus, pointed to this- yet, even more, pointed to the feast when we all arrive before the throne.

Knowing that we can share in the suffering…

While we cannot share in the feast together this evening, there is another way we can commune, something else that we are sharing in….

When Jesus asks the apostles to wait and pray with Him when he faced suffering.

We need to realize He was doing that for those disciples and for you and me.

It is the tears that Romans describes us sharing in together; as one cries, we all dry, and when we laugh, we share in that as well. This is what He invited the apostles to

We surely share in this, and as we do, as we find a bittersweet communion.  Bitter because what we are going through is hard, it requires us to forgo one of the usual ways God strengthens and nourishes our faith, and reminds us we are His family, that we are one.

And yet to realize how much we miss it, has an oddly similar effect, as we long to share in the feast that will eventually take place.

Desire the Feast – and yes, the feasts to come.

The feast that is yet to come, the feast of the bread and wine, the feast of being welcome home into not only Jesus’ presence but the presence of the Father.

Not just a small percentage, but the entire people of God, Old Testament and New, Jesus and Gentile, the entire one, holy, catholic and apostolic church, united in Jesus Christ.

This is our hope, our expectation, and nothing can separate us from it, for we cannot be separated from our God.  AMEN!

 

Communion of a Different Sort

church at communion 2Devotional Thought of the Day:
36  Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.”37  He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed. 38  He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
Matthew 26:36-38 (NLT2)

Therefore, when I suffer, I do not suffer alone, but Christ and all Christians suffer with me, for Christ says, “He who touches you, touches the apple of my eye” [Zech. 2:8]. Thus others bear my burden, and their strength is my strength. The faith of the church comes to the aid of my fearfulness; the chastity of others endures the temptation of my flesh; the fastings of others are my gain; the prayer of another pleads for me. In brief, such care do the members show one another that the more honorable members cover, serve, and honor the less respected members, as is so beautifully set forth in 1 Corinthians 12 [:22–26]

When I was 8 years old, a family friend who was a priest asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up, and specifically why.

I’ve been doing that now for over twenty years,

Well, sort of.

I told him I wanted to be a priest, and I am a pastor. Most people would say that is close enough, others might argue differently. But I specifically said, even though I didn’t understand why, that what I wanted to do was commune them, to give them Jesus,

And this evening, on the night of the feast where we would normally celebrate the first Lord’s Supper, it cannot be done for most of “my” people.

I know that some of them will cry because they cannot be here. I know it will wipe me out. I know other pastors who are struggling with this, too, as some simply will go without, and others will try to be innovative. I cannot and will not blame or crucify any of them. Simply put, a pastor is put into the life of people to reveal to them Jesus in their life by explaining the word of God and providing for them the sacraments they need.

Yes, I said, need!

People who are dealing with brokenness, sin, health issues, doubts, anxieties, and fears all need to know God is with them, loves them, will sustain them.

And just as our people need them, pastors have ot find a way to care for their people.

Even in these unmet needs, we find another kind of communion, a sharing in the suffering. For when one hurts, we all hurt.  When one weeps, all do. And there will be a day when we all laugh, and dance and sing, and shout amen.

Until that time, when joy runs amuck, we share, we have a communion based in suffering, but a communion where Jesus still gives us Himself, His body broken and His blood shed, for us. This is the hardest communion, it is the sharing in the dark night of the soul, Yet, it is a journey we never take alone. Jesus is with us, even as He endured his dark night alone, He assures us we will never be alone in these times.

As we share in it, may we know the promise of life, the promise of everything being made new…

And may e know He is with us…

AMEN!

( P.S., please pray for all pastors and priests – this weekend may be one the hardest in our ministries, as we try to do…what we really cannot.)

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 161–162.

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