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April 5th 2012

This night is different from every other night because it is the night in which our Lord was betrayed and delivered for us. Like Israel was saved by the blood of a lamb, even so we are saved by the blood of the lamb. He is the one who is delivered to the hands of sinners in order to deliver us from sin and death. Read or listen to find out more...

Maundy Thursday B - "Delivered" - Psalm 116 -April 5, 2012

We are quickly approaching the end of this Lenten season. Tomorrow we will journey with our Lord on His path to the cross, and solemnly, eagerly, await His resurrection on Sunday. Yesterday we came together to take part in a Seder meal, an opportunity to experience what the children of Israel experienced as they celebrated the Passover meal year after year. It is a meal that reminded the Israelites how God had delivered them out of the bondage of Egypt, and into the Promised Land. Tonight is a very special night as well. Tonight we celebrate a different meal. Maundy Thursday is the night when Christ instituted the Lord’s Supper, and tonight we shall explore just how intimately connected all of these events are. When the Passover meal was first instituted, the Israelites had been slaves for over 400 years. The Israelites, originally welcomed into Egypt as brothers of Joseph, had slowly, through the ever-changing course of history, gone from welcome guests to a subdued people. They had grown large and the Pharaoh enslaved them out of fear for their numbers. It was a time of cruelty and pain for them, and in their despair they cried out to God. God, hearing their cries, commanded Moses to go to Pharaoh and demand that he let His people go, threatening Pharaoh with disastrous plagues if he would not comply. And each time Pharaoh refused God made good on His promise, and Pharaoh begged to be saved from the consequences of his choice. Each time, when the danger had passed, Pharaoh would harden his heart, and refuse again to release his slaves. After the Lord brought 9 plagues to the land of Egypt and Pharaoh still refused to let the Israelites leave, God sent the 10th plague, the angel of death, who was to kill every firstborn in Egypt. But God did not want the Israelites to suffer this plague, so He had them sacrifice a lamb without blemish, consume it in one night, and paint their doorposts with its blood. Those who did so were spared the death of their firstborn, and in the morning Pharaoh at last let the Israelites leave. As they began to leave Egypt they came to the Red Sea and Pharaoh, changing his mind, decided to chase after and kill the Israelites. God spread the waters of the Red Sea out so that the Israelites could walk across and closed the water behind them, drowning those who came after to harm them. Soon they began to notice that, despite being promised a plentiful land to live in, they were still walking in a desert with no food or water. They began to complain against God, claiming that the slavery in Egypt was better than life in the desert. God provided for their needs still, giving them food to eat and water to drink. And despite their disobedience and complaints, God delivered them into the Promised Land. The Passover meal was celebrated every year to remind the Israelites that God keeps his promises, and that He has always, and will always, take care of His children. The meal that we celebrate tonight, reminds us, too, of when we were delivered from slavery. We can see our own journey in the journey of the Israelites. Martin Luther explained once that all we need to do to be reminded of our slavery is to touch our own skin and make sure that it is still made of flesh. For as it says in Galatians 5 “the works of the flesh are evident: Sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies and things like these”. The list is certainly not all inclusive, but it is difficult to look at that list and say you have never done anything on it. Our own flesh has a way of ruling over our hearts and our minds. The story of hard hearted Pharaoh reminds us of our own stories in bondage. Daily we allow our sinful desires to reign over us. We so often can forget the life we are supposed to be living, and bow down to our flesh. We harden our hearts against the truth, convincing ourselves that we justified in how we act when we sin. But as we fail to do as God commands, we suffer the consequences of our sin. When we keenly feel those consequences, we are willing to do almost anything to get away from the pain and sorrow. But when life is going well, we have a tendency to harden our hearts again and continue with our sin. This leads us to a problem. No one can serve two masters (Luke 16:13). If you obey the sinful desires of your flesh, then you are disobedient to the Lord. And our disobedience leads, as it always has, to our death. The bad news is: we can’t help being slaves to our flesh, and so we are incapable of avoiding that death that comes along with it. But the good news is : it is not God’s will that we die. He “desires all people to be saved” (1 Timothy 2:4). And so He sent His son Jesus to earth for that very purpose. The meal that we eat tonight is “for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28) And where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation (SC). Death passes over us tonight, because Jesus, the perfect lamb, died in our place. We eat and drink of His blood, in remembrance of Him, and all He has done for us. And more than just remembering what He has done, we participate in it. Through this sacrament we join our Lord, dying to sin, and being resurrected with Him into eternal life. Like the Israelites, death passes over us, because we are covered in the blood of the perfect lamb. And although our sinful nature chases after us, unwilling to let us go, God brings us safely through the waters of holy baptism, where He has drowned our sins and killed our sinful nature. We are no longer slaves to those urges and old masters. We are delivered. Still, we often look around and notice that we are still, right now, in the midst of a desert. God has promised us the salvation that comes only through His Son, yet we still live in this sin darkened world, waiting for the Promised Land of a new heaven and a new earth. But the amazing gift from God is: just as He always has, God is taking care of us as we walk through this dry and weary land (Psalm 63). He knows that we are hungry and thirsty, and so He provides us with life-sustaining bread and wine, body and blood. He knows that we will be tempted to look to our old master with longing, and so He gives us the strength to resist, while He himself drowns those desires for us. And so we rejoice in our salvation tonight, even as we consider the price of that salvation Jesus will pay tomorrow. As we read in our Psalm tonight, God is gracious and merciful. He preserves and saves us. And now we have “lifted up the cup of our salvation”(116), eating and drinking the body and blood of the true Lamb of God. Covered in the righteousness of His blood, death no longer has power over us. The Lord has heard our cries for mercy, and He has paid the price for our freedom. We are delivered. Amen.


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