Immanuel Lutheran Church—Bremen, KS || VIDEO
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. Do this in remembrance of me.” 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.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
Today’s supposed to be white. That’s what we’d normally have on the altar, pulpit, and lectern. That would be a normal Holy Thursday. But today, we keep our Lenten purple. Our sorrow is great today. In fact, today just lays bare for us the sorrow of not being able to gather.
It’s not that this church is empty. That’s hard enough. It’s not that we couldn’t have our lenten fellowship on Wednesday. It’s not that we can’t have our Easter Egg Hunt on Holy Saturday. Today’s normally white because of what Jesus gave on the night when He was betrayed: the Supper of His body and blood for the forgiveness of sins.
Our lenten repentance is on full display today because altars are empty, chalices are empty, patens are empty. Pastors aren’t donning their chasubles, either. The sadness of this Holy Thursday is that there’s no Lord’s Supper. We’re unable to gather, as He bids us, around His body and His blood, to deliver that body and blood to us for the forgiveness of our sins.
He says, “Do this. Take and eat. Take and drink.” Out of love for our neighbor we refrain from gathering. Not because there would be anything harmful in the cup! It’s His Supper. “He prepares a table before you in the presence of your enemies.” In the presence of the devil, the world, your sin, and even a virus. No, singing together hymns and praises to Christ about this great gift are the danger.
So, we fall silent. Empty churches. Empty organ benches. Empty pews. But greater still: Empty altars. Empty cups. Empty plates. The very reason for gathering. Now we’re experiencing the Lord’s discipline, and learning how receiving is actually much more important, even more meaningful, than not receiving!
But the Lord’s promises aren’t empty. The promises of His body and His blood still stand firm. They are still for you. He shed His blood. He gave His life. He hung life-less on the cross. His body was buried in a tomb. He was raised on the third day. Those things happened. Paul tells us later in 1 Corinthians 15: “I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared [to many.]”
Christ’s body on the cross is the visible sign that He died for you. His empty tomb is the sign that He rose for you. His baptism delivered His death and resurrection to you. Dust off your baptismal certificate and rejoice! You are baptized. His Word goes out—can’t be stopped! You’re hearing it now. You read it. His forgiveness goes out, too. You speak it daily and much to those around you. It is delivered daily and much back at you by those around you. You’ve been washed in His blood, had His death put into your ears and mind through preaching and forgiveness.
So we pray to the Lord. We pray for this pandemic to be taken away, not only that we can gather again, but that we are able to receive our Lord’s body and blood for the forgiveness of our sins. The Sacrament can so quickly be taken from us. But in the mean time the promises of Christ’s blood are still for you. You can’t take away His death and His empty tomb. You can’t take away your baptism. You can’t take away His Word, His forgiveness, His Gospel.
One day soon, the Lord who gave us the Gift of His Supper will also gift us the opportunity to receive His body and blood that our hearts, consciences, and lives would be forgiven by His blood, that we would receive strength from Him to meet the challenges of life, that our faith toward Him and His father would be strengthened, and that our love for others would be increased.
All the blessings of the Sacrament will flow again to us. He will open our mouths to fill them with His body and blood, that our mouths would also open to praise Him, not just in this place, but in eternal life where we will stand before Him face to face, risen from the dead, where the final promise of His Supper is given to us: “Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will resurrect Him on the Last Day.”
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!