A meditation on the Lord’s Supper on the Passover night that Jesus was arrested and betrayed.

I will sacrifice a thank offering to you and call on the name of the Lord. – Psalm 116:17

Tonight is the commemoration of the institution of the Lord’s Supper or what is more commonly called Maundy Thursday. On Palm Sunday we recalled his entry as King into the city and purification of the temple. Throughout the week Jesus had taught the disciples in parables, the parable of the wedding banquet and the ten virgins particularly float around in my head. But tonight we remember particularly Jesus, in an upstairs room, gathered with his closest friends. There he gave them a commandment. They were told that they were to take bread and wine, to receive them in memory of him, to receive them as his body broken and blood poured out for them. In this room was Judas who betrayed him, Peter who denied him, and the others who scattered and fled. Today let us meditate on that great mystery, command and promise he gave to them in the Lord’s Supper.

Our Catechism teaches us that this supper is one of the two Sacraments Christ ordained for his Church. It has an outward and visible sign. By God’s promise it works an inward and spiritual grace in the faithful. The outward sign is the bread and the wine received obediently by the faithful at Christ’s command in remembrance of him. The inward grace is that the faithful spiritually feed on the Body and Blood of Christ to the strengthening and refreshing of their souls unto eternal life. Indeed as Jesus says in John chapter 6 this food feeds us now to prepare us for the resurrection on the last day.

The Catechism also instructs us of our duty when we receive the Lord’s supper to examine ourselves. We are to ask ourselves deeply if we really are repenting from our former sins. We are to ask ourselves if we do truly intend to lead the new life. We are to ask God to produce in us a living faith. We are to lean on the mercy of God inwardly. We are to be thankful that Jesus was willing to die for wretches like us. We are to remember that death. We are to seek reconciliation with all men as preparation for this supper. Are we doing that? Its good to remember that we are called to so examine ourselves.

Our church’s worship orders the Eucharistic prayer as it was handed down to us in this way: We begin with the Sursum Corda, the “Lift up your hearts” invitation, then the praise which the angels ever give before God as revealed in Isaiah 6:3″Hoy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of hosts, heaven and earth are full of your glory. Glory be to you O Lord most high”- that is the Sanctus, and the refrain of the crowds when Jesus arrived as King in Jerusalem-“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, Hosannah in the Highest”. Cranmer understood the Eucharist as a transport by which spiritually we are brought up to heaven there to feast with our King according to his promise. Here our hearts are invited up to heaven, up into the presence of the King.

Here we offer unto that King a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, not a sacrifice that saves but a sacrifice that rejoices in the salvation he has won for us. We offer this praise and thanksgiving in memory of Jesus who made that one oblation of himself once offered, a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. We remember that the praise we offer is an act of faith and obedience. Jesus commanded us to remember his death in this way, and he has enabled us to do so with joyful hearts. We pray that we may partake of Jesus’s Body and Blood.

Then we turn to the anamnesis, to the remembering that Jesus commands. We remember that he took bread, we remember that he broke it actually breaking it as he did, and gave it to his disciples saying “take eat, this is my Body which is given for you”. You will notice that St. Mark, St. Luke, St. Matthew and St. Paul all record to us these words in the same way on the same occasion and it is these that we pray at the Lord’s Supper. We are following the one who invites us in this supper for it is his supper. In the same way he took the cup of wine and when he had given thanks he gave it to them saying “Drink you all, of this, for this is my Blood of the new Covenant which is shed for you and for many for the remission of sins. Do this in remembrance of me.”

Jeremiah had promised a New Covenant was coming, a covenant not written on stone tablets but on the hearts of God’s people. Here this King, this God, is pouring out himself into his people and inviting them by his Blood to enter into a new promise with new hearts. All lent we have prayed that God will make and create in us new hearts. We have asked for hearts that really will lament and hate sin. We asked for hearts that will truly turn to God and receive forgiveness. This is the new promise breaking forth in the Upper Room, breaking forth in our observance of Communion, we are being fed that we may become a new creation in Christ’s Resurrection. We are feasting that we may be made new. To this end do we examine ourselves and repent. To this end we ask that we may die to ourselves that we may no longer live, but he who pours himself out for us may live in us.

After remembering that Last Supper we continue remembering, obeying the command, we call to mind again Jesus’s precious death, his mighty resurrection, his glorious ascension, and we look forward to his coming again. We obey, and we offer praise and thanksgiving to the God who makes it possible for his people to obey, praying that we may receive the benefits that Jesus’s body and blood make possible for sinners like us.

At last we call upon the Holy Spirit that he might make us partakers of holy Communion, that we may receive the grace promised in it, and that we may be sent out from this lifting up space of worship with heaven’s benediction.

That is what we do, each time we celebrate the Supper of this King. May we be not only invited but chosen, unfit as we are, to dine with him here in earth and eternally with him. May we be nourished with heavenly food. May we be made a new creation with new hearts that can truly give thanks to a God who truly deserves our praise. Amen.

I will sacrifice a thank offering to you and call on the name of the Lord. – Psalm 116:17