Posts Tagged ‘Communion’

Jump In and Eat Up 8-19-18

In this sermon, based on John 6:51-58, I explore the portion of the Bread of Life discourse where Jesus tells us that his flesh is true food and his blood is true drink…and that in him is life and wisdom.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/jump-in-and-eat-up-8-19-18

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:

Grace and peace to in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit…Amen.

After the past couple weeks away, its great to be back here again, and to work back into the normal swing of things…which actually takes a bit of work for me, as the week of family camp that my crew and I share every year is anything but ordinary…something that becomes apparent from pretty much the first moment you set foot on site…and then blatantly obvious once the program itself starts…as staff members come up with wacky and crazy ways to illustrate general rules as well as some of the various safety measures that are taken while at the camp.

Now there are quite a few, but one of these rules is you only drink water out of one of the water fountains or out of the bathroom faucets. The reason for this rule is keep people from drinking water out of the creek. There is a parasite in the creek water that will cause some pretty major digestive complications, and the people that run the camp want to make sure that everyone avoids that.

Now admittedly, after a dozen years of going to camp, I tend to think all of these different rules as somewhat second nature…but then I heard a quote this week, and in light of the camp rule, it struck me as funny. In wine there is wisdom, in beer there is freedom, in water there is bacteria. 

Now, at first, I just had to laugh, because I took it as a joke especially in light of the whole parasite in the water thing…but then I really got to thinking about what it was saying as a whole, and especially the first part of the quote…in wine there is wisdom. I found myself wondering why that seemed to be so significant and then I made a connection…it sounds just like our scripture lessons for this week.

We hear about wine in our Gospel lesson from John and we hear about Wisdom in the rest of our lessons from Proverbs and Ephesians as well as our Psalm for today. It’s not uncommon for the different readings in the lectionary to have common themes, but I was really surprised at how closely they all seem to fit together this week.

There’s a funny thing about the different passages that get lumped in together each week. Sometimes they don’t seem to fit together at all, and I wonder just what the lectionary committee was thinking as they assigned them…but then sometimes…like this week…they really seem to mesh.

And I didn’t realize quite how well they fit together until I listened to a broadcast from some of my old seminary professors this week. Now typically, they recommend preaching a single lesson…which you’ve probably noticed is my normal style…

But this week during the broadcast one of the professors said “You know that whole single lesson thing…this week…forget about it. Preach on the whole set.” So I’ll give it a try…although I don’t plan on dwelling very heavily on the other readings, I will highlight them just a touch.

We start off in Proverbs, and it could be safe to say that Wisdom is the feature of that entire book. After all, it was written by Solomon, who was best known for his God-given wisdom. However, this reading seems to look at Wisdom as a person…a person that is willing to share their knowledge with others. “You that are simple, turn in here…Lay aside immaturity and live, and walk in the way of insight.” We even catch a glimpse of the gospel lesson here. “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine that I have mixed.” That sounds a lot like what Jesus is telling us today doesn’t it?

Now our psalm that we shared earlier today seems to be imparting Wisdom. I can almost picture a grandfather giving advice to his young grandson…and there is certainly divine wisdom in this advice. “Those who fear the Lord lack nothing…and Those who seek the Lord lack nothing that is good.” The lesson from Ephesians follows this same model. Paul is passing along wisdom for how to live. One verse in particular stands out to me. “So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”
(Pause)

Each one of these readings are strong in their own right. Wisdom is truly something of value. But hearing these readings raises a question. Where does this wisdom come from? Perhaps we can deduce that it must come from the Lord…which then raises another question…HOW ARE WE TO GET IT? (pause) I think we begin to see the answer to this very important question in John’s gospel lesson for today.

As we read this lesson…hearing Jesus speak of eating his flesh and drinking his blood, I’m guessing this leads us to a common idea…communion. Interestingly enough, John’s 6th chapter is the only reference to communion. The words of institution that we are so used to hearing don’t appear in John’s account of the last supper. Many scholars agree that if you want John’s take on the matter, you better tune in right here.

Jesus tells us “I AM…the living bread that came down from heaven.” Here he compares himself to another bread from heaven. Manna given to the Israelites in the wilderness. The divinely given bread which sustained the people during their day to day activities, but as we hear Jesus say… “your ancestors ate, and they died.” But Jesus says “whoever eats of THIS bread will live forever…actually he says it twice…and in that culture…to repeat yourself meant that it was…REALLY important. (pause)

So if Jesus is the living bread…how do we eat it? He tells us that too. “The bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” Eternal life is only possible by eating the flesh of Jesus. What exactly is Jesus telling us here? That we are only saved through communion? That we need to physically hack him up and chow down? Maybe…but…I don’t think so.

Rather, it seems that Jesus is referencing something very important here…the source, of his flesh. Think of the beginning of John’s gospel. “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God.” From here we jump ahead a few verses. “And the Word…became flesh.”

Now the Word as John calls it, is an important and significant thing. Some call it the Will of God…or the Wisdom of God. We see in John 1 that He was in the beginning with God and all things were made through him.

So if the Word became flesh…then the flesh of Jesus is the Will, or the Voice, or the Wisdom of God himself. And Jesus tells us that his flesh is the bread that grants us eternal life…and I think that makes sense…after all, in receiving his flesh, we are receiving the living Word of God….the same word which spoke creation into being.

Now I gotta go into the Greek for just a second…because there’s a distinction. Within his teaching, Jesus makes a sharp contrast between the Israelites eating the manna with our eating of His own flesh. Now, in the example of the Israelites, the Greek word for eat is esthio…which is best translated as to eat or to dine. However, here, when Jesus speaks of eating his flesh, he uses the word trogo…which is better translated to devour. In short…to trogo is to munch or gnaw. It implies an animalistic sense to eating…certainly more raw than to dine.

At one point or another, most of you sitting out there today have seen me eat. If you haven’t you might be surprised. You wouldn’t know it to look at me, but I’m an eater. Anyone who has ever watched me take down a hamburger will attest to it.

But I do have different eating styles, depending on how much I am enjoying the food set in front of me. My wife has come to recognize how well I like a new creation that she’s come up with based on my enthusiasm for eating. If I’m not a fan, I’ll pick at it…taking small bites…taking my time…I’m dining. Esthio.

However, if you put something really good in front of me…fresh hot pizza for instance…I’m leaning over the table…stuffing and swallowing as fast as I can so that I can start in on the next piece…I’m ravenous. A dog gnawing on a bone has nothing on me…I can tell you that much. This my friends…is trogo eating.

And this…is how Jesus describes the way that we should eat of his flesh. He encourages us to dive right in…to be ravenous in the consumption of his flesh. Jesus is telling us to eat as if our life depends on it…and do you know what…It…does.

The next time you take communion, think of that…the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ is Life-Giving. And in His Body…his flesh…is the Wisdom of God…the knowledge that through Christ’s saving power, we have eternal life.  Not by anything we have done…not by any measure that we ourselves possess…but because Jesus Christ freely gives it. Just as He freely offers us forgiveness of our sins, he offers us his flesh…the living Word of God…He has offered himself in EVERY way…so that we may have life eternal….Amen

I Have Come For the Food 8-16-15

In this sermon, based on John 6:51-58, I explore what Jesus is really talking about when he talks about his body and blood being real food and drink. I also discuss how this life changing reality of Christ finds us where we are.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/i-have-come-for-the-food-8-16-15

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:

Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen

So after having been gone on vacation for the past two weeks, I’ve been finding myself in the odd mode of trying to get back into the normal swing of things. Setting alarms, time in the office, household chores…lot of things of that nature.

Additionally, with summer winding down and the school year looming, I’ve been noticing some things here in town that are a little out of the ordinary…like bumping into Jr and Senior High cross country runners when I’m out for my morning jog…or hearing the wonderful sounds of marching band camp drifting down the hill from the high school.

But perhaps the strangest adjustment that I’ve been dealing with the past 7 days since we got home has been the feeling of being hungry. (pause) As per usual, during the second half of our family vacation this year we were at family camp at Rainbow Trail Lutheran Bible Camp in the mountains of Southern Colorado…and among the multitude of wonderful aspects that we experience while we are on the mountain, there are two that really stand out. The first is the overabundance of amazing views. Mountains, valleys, amazingly colorful sunrises, blazing starfilled night skies…the views are endless…and admittedly I can’t do them justice by just talking about them…but one blessing has been the fact that Jay and Linda Ackland visited Rainbow Trail about a week before we got there so they could see their granddaughter who is on the summer staff…and so at least two other people here at Underwood have now seen what we see every year…and we can sit and talk about it together.

Now the second amazing aspect of family camp at Rainbow, is an overabundance of amazing food….and when I say overabundance, I mean it…You don’t have time to get hungry. Breakfast 8am…a huge spread…then there’s snacks at 10:15, typically a mixture of fruit along with cookies or other assorted baked goodness. Next is lunch at noon…afternoon snacks available in the camp store…supper comes up at 6…and the evening is capped off with various goodies that show up during whatever camp activity is happening that day…oh not to mention chips and salsa in the main lodge for the adults once the kiddos are tucked into bed.

You eat all day…and you don’t have to think about it…it just shows up…but then we got home, and I got back into my normal routine where breakfast typically consists of a cup of coffee…and so each and every day this week, as lunch time approaches, my stomach has been rumbling…and admittedly its been a little disconcerting for me.

I was thinking about that very thing late morning on Friday as I was starting to work on this message, and then I remembered a brief snippet from a wonderful movie…A Muppet Christmas Carol…when Gonzo reports “I have come to tell a story.” Immediately followed up by Rizzo the Rat reporting “And I have come for the food.” (pause) And that, my friends, is where my brain finally managed to enter into the gospel story for today.

If you’ve noticed, we’ve been stuck in John chapter 6 for several weeks now. The lectionary takes this time in late summer to fill out the shorter aspect of Mark’s gospel with 5 consecutive weeks in John 6…allowing us the continued opportunity to try and make heads or tails of just what Jesus is accomplishing when he feeds the 5000 with the loaves and fish…and then proceeds to spend the entire rest of a rather lengthy chapter continuing to talk about it…a chapter known in the scholarly circles as the bread of life discourse…essentially, as is common in John’s gospel…Jesus performs a miracle…and then he talks about it at great length…and just as we struggle to wrap our minds around just what is going on…often times we find that the people who witnessed the miracles…those sitting there listening to Jesus explain himself…well they struggle just as much as we do. (pause)
Now as per usual…when Jesus does something miraculous…it tends to attract a crowd and this one is of course, no different…as the great crowds of people continue to follow Jesus around throughout the entirety of John 6…and they continue to hound Jesus wherever he ends up…until at one seemingly exasperated moment He barks at them “You aren’t looking for me because of a miracle…you’re hanging around because you ate your fill…you ate of the abundance that I provided.” Might as well be Rizzo the Rat as Jesus calls them out “You are just here for the food.” (pause)

And now here’s the thing. Food…its wonderful…one of my favorite things in day to day life…but…every time we eat…we end up hungry again don’t we? We need that sustenance…we eat…our bodies go through the amazing process of turning that food into energy to fuel our daily activities…but then it runs out and we need more. Its an amazing and wonderful thing…but its doomed to repeat itself day after day.

And Jesus’ words today point out that fact…You’re ancestors ate bread in the wilderness…and they…died. (pause) Now Jesus isn’t saying that this is a bad thing…only that the things of this world, including the food that we eat and drink…is fleeting…its not lasting. (pause)

But…in the midst of this entire chapter, as well as this small portion that we are sharing today…Jesus reminds us of the amazing notion that God is offering us so much more…if we can simply get out of our way to realize it. (pause)
I am the LIVING bread that has come down from heaven…eat the bread that I give and live forever…Eat my flesh and drink my blood…for they are real food and real drink. (long pause)

Now what’s the first thing that pops to mind here? I’m going to venture a guess that hearing that takes your mind directly to…wait for it…Holy Communion…and that’s understandable…here in the Lutheran tradition we take the sacraments pretty seriously…and one could certainly argue that communion seems to be the more important of the two…as we do it a whole lot more often over the course of our lives.

We do it often enough that I’m guessing many of you sitting out there can probably recite the whole deal from memory…I remember my younger days of sitting in church, typically beside a friend of mine who was the son of the pastor at the time, and we would both recite the vast majority of the Sunday morning liturgy under our breath right along with the pastor…perhaps some of you do the same…including the well-known words “This is my body broken for you…and this is the new covenant in my blood shed for all people…”

In fact, perhaps we hear it so often that we’ve grown immune to the life-altering reality that is present within Holy Communion…a life altering reality that Jesus tells about today when he says that if you eat my flesh and drink my blood you will have life eternal…something that those present today can’t seem to wrap their heads around…something that seems just a little too drastic for them to accept…something that is just too far out of the box. Eat his flesh, drink his blood…BY NO MEANS…for that would be breaking the Jewish dietary laws…and likewise for us today, the notion of cannibalism is just a little too out there…and perhaps we’ve shunted that very notion to the back of our minds when we receive the bread and wine…and sure, those words of institution are wonderful…but by the time we receive our portion, its only bread and wine. (pause)

But that’s not what Jesus tells us today is it? (pause) My flesh is REAL food…and my blood is REAL drink…and in perhaps the most important statement that Jesus makes throughout this entire chapter…the bread that I give for the life of the world is…my…flesh…not body…flesh. (pause)
And when I thought about that specific statement I couldn’t help but remember what is admittedly my favorite passage in the entire Bible…And the word became FLESH…and dwelled among us. (long pause)

The bread that Jesus gives us…this real food…it is the physical embodiment of God…the word of God…the will of God…whatever you want to call it…that aspect of God that was present within the creation of the world has entered into our reality…as one of us…and God has done this for a specific reason…to give us life beyond anything that we can achieve on our own…

Think about that again…the sustainer and author and creator of the entire universe and everything in it…the creator of life as we know it and all that is lifegiving has put on flesh and dwelled among us…and why? So that we might dwell…so that we might ABIDE right along with him. (pause)

Now here’s the kicker…within the other three gospels…we hear communion type language at the last supper…and as such we tend to connect it to the death of Jesus…to the crucifixion…and there’s nothing wrong with that…our communion liturgy support it when we talk about Jesus body being broken and his blood poured out.

But here in John…you’ll notice that this all happens in the midst of Jesus’ life…in the midst of his ministry…we aren’t even half way through yet…and his death isn’t even on the radar screen yet. (pause)

Jesus came into our reality…the LIVING bread…the LIVING Lord…He came to show us that we have a God who is invested in us…right here…right now…and though we tend to talk a lot about the resurrection…and we tend to focus on the life that is to come in some unknown future after God claims us back from the power of death…it is also vital to note that our LIVING Lord desires us to abide in him right here…right now…and as such he promises us that by doing so…by being in relationship…by receiving that which he has offered us this relationship will not end, but will go on into eternity.

That’s what is happening when we receive that bread and that wine…and we hear those words that this IS the body of Christ…and this IS the blood of Christ…and so today, in just a few minutes when you hear those words spoken to you as an individual, remember that it is FOR you. (pause) Isn’t that amazing? Isn’t that life altering? (pause) That we have a God who loves us so much that he will enter into our flawed, weird…strange reality just to be with us?

Imagine how the people there would have taken this…and maybe that’s not so hard…because this same earth shattering reality is true for us today…and even though the crowds were following Jesus around because they got some bread and they wanted some more…maybe, just maybe, their motivation for coming doesn’t really matter…and maybe ours doesn’t either.

Maybe…just coming for the food is enough…because it doesn’t matter why or how we come…what really matters…is how we leave? (pause) And we leave this table…each and every time…assured of the promise that God loves us…and God accepts us…and that God desires that we spend eternity with him…so much that he will do that which we cannot do ourselves….so much that through Christ…he’ll make coming back from death possible…and not only possible…but he’ll make it a reality.

So in the end…I think its safe to say that whatever brought you here today…whatever motivation caused you to get out of bed and mosey through the parking lot to come inside and sit down…whatever it is…I want you to know that it doesn’t matter…good, bad, otherwise…because whatever our intentions they’re never good enough, because sooner or later we’re gonna screw them up anyway…but praise be to God that he can…and does…take our messes, and turns them into miracles…and He does it whether we understand it or not. (pause)
And whether we understand it or not…it doesn’t diminish the truth that this IS his body…and this IS his blood…and it IS…for you. Amen.

Too Good To Be True 4-19-15

This week’s sermon is based on Luke 24:36b-48. This is Luke’s account of Jesus’ appearance to the disciples post-resurrection. I explore what’s going on when he eats with the disciples.

https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/too-good-to-be-true-4-19-15

You can also read along with the text of the sermon here:
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen
Have you ever found yourself in the midst of a situation that was beyond your ability to believe it? One of those moments that is monumentous and wonderful that you can’t quite wrap your head around the notion that this is actually happening…simply because it is so unexpected? (pause)
I found myself thinking about moments like this…and as I thought back through my life…I can remember some pretty big moments…exciting, wonderful, emotional moments…like the day that I asked Emily to marry me…and our wedding day…the first time I held each of my kids…more recently there was the day I finally graduated from Luther Seminary after A LOT of years of work…and then finally the day that my old mentor drapped a red stole around my shoulders at my ordination.
These were all amazing moments…but they were moments that I knew were coming…moments that I worked towards…moments that I planned out…and so as wonderful as they were…these are not the moments that I’m talking about…those moments that happen out of the blue and take us completely off guard.
Now I’ve had some unexpected situations as well…random acts of kindness thrown my direction…or opening letters informing me of scholarships…and a few brushes with celebrities here and there…but in all honesty, I’ve never really had an experience of something so amazingly unexpected that I found myself saying “I can’t believe this is really happening right now.” And that was confirmed for me when a random posting on Facebook this week led me to a video of a young women who had been deaf since early childhood received a cocular implant and heard sounds again for the first time in over 25 years…hearing her husband’s voice for the first time…and she is overcome with emotion at this amazing gift…and you can hear her say through her tears of joy “I can’t believe this is real.” (pause)
And that right there…seems to be the situation that the disciples find themselves in within today’s gospel story. (pause) Now, admittedly, this story may sound kind of familiar…if you were here last week we actually heard John’s account of this same story…when Jesus appears in the upper room to the disciples for the first time post resurrection.
And perhaps that seems a little strange that we would hear the exact same story two weeks in a row…particularly when they are so similar…and yet here in these early weeks of the season of Easter…it likely serves as a good reminder for us…because when we think about it for a moment…and we get honest with ourselves…I think the joyous note of Easter morning tends to pass by pretty quickly…and all too often the notion that the tomb IS empty…and that Christ IS risen, fades into the back of our minds as we go back about our normal day to day life. And so, these repeated reminders that Jesus was really raised from the dead…and he really did appear to different people are important for us to continue experiencing.
And of the 4 Gospels, none of them does as thorough of a job of recounting these experiences than Luke…but it is, admittedly…a long tail. Easter morning…the women go to the tomb…and find it empty…and an angel tells them that Jesus is risen, but no one sees him…and the women go off to tell the disciples…who discount it as an “idle tail.” …idle tail…if you’re wondering…that’s the nice way of letting us know that the disciples though the women were full of crap.
But then we hear of two random disciples walking down the road, returning home, when they encounter the risen Jesus…but don’t realize it…at least not until he opens up the scriptures to them, and then when he breaks bread with them, their eyes are opened and they realize that it is truly Jesus…and they run back to Jerusalem to find the disciples and share that they have seen the Lord…and in the midst of this very conversation…confusing though it must have been…Jesus himself is standing in the midst of them.
And though they first think “IT’S A GHOST!” Jesus assures them that this, is not…the case. (pause) Look at my hands and feet…see the holes there…its me…and I’m really hear…touch me and see that I am flesh and bone. (pause)
And then we hear these tell-tale words…while in their joy, they were disbelieving and still wondering. (pause) Luke doesn’t say it hear, but I’m guessing that at least one of the disciple said those same words “I can’t believe this is real.” (pause)
Could you? (pause) Think about it for a moment…this man that they loved…this man that they followed…that they put all of their stock into, traipsing along after him for three years…watching the miracles…listening to the teaching…but more than anything…simply loving the man…and he died. There can be no doubt of that…Jesus…was…dead. Laid in a tomb where he remained for several days. And if logic tells us anything, both today as well as 2000 odd years ago…when someone’s dead…that’s it…there’s no coming back from that…all hope of resurrection aside…Jesus was dead…but now, it seems like that’s no longer the case…of course the disciples were confused…but happy too…because he was alive again…but just think about how mind-blowing this had to be in that instant when Jesus is suddenly standing among them…talking to them.
But then, God’s never one to do things that we expect is he? (pause) God seems to be one who likes to open a new can of worms every once in awhile…and in the midst of this incredible encounter…Jesus takes action…and opens up some other stuff too. There’s a greek word that I really like…so much in fact that Emily once got a sign made with this word for me…and the word is dianoigo…which means to open completely…and in the 24th chapter of Luke, we hear it a few different times…When those two disciples eyes are finally opened to recognize Jesus…its dianoigo…when Jesus is opening the scriptures to them…to see how they point towards him…its dianoigo…and now when Jesus explains those same scriptures to his disciples…its dianoigo as he opens their minds to understand how those Old Testament scriptures point towards the amazing work that God has been doing and is continuing to do within the world…but the awesome thing about this…is that it cannot begin to make sense to us until we can view it through the lens of the resurrection of Jesus.
It’s one of those things that can only happen in hindsight because prior to the resurrection of Jesus, we had no basis to place the love of God. But when we think about it now, doesn’t it make sense…that yah…of course we have a God that loves humanity so much that he chooses to do something about the great separation…that He would chose to do something about death…that he would chose to overcome it. (pause)
That’s all pretty amazing to stop and think about…but as we’re thinking about it, perhaps we’re also asking the question of just what does that mean for us today…and I think we get a glimpse of that…because in the midst of this encounter between Jesus and the disciples here in Luke’s gospel…Jesus does something a little odd…he asks for something to eat…and then he eats it right there with them. (pause)
I dunno…maybe its because I’m Lutheran…and we sure like food don’t we…we love our potlucks…but isn’t it true that some pretty amazing things always happen over food? And keep in mind this is Jesus…and he’s lived that fact…this is the man constantly criticized for eating with the wrong people…for sitting down and breaking bread with sinners…and tax collectors…and prostitutes…heck even the 12 disciples were considered to be the “wrong people.” (pause) Yet Jesus…God in the flesh, joyfully sat with them over a meal.
And Jesus promises us that when we break bread and pour wine together…he is there too…This IS my body…this IS my blood…this IS me…and so in a few minutes when we gather before the table and share in holy communion we remember that Jesus is here with us too…part of this meal…and perhaps that gives us just a little bit of pause…because if Jesus was criticized for sharing a meal with the wrong people…then what’s that say about us? (pause)
Well, maybe it says the truth…the truth about who we are…unworthy…unable by anything we say or do to earn the favor of God, yet recipients of it anyway…because God himself says that we are worthy and that when we share in the body and blood of Jesus Christ we receive the forgiveness of sins through the new covenant of his blood poured out for all people.
And I once heard it said that we know that it is truly communion…it is truly the Lord’s Supper when the wrong people are gathered around the table…because we are all the wrong people…yet God has claimed us anyway…simply to show us…that he is about love and acceptance…and that through the death of Jesus Christ on that cross he is finished with all that judgment and condemnation…and that in the resurrection of Jesus we are shown the promise that death HAS been overcome.
And this is the take away right here…the resurrection was not simply a feel good story…it was not a single event that happened 2000 years ago…and it not simply a promise to give us hope for the future…while these are all truthful statements, the resurrection is so much more than that…because we live in a reality now…today…where the resurrection from the dead is not just a possibility…it is a reality…and this is not simply hope for an unknown future…but it is a promise that we cling to today…and we not only cling to it…but we share it…because just as Jesus told the disciples, he tells us as well….you are witnesses of these things…and so we share that which we have experienced…that God has claimed us as his own…and that in the bread and the wine we experience the risen Lord…and even though it all seems too good to be true…we cling to it, because we believe that it IS true. Amen.

Don’t Point the Finger 4-2-15 Maundy Thursday

This evening’s Maundy Thursday sermon came from John 13:1-12, 20-35. This is John’s account of the Last Supper including the footwashing and I also included the exchange between Jesus and Judas. Though John’s account is typically not associated with the sacraments, I explore some sacramental themes.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/dont-point-the-finger-4-2-15-maundy-thursday

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen
I am guessing that by now, most of you have figured out that I am NOT…a sports guy. I’m just not, and I’m okay with that. If its not a little white ball with dimples then I just do not pay attention…but I am constantly surrounded by people who are…and it always strikes me as funny when someone attempts a conversation with me in and around sports related situations.
Admittedly I struggle to understand it…its not that I don’t care…its just that I don’t understand it…but I always try my best to engage…and to cover my complete lack of knowledge of just what they are talking about…My son is one of them…and he covers random information on pretty much every sport out there…baseball…football…and right now the big one is of course, college basketball. I’m impressed by his knowledge…I am, I just don’t get it…and another one that will often engage with me is Dick Miller…bringing up the current news of Iowa State athletics…and though I never really pay attention to the games…I can always rest assured that Dick will keep me abreast of what’s going on.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the interaction, and I certainly appreciate the individual’s passion for whatever sport they are talking about…but its just not something I share…and because of that, I often times fail to wrap my head around whatever big news is going on in the sports world…and that was never so evident to me…especially in this part of the country…on a specific date last fall…November 30th, 2014…the date that news went public that the University of Nebraska…had fired…Bo Pelini…the head coach of the Huskers football team.
Apparently, no one else was shocked by this news…but it caught me off guard…because I couldn’t understand why…Pelini had coached the Huskers from 2008-2014…and during that time they had a record of 67 wins and 27 loses…and to me at least…that seems pretty positive…at least 9 wins every year…qualifying for bowl games…each and every year…so what was the problem? (pause)
Admittedly, I tend to ask this question whenever news breaks of some head coach of a college team or a pro team gets the boot…because I just do not understand why one person gets the blame when things don’t go quite right. Granted, I know that there are aspects to being the head coach that are far reaching…but it’s a team…its not one person…and so I ask the question…time after time…of why does this one person get such a bad wrap? (pause)
And that question right there…that is where Bo Pelini and fired head coaches connects into tonight’s gospel lesson. (pause) Here we are…Maundy Thursday…on the verge of the Passion…standing on the precipice of Jesus betrayal and arrest and torture and death…and in our story for tonight, we hear a snippet of the final meal that Jesus would share with those 12 men that he loved so much…those 12 men who were his disciples…those 12 men…who were his mission here on Earth. (pause)
And those 12 men included one that we like to single out don’t we? You know who I’m talking about…Judas Iscariot…Judas the betrayer…the one that would hand Jesus over to the authorities…none of the Gospels make any great secret about this…and understandably so, because they were all written after the fact…and likewise we share the benefit of hindsight…of knowing the full story…and so whenever we hear about Judas, perhaps we grimace just a little bit…and we judge him…we point the finger at him. (pause)
Now just a few days ago…last Sunday morning…our gospel was the Triumphal Entry as Jesus comes riding into the Jerusalem to the cheers of the city…and we heard in Mark’s account that there was zero opposition…and we explored the difficult nature of this reality…that there was no one that we could point out…no one that we could call out…no one that could take the moniker of Bad Guy…therefore taking the pressure off of every other person who would also go on to turn their backs on Jesus…but now…we hear differently don’t we. (pause)
Now we have someone to single out…someone to point the finger at…and even the text makes no qualms about it…because we hear immediately at the beginning of the story…the beginning of John’s account of the Last Supper that the devil had ALREADY…put it in the heart of Judas to betray Jesus…and not only do we know it…but Jesus knew it too…because he knew now that his hour had finally come…and that he was about to depart from the world…and despite that reality…Jesus willingly walked into this time with his disciples…this final time to teach them…to share time with them…to love them…even knowing full well…that Judas was among them…knowing that evil lurked among them. (pause)
And now…the Last Supper…it’s a great story isn’t it? One that’s familiar…though as per usual John’s account gives us some differences when compared to the other three…The overall length of the Last Supper in John is remarkably longer, as Jesus addresses the disciples over the course of chapters 13-17…commonly known as the farewell discourse…and in addition, we also hear the story of Jesus washing the feet of the disciples…taking the role of the servant and humbling himself to show them the lengths that God is willing to go in order to be in relationship with those that he loves. (pause)
But regardless of the various stories…I think for most of us…when we think about the Last Supper…our minds tend to shift over to thoughts that are a little more sacramental in nature…as well they should…because in the context of the Last Supper we hear familiar words, not here in John but in the other accounts…that in the night in which he was betrayed he took bread and broke it and gave it to his disciples. (pause)
You know these words…we hear them in worship on a regular basis…and we will hear them again later on this evening as we prepare ourselves for Holy Communion…the time when God uses simple things like bread and wine along with his promises to come to us and assure us that Jesus will endure his body being broken and his blood poured out for you…for the forgiveness of sins. (pause)
That’s the direction that our minds often go when we think of the Last Supper…and it is understandable that many congregations will highlight Communion within the context of Maundy Thursday…tonight is a night when many young people will experience their first communion around the world…sharing along with the disciples…their first experience with the body and blood of Jesus. (pause)
And perhaps if we consider John’s account, including the washing of the disciples feet, then our minds will slip over to thinking about baptism as well…and rightly so…for that is a time when we believe that God washes us clean from the power of sin and death…just as Jesus washes the dirt away from those that he loved. (pause)
But now here’s the thing…within the story that we shared tonight…taken from John’s account…we have to try pretty hard to find much evidence of the sacraments…but…they…are…there…if we take the time to look for them. (pause)
Within the familiar passage of the footwashing, we hear that Jesus approaches Peter as he makes his way around the table…and after initial resistance, Peter asks that Jesus wash his hands and head…in short he is saying “Jesus…please wash all of me” which would be very similar to the request to be baptized, which in those days was full emersion…yet Jesus tells him…Peter, you are already clean…if I say it is so, then it is so…and just as we are washed in the waters of our own baptisms…we hear the promise from God that we are cleansed from our sinful selves. (pause)
But what about communion…where do we find that? Well, when Jesus begins telling his disciples that his heart is troubled…because there is one among you that will betray me…they ask him who it will be…and he tells them that the one that I give this bread is the one…and he takes a piece of bread…broken from a loaf…and he dips it…and you can pretty much bet that he dipped it in wine…because that’s what they drank in his day…and when he had done this…he handed it to Judas. (pause)
The only hint we have of Communion in John’s account of the Last Supper is Judas…the one who is about to betray Jesus…the one who the devil has already singled out…the one who personifies the presence of evil here during this holy time…Judas is the one to receive the bread and wine…and Judas had his feet washed by Jesus as well. (pause)
And isn’t that telling? Tonight as we look forward to the passion…the anguish in the garden and his arrest that happen yet tonight…the trial and the torture and his death on the cross which happens tomorrow…we are on the verge, yet Jesus shows his love for us tonight by offering the means of God’s grace to the very one who would inevitably betray him. (pause)
And now what does that tell us about God’s grace? (pause) If he is willing to offer it to the one who he flat out knows will reject it and betray him…then we see that when we are offered the grace of God…the promise that we are washed clean from the power of sin and that through his body and blood we receive the forgiveness of sins…we see that surely this promise is true…because the grace of God is that big…he’ll offer it to the one who personifies evil…and likewise he offers it to us…even though we know within our hearts that the darkness that consumed Judas also resides right here. (pause)
On Sunday we had no one to blame…no one to point the finger at…because no one opposed Jesus…but by tomorrow…everyone has turned their back on him…including us…and so tonight…rather than point the finger at the easy target…we realize that we need the grace of God just as much as he does…and praise be to God that He is willing to give it to us…simply because he loves us too much not to. Amen.