April 2, 2015
St. John 13:1-15, 34-35
Why do you want to go to the Sacrament of the Altar? Why do you want to receive Communion? In the "Christian Questions and Answers" in the Catechism, there is the simple and helpful answer that we should all make our own: "That I may learn to believe that Christ, out of great love, died for my sin, and also learn from Him to love God and my neighbor." On the night He was betrayed, Jesus gave His church the gift of the Lord's Supper. His own body and blood is given to us to eat and drink so that we know our sins are forgiven. But that's also connected with His "new commandment" which is to love another as He has loved us. How is that? It's demonstrated by the foot washing. He is forgiving His disciples when they step in it. When they step into a steaming pile of sin. And that is how you are to love one another. By forgiving others when they wrong you. You and I, we step in big piles of sin every day. We do it in front of God and we do it in front of each other. That is to say, we sin against God and we sin against others.
Jesus died for your sins. He gave Himself into death on the cross so that your sins would be wiped out by His blood. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. That's why we sing that before we receive His body and blood. Christ's sacrifice, however, would do us no good if we don't receive it somehow. That's preaching and baptism and the Supper. In the Old Testament, the Passover Lamb was killed and eaten. Christ, the True Passover Lamb is killed and eaten. He gives His life on the Hill of the Skull. He gives His body and blood at His altar. We come to Him full of sins and iniquities and transgressions. He gives us His body and blood to forgive them and wipe them out. Are your sins forgiven? Does God love you? The answer is a resounding "Yes," because He has given you His body and blood to eat and to drink.
Yet we also learn from this Sacrament how to love one another. First we learn to love others by wanting them to hear and learn and believe the Truth. This is why we teach the Bible and Catechism to people before they receive the Sacrament. We love them, so it matters to us what they believe. We want them as we want to, believe that this is the true body and blood of Jesus given for the forgiveness of sins. It is NOT a symbol or something else. It is His very body and blood along with the bread and wine. And it's given to us for a particular reason: to forgive our sins. And we want others to share in this Supper knowing and rejoicing in that. If we were to just commune with anyone and say, "Well, I don't know or really care what they believe," that's not loving. That's hateful and harmful! So we teach and learn together so that all who come to this table know that this Supper is about Jesus's forgiveness for us.
But there is this other part of loving our neighbor. As we receive Christ's forgiveness, so we pass on that forgiveness to those around us. Every day we sin against others and they sin against us. The usual mode of dealing with that is retaliation, or silent treatment, or holding a grudge, or acting like the person is dead to us. In the Supper, we receive the forgiveness of sins, learning that God doesn't hold our sins against us. Therefore when we deal with our husbands and wives and parents and children and coworkers and family and friends and all the other people in our lives, we learn to love and forgive them too. To let their sins go. To lay down our life and our pride and forgive them. And yes, that's hard. That's why we don't come up with our own forgiveness. We give them Jesus' forgiveness that He has first given us.
And that's the Christian life: to receive forgiveness by receiving Christ's body and blood. And to pass on that forgiveness to others. And when we blow it, to come back and receive His body and blood and pass on that forgiveness again. Over and over. And thus we see, that our own forgiveness is a gift from Jesus. And forgiving others is also His gift. That is to love on another as He has loved us. For in His loving us, we love others in Him. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.