Maundy Thursday 2020 Sermon Text

The live stream experienced technical difficulties, and the part of the sermon was lost. The following is the text of the sermon message Pastor John Davis presented in the service.

            It was a relatively quiet evening, yet one that was quite different than evenings past. In the past, neighbors might get together outside and visit and chat. The kids might run around and play with each other by the light of a fire. But this night was different. Families were in their own homes with the doors shut, instructed not to go outside. Inside, a special meal was being had, different than most. But there was also apprehension, worry, wonder, and probably even some fear about what was lurking outside. Death was lurking outside. Death in the form of a destroying plague was ready to reach out and claim lives. Death in a way that had never really been seen before. In fact, it really could not be seen at all. But it was there, waiting to hit any family who did not follow the directives. 

            Sound familiar? Does it sound like your own experiences as you sit, worshiping at home? Such an evening is being played out all across the world and all across our nation tonight. Except, the night I am talking about happened thousands of years ago, in Egypt. And the people with stay at home orders were the Hebrews, the Israelites. And that which was ready to bring death to them was not the virus we are dealing with now, but the plague of the firstborn. Unlike the plague we are up against, they knew exactly who it would be who would be struck down. The firstborn of each household. What were they to do?

            They were to do what the Lord commanded them to do. They were to stay inside their homes, until morning. They were to prepare a meal as God said: lamb, bitter herbs, unleavened bread. And the lamb to be prepared was the lamb they brought into the house with them, that lived with them, that became part of their family. They were to slay the lamb and with hyssop, spread some of its blood on the doorposts of their house—above the door and on each side. This was all certainly something new, something different. But in faith, the children of Israel obeyed. And God, seeing the blood on the posts, passed over their houses. The God who poured out judgment on those who mocked him placed his hand of mercy on those who feared him, who trusted him to save them from that which they could not save themselves.

            And the result was that they were given life. The blood of the lamb, shed for them, gave them life. The lamb that was sacrificed, died so that they would not have to. Its blood marking the wooden posts were a sign to God to spare those who lived underneath its crimson stains.

            Later, there would be another night, long after the first. Once again, a family was gathered together at home, celebrating that first night, celebrating the Passover. It was a different kind of family that was in this particular house on this night. It was a family made up of those who did the will of the Father in heaven. They were brothers and sisters. There was the meal that included the lamb, the bitter herbs, and the unleavened bread. And there was wine. But this night was different from all the nights before then. Death was lurking outside. Death that was awaiting the firstborn of Mary.  Death that was awaiting the firstborn of all creation, awaiting God’s son.  It was unimaginable, but it was real. And death would find Jesus, not because he didn’t follow God’s directives, but because he did, because he was obedient to the Father, obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Before the night would fall again, Jesus would be dead. His blood poured out on the wooden beams of the cross.

When Jesus first began his ministry, John the Baptist called out, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Jesus came into the world to be The Passover Lamb. The lamb that was sacrificed, died so that we would not have to. His blood marking those wooden posts were a sign to God to spare those who in faith, lived underneath its crimson stains-- those who trusted him to save them from that which they could not save themselves. From sin. From Satan. And even from death.

But first a meal. Even simpler than the first. Bread and wine. But not just bread and wine, but also the very body and blood of Jesus. The sinless body of Christ and the blood of the new covenant, given and shed for us for the forgiveness of sins. Like the Passover, a meal instituted by our Lord so that we would remember his sacrifice, remember to turn to him in faith, and remember to proclaim his death until he comes. But also, a meal to bring to us the very grace and mercy of God.

So, here we are tonight. On an evening that is so different than those before it. So different, and yet, so much the same. Our families are in their homes, but as we learned from Jesus, we are part of a much larger family, united as brothers and sisters with Jesus, together no matter where we are. 

We are inside with the doors shut and instructed not to go out because death is lurking outside.  And so, we stay inside, not from fear of a finality of death, but out of love and care for our neighbor. Out of care for the life God has given us to use to honor him and proclaim Jesus.  But fear? We need not fear the plague of Covid19 anymore than the plague of the firstborn. We need not fear death nor the power of Satan to use our sin against us. Because we live under the cross of Jesus, marked with his blood, God has forgiven us, God has saved us, God has given us life.

And life with Jesus includes a meal. A special meal that we celebrate together as a family. The same meal Jesus instituted on this night so long ago to remember his sacrifice, to retell of his love poured out on the cross, and to receive the gifts of forgiveness and life he purchased with his blood. The lamb and the bitter herbs are no longer necessary for Jesus is the lamb of God who endured the bitterness of death and judgment in our place. But we have bread and we have wine. More than that we have the body and blood of Jesus because he has told us we do.

So, what are we to do? Like the Israelites of old, like the followers of Jesus have done for centuries, we do what he tells us to do. We gather together, even though we are apart, for quarantines and distance cannot separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, nor separate us from each other. We worship together, we pray together, and we share a meal together. We proclaim the death of Christ together, and we live the life we’ve been given together. And, when God calls us out of our houses we go—out into the world to extend this family of which God has blessed us and made us a part.