October 23 2011 Sermon
Exodus 12:11 In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. It is the LORD’s Passover. 12 For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD. 13 The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt. 14 “This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast. 15 Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven out of your houses, for if anyone eats what is leavened, from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel. 16 On the first day you shall hold a holy assembly, and on the seventh day a holy assembly. No work shall be done on those days. But what everyone needs to eat, that alone may be prepared by you. 17 And you shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this very day I brought your hosts out of the land of Egypt. Therefore you shall observe this day, throughout your generations, as a statute forever. (Exo 12:11 ESV)) Have you ever forgotten an important date, such as your wife’s birthday? All day long she is anticipating your return from work and here you come; empty handed. She keeps up her hope and waits for an invitation to dinner. All you say is, “Honey, what’s for supper?” Then you spend the rest of the evening trying to figure out why your wife is so glum and morose. Our text talks about remembering. Remembering the Passover. Remembering how God saved his people from slavery in Egypt through the death of the firstborn Egyptians and the crossing of the Red Sea. “This shall be a memorial day for you, and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast.” The Passover is about remembering God’s gift. When Jesus said, “Do this as often as you drink it in my memory,” he was talking about remembering. All through the Bible we hear about God remembering. God remembers his gifts to us. God’s gifts are saving gifts. And God remembers to give them to us. God does not forget your birthday. He does not forget to give you his gift. When Noah was floating atop the flood waters; tossing, turning, pitching from side to side in the ark. Driven by the wind; beaten by the waves. The ark plunging up and down. Noah and the animals shut up inside for 150 days. The Bible says that God remembered Noah, and all the animals in the ark, and God caused a wind to blow and dried up the waters. God remembered Noah and saved him. God remembered Noah and gave him the gift—salvation and life. When Noah was back on dry land, God set a sign in the heavens, amidst the clouds. And God said: “This is the sign of the covenant I make between me and you…I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between man and you.” When God sees the rainbow, he says he remembers the covenant. He remembers the gift. He remembers to save. Yet, when God looks down on the world, what does he see? Does he see beautiful, wonderful people, pleasing to him? No, he sees us…full of corruption. Ugly, twisted, distorted hearts. He sees a people made in his image, but who have smashed that image. He sees a people who has turned away from him, spurned his love. When He sees us, he sees people who are the complete opposite from our Old Testament reading today: people who are partial, deferring to the great and rich. He sees people who do go around gossiping and slandering. He sees us who hate our brother in our heart. People who take vengeance, bear grudges and do not love their neighbor as their selves. He sees people who are offended, but aren’t willing to forgive. We think that we are beautiful people, pleasing to God, that he should like us. If that is what we think, we haven’t got the message. We are not the beautiful people we think we are. We are not pleasing to God. There is no good in us that he should like us or favor us. We don’t deserve any gifts from God. We have broken off relations with God; we have broken our friendship with God. There is no reason he should give us anything. We bicker and fight and think we are in the right whenever anyone says or does anything against us. We don’t admit our fault or guilt. We are only mad that someone has said or done something to hurt our feelings. We feel justified to hurt them back. We feel we are in the right and refuse to forgive them. This is not what Jesus meant when he said to love your neighbor as yourself! When God looks at us he sees all this depravity and ugliness. He sees people who are on the way to hell. But then he remembers his love. As if He sees a rainbow somewhere in the world, one of the estimated 15,000 that occur each day, and He remembers to be merciful to us. He already gave us the gift. He gave his only begotten Son to die for us. He gave up his Son and turned him over to all the evil and wickedness we could muster. Yes, there was blood. There was gore. There was anger and hatred. There were cruel lashes and thorns. There was death. You and I killed the Son of God, and we keep on killing him every day of our lives by our attitudes, by the cruel words we say, our gossip and our broken friendships. There is nothing good in us that God should love or desire us or be a friend to us. But he remembered the gift. He gave us his Son. His Son is the gift. He turned over his Son to die, so that by his death we should be set free from God’s wrath. You have the gift. You are now set free. You have been saved from God’s wrath. And by the death of his Son, you have been reconciled to God. Your friendship with God is restored by Christ. As disgustingly sinful as you are, God has chosen to be your friend and invites you to be his friend, all because of the death of his Son. When God looked at you, all he saw was a filthy and disgusting sinner; but now when God looks at you baptized into Christ, all he sees is his holy and righteous Son, whom he loves dearly. He restored you to friendship with him. He gave you the gift of friendship. The gift of being his child. So when Jesus said, “Take eat, this is my body. Take drink, this is my blood,” he is giving you the gift. He is giving you himself. He is the gift. He gives you His very body and blood. That means he is giving himself to you, bodily, in your mouth. Listen to his words: This do as often as you drink it in my remembrance. Every time you receive Communion you receive the gift. How often? He doesn’t specify. If he said you have to take it every month, or every week, or every day, it would be a law. But it is not a law, it is a gift. He doesn’t demand, he invites. “Come unto me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” He invites you to come to him and leave your burdens and sins at his feet. It is pure gift. Come often. “as often as you come.” Come often, because it is a gift. It is God’s gift to you. His very own Son he gives you. God gives himself to you. “You shall be my people, and I shall be your God.” Your God! He gives himself to you so that he is yours. He is your God. He belongs to you. He hands himself over and allows you to possess him. In the Lord’s Supper he gives himself to you. And he remembers the gift. In “My remembrance,” he says. That means his memory. He remembers you. He remembers to give you the gift. He remembers his covenant with you. He remembers to save you. In this Holy Supper, he remembers what he did for you on the cross. How he paid for your sins and forgave you. In this supper he remembers that he has been reconciled to you. He remembers to lay down his anger and restore you to friendship. He doesn’t just forgive you and then keep you at a distance and not want to be friends again. He comes to be your friend. He restores the relationship with you that he had with Adam. Not only are your sins forgiven, your relationship with God has been restored. In the Sacrament he remembers to work on you, to change your hard and sinful hearts. He remembers to fix up what is broken with you. To fix your broken relationships with others. To fix your cold and hard hearts and remake them in love for one another. As we eat his body and drink his blood, he remembers you, he seals you, and preserves you in eternal life. He remembers his promise to raise you from the dead. “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood, I will give eternal life and will raise him from the dead.” IN Holy Communion he remembers his promise to raise you from the dead and reunite your body and soul. He remembers to give you a perfected and immortal body that will be your permanent home forever in his kingdom. He remembers the gift. He remembers his mercy. He remembers his salvation. Do you remember him? Do this as often as you drink it in memory of me. Do you remember to receive the gift often? Do you remember to receive his gracious love and mercy? Do you remember to love your neighbor as yourself? To forgive those who have hurt you? To restore friendship with those you have been alienated from? Love, mercy, reconciliation, friendship, that is the gift he gives you by the power of the Holy Spirit, and he does not forget the gift. Amen.