Thursday April 1, 2021
I Corinthians 11:27-29
Rev. John R. Larson
Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
The next three sermons that I preach, at least by title, will be memorable. That is, you will be able to remember the titles. The three titles are “Ready!”; “Set!”; “Go!” Today it is “Ready!” Tomorrow, on Good Friday, it is “Set!” Easter Sunday? “Go!” That is all you have to know about my sermons!! (No, not really!!)
It is during these months that young couples begin thinking about love and marriage. Wedding season is upon us!! There are times when I will get a call from a young couple wanting to know about having a marriage at our church. I find out a little about what they are asking and I tell them some of our requirements, including pre-marriage counseling. Some of the couples are happy to have the counseling. They think it is a good idea. But some will have nothing to do with such things!! They love each other, are committed to each other and don’t see the need for this. They end our call and might seek another place that doesn’t make such a condition to their wedding.
I don’t understand their thinking. Too many marriages end poorly. The little amount of time that is required to talk about things like communication, how to handle conflict, setting a budget, the use of money and the place of God within a marriage and family, seem to be a good thing to speak about before marriage. I think that the preparation for marriage is well worth the time. Don’t you have to prepare for a test by some study? Don’t you have to prepare for the next project or anticipated goal at work? Getting ready and preparing for something of importance is just wise.
Today I speak about being ready to take Holy Communion. After the Words of Institution in I Corinthians 11, Paul talks about preparation, “Therefore, whoever eats the bread and drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.” (I Corinthians 11:27-29)
Ready?? A number of years ago as we were concluding our Sunday Morning Bible Study on worship the conversation concerning the right preparation for the Lord’s Supper was brought up. Some of the old timer’s could remember days when they had to announce for Holy Communion during the week before it was offered. For many years the Lord’s Supper was not offered every Sunday in every service. It may have been offered only once a month. So if you were going to come to the Table you had to meet with the pastor, or attend a special service of preparation before you came to Communion. No preparation meant no communion.
Now we don’t do that anymore. In the days BC (Before Covid) when we had attendance booklets, I would ask you to check the box next to your name if you will be receiving Holy Communion at the service. So the question was raised at the Bible Class if we actually prepare ourselves to take this meal. A concern was shared that something done so often – every Sunday, every service, may become just a routine that we think little about. If that is what is happening I fear that the harsh words of Jesus spoken to the Pharisees, who followed all the rituals of their religion, but who were empty in substance, is a word that could be spoken to us.
Ready?? We had better get ready for this meal. We are given a stern warning, “Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.” WOW!! Unworthy manner? Who is worthy to come to the Table? I like two quotes from Martin Luther here, “This Sacrament does not depend upon our worthiness. We are not baptized because we are worthy and holy. Nor do we go to Confession because we are pure and without sin. On the contrary, we go because we are poor, miserable people. We go exactly because we are unworthy.” (Large Catechism V 61) Here’s another, “The life of a saint is more a taking from God than a giving.” (AE 14:196)
We are ready when we know that we are not worthy to take such a gift from God. We didn’t earn it, or deserve it. At this meal we speak like the centurion in Luke 7, “Lord…I don’t deserve to have you come under my roof…But just say the word, and my servant will be healed.” (Luke 7: parts of verses 6 and 7)
“Ready” calls for a true heart of repentance. If you are planning your next sin, your next step outside of the ways and will of God then this meal should not be received. You would be living a deadly lie. You would be playing a game with God. You would be hardening your heart against the God who knows the secret of our hearts and who calls for integrity and holiness.
“Ready” means you know what a heavenly feast this meal truly is. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Matthew 5:6) Psalm 116 states, “I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord.” (Psalm 116:13) The beloved Psalm 23 says, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup runneth over.” (Psalm 23:5)
“Ready” means that the gift of forgiveness of sins and life are given in this meal and at this table where in a wonderful way we are receiving the very body and blood of Jesus Christ. In chapter 10 of I Corinthians Paul says, “Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?” (I Corinthians 10:16)
“Ready” means this gift is not just a temporary fix but a constant care and creates a living relationship. Pastor John Wohlrabe about this close relationship with our living God says, “[The believer] thirsts for an ongoing relationship that will guide his whole life. That is the way it is with the true penitent. We need to keep from thinking of God as a fire extinguisher that we turn to only in an emergency and then put back in storage until another crisis arises. Our need for the Lord and His sustenance is not only in times of crisis, but it is also constant…we continually thirst for the Lord.” (Concordia Pulpit Resources, The Penitent Thirsts for the Lord”, Volume 25, Part 2) The ongoing nature of this meal is even found in the truth that this is only a foretaste of the greater feast we will celebrate in heaven with our Savior.
Ready? If you have a broken heart you are ready. If you have a contrite spirit you are ready. If you can see that this meal is a feast of Christ’s body and blood given for your eternal salvation, you are ready. If you know that this gift is not just for emergencies but it is the ongoing feeding of God for His children, for you, you are ready.
Ready? Ready!! Come to the Feast!! Amen!!
(This message, the first of the three part series, “Ready? Set? Go!!” was originally preached at Ascension on April 2, 2015)