Maundy Thursday, 2021

Why—in the Service of the Sacrament—are the bread and wine the Body and Blood of Jesus?

What is it that makes them so?

While you think about that, I’ll say this:

Sacerdotalism is a belief emphasizing the role and powers of priests or pastors as essential mediators between God and man.

This manifests in different ways, usually in the form of an abuse of some kind.

If the pastor charges you for the privilege of the sacraments—that’s an obvious abuse—but historically, Christians have paid the price in fear that the priest, who stands in the stead of Christ, might condemn them.

That’s obviously wrong, and none of you will ever be duped into thinking that, right?

Good.

In some places, the pastor was treated like a little lord and given the German title Herr, which does mean Mister but is also the word for Lord as in Herr Gott, Lord God.

We’re not that far removed from this, if it’s even gone away. Talk to a nurse who worked at a Roman Catholic hospital. She’ll tell you how the priests were never wrong—how they went wherever and did whatever they wanted to—and you didn’t want to get in the way of God.

Your mileage may vary, but that’s what I’ve heard.

Another example, just to make the point, is to ask this question: If you sin, must you get forgiveness from the pastor?

And a good answer is: “No. Not must.”

Can—certainly. And perhaps we can hypothesize a “should.” But never must, right?

So—what’s the difference? Or—is there a difference?

If there is a difference, is that difference found in the ordination of the man? The laying on of hands?

Something else?

And, of course, if there isn’t a difference, why do we have pastors?

In the history of the Church, the sacerdotalists have insisting not only that there is a difference between the forgiveness from your pastor and the forgiveness from anyone else—but that unless you confess your sins to the pastor and receive absolution from him—you can’t be sure of your own salvation.

You know that’s not true, so you might think that you’ve been able to dodge the sacerdotal tendency to think more of your pastor than you should, but let me ask you again:

Why—in the Service of the Sacrament—are the bread and wine the Body and Blood of Jesus?

What is it that makes them so?

It’s not because the pastor consecrates them.

It’s not because the pastor says the words.

From the Formula of Concord—what Lutheran pastors believe, teach, and confess: “About the consecration, we believe, teach, and confess that no work of man or recitation of the minister produces this presence of Christ’s body and blood in the Holy Supper. Instead, this presence is to be credited only and alone to the almighty power of our Lord Jesus Christ.

“At the same time we also believe, teach, and confess unanimously that in the use of the Holy Supper the words of Christ’s institution should in no way be left out. Instead, they should be publicly recited, as it is written in 1 Corinthians 10:16, ‘The cup of blessing that we bless’ and so forth. This blessing occurs through the reciting of Christ’s words” (Epitome, VII.8-9).

So—why, in the Service of the Sacrament, are the bread and wine the Body and Blood of Jesus?

What is it that makes them so?

And the answer—for the sacerdotalist—is the priest or pastor and the recitation of the Words of Institution.

But for us Bible-believing Christians, “it is credited only and alone to the almighty power of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Now—that’s all well and good, but let me tell you why we’re talking about this.

One good reason is so that pastors don’t think themselves irreplaceable or even necessary to the goings on of the church.

I should not overestimate my own importance.

And—one other good reason to talk about this is—some of you got it wrong.

You attributed to me the power to turn bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus.

I’m flattered.

Thank you very much.

But that power belongs only and alone to the almighty power of our Lord Jesus Christ—as we Lutherans have always believed, taught, and confessed.

The real question at the heart of the matter is why do we have pastors?

And that is—so you would have confidence.

So you would have certainty concerning your own salvation.

You can’t forgive yourself.

Your confidence in your own salvation should never—can never rest in your self.

So—God has placed a man here, your pastor, to pronounce forgiveness in order to fulfill God’s will.

There may be a day—or several—when your own sins weight you down.

In that moment—you need to be sure of God’s will for you and your life.

You need to be sure that you possess faith that leads to salvation.

Faith that God counts as righteousness in His sight.

And—“So that we may obtain this faith, the ministry of teaching the gospel and administering the sacraments was instituted” (cf. AC V).

For your certainty, for your comfort, God has given you a pastor so that you may know the certain will of God—to save sinners, even if you are the foremost.

So, tonight, rejoice—not in the non-existent “indelible character” of your pastor—but in the power of God and the mercy of God—to save.

“For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

“Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world” (1 Corinthians 11:23-32).

In Jesus’ name, Amen!

Maundy Thursday, 2021
John 13:1-15, 34-35
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt

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