Sermon from Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Rocklin, California, published via the power of IFTTT.
Maundy Thursday, Series C, (March 24, 2016)
TITLE: “The Great Three Days”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for today is the Gospel just read from St. John chapter thirteen, as well as these words from Hebrews 10:
“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:19–22 ESV)
You enter into this holy place at the beginning of the Great Three Days, the days of our Lord’s Passion and Death, His rest in the Tomb, and His resurrection from the dead. But you are not mere spectators seeing a show, or disinterested TV watchers gazing at a glowing rectangle. You are here not as an observer, but as a participant, just like the children of Israel were participants in the Exodus so many years ago.
How can this be so, you may ask? This is so because you are the body of Christ, the Church. You enter into this place as a holy one, washed clean by the blood of the Lamb of God. The curtain of His flesh has been opened for you, and you now eat of His own Body and Drink of His own Blood. God has written His Torah, His own Word and Will, onto your very heart. Now the curtain is drawn back. Now you get a glimpse into the very heart and soul of the Son of God, who served us and loved us to the very end.
Now there is no benediction at the end of the service tonight. There is no final hymn, save the Psalm our Lord prayed upon the cross, with the words echoing again and again, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me. There is no benediction because starting with this night, it is all one holy liturgy, with His prayers, His Passion, His death, His rest in the Tomb, and His triumphant return from the grave all portrayed as one, beautiful tapestry of God’s great love for you. So it is that we may come and go, we may dip in and out of these great three days, but make no mistake, you are here.
This night we sing the unknown song of God’s love for you and me, and indeed for the whole world. For God’s love isn’t a secret to be hidden, it is a mystery into which we all now enter. God reveals Himself to you as a servant, a criminal, as the greatest sinner the world has ever known. Jesus takes on your life and in doing so will suffer all of the shame and horror which we all so rightly deserve. But He does this purely out of love for you, who are His Body.
Be at peace as you come to the Altar this night. Be at peace for Christ suffered for you, and you now receive the benefits of His great love for you. You do not deserve it, yet you are here. His living and eternal body is given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. Draw near with a true heart, sprinkled clean of an evil conscience by the flood of holy waters that have washed all your sins away.
Draw near, because He draws near to you. Trust Him, for He entrusts Himself to His Father. Take, eat, and drink, because He bids you do so in love, so that you would be with Him in His suffer and He will be with you in yours.
You enter into this Holy Place to begin the Great Three Days (The Triduum). Rejoice! For while the song may take a minor key and be sorrowful, joy comes through in the end, and it is a joy that is without end. Come, and begin the Great Three Days.
In Jesus' name. Amen.