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  • Writer's pictureRev. Gerald (Jerry) Reiter, Emeritus

Pass It On

Maundy Thursday

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night 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, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

I Corinthians 11:23-26

We all receive gifts from time to time, for Christmas, birthday, Easter – whatever. But some of us are better at receiving gifts than others. That’s because we have to learn to accept gifts properly. The first thing you were taught was to say, “Thank you.” Right? But there’s more to receiving a gift than that.

A number of things can be done with a gift. When a person receives a gift, it can be ignored. It’s possible to put the present on a shelf or in a drawer and forget all about it. A gift can be taken for granted – not appreciated. I got my second lesson in gift-receiving one year when my parents and my brother and I spent Christmas in Minneapolis with my grandparents. My parents had a number of friends in Minneapolis and we went to visit each of them. And since my brother and I were kids they all had a present for us. Which was great! Except that for some reason they all thought of the same thing! And when I unwrapped my third flashlight, while the Andersons watched to see my joy at receiving it, I exclaimed, “Oh no, not another flashlight!” After we left, my dad explained to me how to receive a gift – and how never to do that again!

A gift can be rejected by exchanging it for something else. My wife was good at that in our early married years. I think it was the Scot in her. More likely, it was because we couldn’t afford many gifts. I gave her a skirt, and she exchanged it for material to make 3 skirts! I gave her a pair of boots when ladies boots first came out, and she took them back because they were just a fad. (They’re still in fashion over 50 years later!) So I thought of a gift that would be impossible to exchange: a gift certificate from Hecht’s Department Store. She used it to buy a birthday present for her sister-in-law! She’s learned how to receive gifts – but I think it’s easier for some than it is for others.

A gift can be rejected by turning it into a “pass-along” gift. You know what that is. You’ve opened a gift and said, “Ooo… I’ll pass this along to someone else.”

But the gift that’s really accepted and appreciated is the gift that is used! And a particularly valuable gift can also be shared with others. Certainly the person that gives a gift does it with the hope that it will be accepted as a valuable gift – one that will be used, and maybe even shared.

The Apostle Paul understood the Lord’s Supper as a wonderful, valuable gift. He spoke of the sacrament as a gift to be used and a gift to be shared with others. Paul wrote, “I received from the Lord what I also passed on, to you.” As we join together today to celebrate the gift of the Lord’s Supper, we should see it as a gift of great value. The Lord’s Supper is a gift that we use, and share with each other.

“Do this,” Jesus said, “in remembrance of me.” And we remember that Jesus gave the gift “on the night when He was betrayed,” the same night on which all His disciples forsook Him and ran away! And we can remember the times, too, when we betrayed Him, the times that we’ve forsaken His Word, the times that we’ve run away from His will. We remember reasons and excuses too, of course. We have explanations that sound good – or at least we try to make them sound good – but we also know that the real problem behind our betrayals and our denials is sin.

People don’t talk much about sin anymore. People call it self-expression, or doing your own thing, or finding yourself. But it’s still sin! It still separates us from God, and separates us from each other. The Word of God is very clear on this point: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us… If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His Word is not in us.” Like Isaiah, we need to confess that “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way.” (Is. 53:6a)

We remember that there’s nothing so wonderful about us that should cause our Lord to give us any good gift. Yet the Lord gave. And the Lord gives. He comes to us with His love and grace. The gift He gave was sacrificial. The gift He gives is sacramental. The action is from God to us. God gives the gift; we receive it.

“Do this,” Jesus said, “in remembrance of me.” And we remember why He gave. Jesus gave Himself as the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. In some amazing way, beyond our understanding, all the sins of the world were put on Him. We say He was innocent – and He was. But in another sense He was guilty – guilty of every sin you and I have ever committed – and will commit. The “big” ones. The “little” ones. The things we did, and the things we didn’t do. All of them! And He carried those sins in His own body to the cross. He gave His body and He shed His blood to bring us the covenant from God that gives us forgiveness. And in His love He gives us that same body and blood, under bread and wine, as the sign and seal of our forgiveness.

We remember that He gave because He wanted to give. When Jesus stood before Pilate and refused to talk, Pilate got mad and said, “You won’t speak to me? Don’t you know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?” And Jesus replied, “You’d have no power over me unless it had been given to you from above.”

And before that, when they came to arrest Him and Peter started swinging his sword around, Jesus told him, “Put you sword away… Do you think I can’t ask my father and He’ll at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? 72000 angels, with swords drawn, just waiting for Jesus to say the word, saying, “Go ahead, make our day!” :)

Jesus gave Himself in obedient love to the Father. He willingly gave His life for the sheep that had gone astray.

Now, as we receive His gift, as we remember why He gave, we have the wonderful potential of passing it on to each other. We are able to declare that as we have received the gift, we will pass it on! We’ll reach out to each other with the forgiveness of sins. The gift of forgiveness is not to be put on the shelf and ignored. It’s to be shared with others. All of the things that have bothered us – all of the sins that have touched us – were also included in the sins that Jesus carried to the cross.

“She ignored me.” “He lied to me.” “They were unfair to me.” No matter what the sin, no matter what the hurt, we can – and in Jesus we will – remember the forgiveness of sins for ourselves, and for each other. We, the forgiven, will forgive – we will pass it on.

“Do this,” Jesus said, “in remembrance of me.” “Do this,” He said. The doing, the participation in the Lord’s Supper, is not optional for us. The invitation to receive God’s gift is not something to take lightly.

In the sacrament we declare and confess the real presence of Jesus. If we stay away, we’re saying that we don’t want Him! If we stay away, we declare and confess His real absence in our lives.

In the Creed we confess our faith in the communion of saints. We belong together. We need each other. We are called on to pass on our encouragement that others join us in the participation – in the use of the gift. And as we see the value of strengthening and encouraging each other, we are given the opportunity to pass on the hope that we have in Jesus Christ. We know that Jesus died for our sins, because of our sins. We’re at the close of another season of Lent, in which we’ve once more studied and remembered all of His suffering and death for our sin, and for the sin of the world. We know that we’re looking forward to the celebration of His victory, His resurrection. As we proclaim His death, we also declare His resurrection.

We pass on our hope by proclaiming the death of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins, and we also pass on our hope of new life in Christ by declaring His resurrection and victory. We may not stand on street corners and pass out tracts. We may not be able to speak like angels or preach like Paul. But we do share the hope; we can pass it on!

We have come to remember. We remember that on the night before Jesus gave Himself unto death for sin, He also gave us the promise of His presence – of His body and blood – with the bread and wine. We have come to proclaim His death and to declare the promise of His coming. We are here to receive His gift of love. We are able to pass it on. We can say to each other, “Go in peace; the Lord is with you.”


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