|Text: Matthew 26:26-30
(Jesus said,) "This is my body. Ö This is my blood, and with it God makes his agreement with you. It will be poured out, so that many people will have their sins forgiven."
Some times we hear stories of the tremendous
sacrifice that people make.
It was Christmas Eve in Korea. An expectant mother walked through the snow to the home of a missionary friend where she knew she could find help. A short way down the road from the mission house was a deep gully spanned by a bridge.
As the young woman stumbled forward, birth pains overcame her. She realized she could go no farther. She crawled under the bridge. There alone she gave birth to a baby boy. She had nothing with her except the clothes she was wearing.
One by one she removed the pieces of her clothing and wrapped them around her tiny son like a cocoon. Then, finding a discarded piece of hessian, she pulled it over herself, and lay exhausted beside her baby. The next morning the missionary was walking across the bridge and heard a faint cry beneath her. She crawled under the bridge to investigate. There she found the tiny baby, warm but hungry, and the young mother frozen to death.
Or what about this story. During the Second World War Dr. Ernest Gordon was a prisoner of war in Thailand. In his book, Through the Valley of the Kwai, he tells how a healthy soldier began giving his food to a sick buddy to help him get well. In time, the sick prisoner recovered, but the friend who had given him food died of malnutrition.
Many other stories are told about how people give of themselves without any concern for their own health and safety. We marvel at this kind of sacrificial giving Ė giving that is generous and unreserved. We wonder how anyone could be so committed and unselfish.
When we think about generous giving we think
of the many ways God has generously given to us. Itís good sometimes to simply
reflect for a while and ask where would we be without the generosity of our God.
Luther summarised God's generosity this way,
God has created me ÖGod gives me everything I need from day to day Ė things like food, clothes, home and family, work, and money. God protects me from danger and keeps me safe when I am in trouble (Small Catechism, Openbook Publishers 1996).
Of course when we think about sacrificial giving, we immediately think of God and how he gave us his Son and how his Son offered his life to save us. The theme of this sermon today is God gives. God gives unselfishly, generously, lovingly, graciously, unreservedly, wholeheartedly, sacrificially, and whatever other word you can think of to describe the way Jesus gave his life to save us without any concern for himself.
He gave his life so that we can have
forgiveness and eternal life.
He gives us freedom from the power of our sin.
He gives us the promise of life forever. John says, "God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son" (1 John 5:11). Paul says, He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Cor 15:57).
He gives us peace knowing that he has done everything to ensure that nothing will be able to separate us from the love God which is ours through Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom 8:39).
He gives us the Holy Spirit,
the giver of faith and trust in Jesus,
the giver of guidance, comfort, help and support in living the Christian life,
the giver of membership in the family of God, the church
the giver of eternal life.
Our God is a giving God. A God who gives even when we donít deserve it. He gives because he loves us. He gives even when we donít ask for anything. To summarise the kind of person God is we could say, God is an unselfish giver.
As Jesus sat around the Passover table with his disciples he again gives. He takes some bread and says, "This is my body given for you" (Luke 21.19). Likewise he takes a cup of wine, passes it to his disciples and says, "This is my blood given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sin".
Iím not sure whether the disciples fully understood what Jesus was saying that night, but they certainly understood when they reflected on the whole crucifixion scene. They came to realise the tremendous gift that they had been given. Jesus gave his body and shed his blood on the cross for them in order to give all people forgiveness and a renewed relationship with God.
God is so generous and gracious toward us
that we become aware of just how much we have lacked in generosity and
graciousness. We are totally unworthy of any of his gifts. We come to this altar
with our whole lives laid bare before God. Nothing can be hidden from him.
We are aware that we have often failed God and the people we have daily contact.
We are conscious that we cannot do anything to stop ourselves from doing wrong.
We are mindful that without Christ we are damned forever.
And so it is with some relief that we come to Holy Communion. We are relieved that nothing depends on us but that God gives us everything we need, especially forgiveness. The body and blood of Jesus that we eat and drink wipes away every trace of sin. We are cleansed and purified. God regards us as holy, without sin. Unlike us who like to drag up the former mistakes of others, God erases the guilt of our sin forever. Our sin can no longer condemn us and we can be confident on the last day when we come to stand before the throne of God.
And thereís more. Just as we sin every day
we need God's continued forgiveness. Just as sin is an ongoing fact in our
earthly lives, so also we rely on God to be super generous and forgive us again
and again. And so we come here again and again to be reminded that Jesus body
and blood cleanse us from all sin. And itís just at this point that our
celebration of the Lordís Supper turns to thankfulness and praise. We have
tasted the goodness of God.
Again he has given us everything we need.
He has given us a gift that is far more generous than we ever realise.
He has given us the body and blood of the Son of God.
He has given us a fresh, clean start. We are forgiven. We have eternal life.
A middle-aged man lived alone on his farm during the depression of the 30s. A welfare officer was sent to visit the impoverished farmers of the region to make small grants to enable them to keep on farming.
Coming to this farmer the welfare officer found him barely making a living on two acres of land, cultivated with primitive methods. "If the government allotted you a sum of money," the welfare officer asked, "what would you do with it?"
The floor of his house was covered with broken bits of lino, the curtains were thread bare, much of the furniture was recycled crates and kerosene tins, Ö but he looked up at him and said, "I think I would give it to the poor."
Forgetting his own needs, unconcerned about what he was giving up, indifferent to his own poverty, the man was more concerned about the needs of others. Thatís the kind of generosity Jesus has shown to us. Totally unconcerned about his own welfare, he gave everything to the point of giving his own life, for our sake.
Once we have experienced this kind of
generosity from God, it follows then that we ought to be generous and full of
grace to those whom we meet in our every day walk. Through the body and blood of
Jesus, we experience what it means to be loved unconditionally. This is not
something that we keep to ourselves but itís meant to be shared. As we go out into the world, into our families, into the affairs of the Church, we ask
God to help us show others the same kind of love that he has shown to us.
We carry Jesus with us as we leave the service.
We are signs of God's presence in the world.
We are sent out to make a difference in our families, in our work places and in the world, bringing the peace and love that we have received from Christ himself.
Even when we find ourselves being selfish and unkind, Jesus still gives us his body and blood for our forgiveness. Thank God for the generosity of his Son. God is good; he has given us everything
© Pastor Vince Gerhardy
28th July, 2002