Sermon Outline On Jeremiah 31:31-34Â (NRSV)
The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt–a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.
Jeremiah spoke of a New Covenant between God and God’s people. With this new covenant the law will be placed in our hearts not in our heads. We will not have to say to one another, “Know the Lord,” for we will know the Lord who forgives our sins and remembers them no more. The meal we share today is a celebration of that new covenant.
Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. Luke 22:19-20 (NRSV)
Notice the four part nature of this first of the last suppers. Jesus TOOK the bread, gave THANKS, BROKE the bread, and GAVE it to his disciples. That same four part nature is the way we celebrate that meal today.
We call it the Last Supper. It really wasn’t the last. The resurrected Christ met with two weary, sad travelers in their home in Emmaus. They broke bread together, and in the breaking of the bread those two followers experienced the risen Lord. In breaking bread with Jesus one encounters the Living Lord. This meal is far more than taking a bite of bread. This meal is about a personal encounter with God Almighty through Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.
This holy meal is also known as the Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion, and the Eucharist. We don’t use that word Eucharist very much. It is a term that has been used throughout the history of Christianity. Eucharist. It means thanksgiving. This is a meal of thanksgiving.
The gospels tell us that Jesus sent Peter and John to sacrifice the lamb and prepare the Passover meal. The origin of our Eucharist meal is the Passover meal. You remember the story. God sent Moses to free the chosen people being held as slaves in Egypt by the Pharaoh. The Pharaoh was reluctant, so God sent a whole series of plagues. Pharaoh remained unmoved. God then planned the final plague. God’s chosen people were told to kill a lamb and spread its blood over their door and remain inside. The angel of death would come through killing the first born of all except… it would pass over the homes marked by the blood of the lamb.
So each year the Israelites would celebrate this “Passover” with a feast. They would celebrate their deliverance not from Pharaoh, but from that final plague which lead to their freedom. It was a meal of thanksgiving. Giving thanks to God for the Passover. Giving thanks to God for their deliverance.
Jesus took a meal of thanks for God’s deliverance of the Israelites and instituted a new meal of thanks for our deliverance from sin and death. A meal in which we give thanks to God for a savior, Jesus Christ. A meal of thanks we call Eucharist, Holy Communion, Lord’s Supper, or Last Supper. A meal in which we offer “heart felt” thanks for our deliverance.
This meal we share today is one in which we give our thanks just as Moses did, just as the Israelites did, just as Jesus did, and just as Christians have done for 2000 years.
Stop. Think for a moment in silence. For what are you thankful to God this day as we gather to share in this meal of thanksgiving. For what are you thankful?
In the Acts of the Apostles, we find this account of life together as early Christians. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved. Acts 2:46-47 (NRSV)
So as we spend time together in worship and breaking bread together in this meal of thanksgiving may it be with “glad and generous hearts, praising God.” This meal is about heart felt thanks. This meal is about a heart felt experience of Almighty God, through Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit.