Posted by: St. Mark Lutheran Church | November 22, 2012

Sermon on Romans 14:5-8 (Thanksgiving Eve)

Everyday is the Eucharist

Downloadable Version

In the name of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh.

What would you think if I greeted you tonight or tomorrow with the words, “Happy Eucharist!”?  Likely, you’d be confused, because you wouldn’t know what I just said to you.  Some of you might think, “Why is he saying, ‘Happy Lord’s Supper on Thanksgiving?’” because you know that many churches call Holy Communion “the eucharist.” So you might wonder, “Is he making some kind of joke that I don’t get?  Or has all that learning finally gone to his head and loosened a screw?”

But it’s no joke.  No screw’s come loose (that I know of).  The word “eucharist” comes from Greek.  We use it all the time, especially today.  Eucharist means to give thanks or be thankful.  In other words, it might be translated as a noun, “thanksgiving,” as in, “Happy Thanksgiving!”  And it appears in our reading from Romans this evening:  He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord.  He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives THANKS (eucharistai) to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives THANKS (eucharistai)to God (14:6, NIV84).

Well, how did the word for “giving thanks” and “thanksgiving” end up as a title for the Sacrament of Holy Communion?  In every account of the institution of the Lord’s Supper, the Holy Spirit reports that Jesus took the bread and the wine and He gave thanks – eucharist.  Over time, people took that word and applied it to the entire action of the Sacrament:  taking, receiving, eating, and drinking.  A major portion of many communion liturgies, including our own Divine Service II in the Supplement, is a prayer of thanksgiving, a eucharistic prayer, which rehearses the saving acts of God throughout history and culminates in the Words of Institution reminding us of that for which we give thanks:  the body of Christ, given for us, the blood of Christ, shed for us.  Of course when we celebrate the Sacrament we give thanks.  Here is our salvation, our forgiveness, our eternal life in the palm of our hands, the only food that matters:  Christ Himself!  And the only day that matters are those days on which that Christ is proclaimed to you, given to you, held out to you, and through faith received by you to your eternal blessing!  Hence, Paul says, I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself (Romans 14:14, NIV84).  Likewise, no one day is better than another.

To live as if some were is to live for ourselves.  To consider your diet better and holier and than mine, or your day of worship better and holier than mine is living for yourself.  It’s adapting the Pharisee’s prayer as your own:  “Lord, I give thanks to you (eucharist you), that I’m not like other men who eat this food and honor that day.  I do it the right way.  I give thanks to you the right way.”  Again, that’s living for yourself.  That’s toting up the points from your eating and your observing of days as if God cares what you ate and when you went to church.  But, in a salvation sense, God doesn’t.  There is no more ritually and religiously clean or unclean food.  There is no more Sabbath attached to a certain day.  God cares only that you eat the daily bread He’s blessed you with to His glory and that you hear His Word, receive His bread of life, drink His water of life.

And we do that all to Him. He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, because we live and move and have our being in the God who breathed life into us, the God who knit us together in the womb, the God who preserves us day after day, the God who in Christ redeemed us from sin and death, the God who gave us faith, the God who began the good work in us and will bring it to an end.  Our decision making, then, is based not on us, but on the God who freed us, the God to whom we give thanks, the God who gives us food both physical and spiritual and the God who gives us days to live and breathe and work and worship.  Or, as Paul put it:  None of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone.  If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord (Romans 14:7-8, NIV84).  More plainly Paul told the Corinthians that by faith:  You are of Christ (1 Cor. 3:23, NIV84).

Once more, to be clear, this thanksgiving, this eucharisting, isn’t our act of service that causes God to come to us and love us.  He came to us of His own free will, out of His own incredible love and mercy.  While we were still sinners, He sent Christ who died for us.  This thanksgiving, this eucharisting, then gets pulled out of us by the love God poured out upon us in Christ.  Christ gave thanks and then gave and sacrificed His body and blood to us for our forgiveness and life.  He gave thanks that what He did redeemed us from sin, saved us from death, spared us from hell.  Or, as Paul put it immediately after our text:  For this very reason Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living (Romans 14:9, NIV84).   To the Thessalonians Paul put it this way:  He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with Him (1 Thess. 5:10, NIV84).

We don’t just eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die.  We live in view of Christ.  We live in view of God’s mercy to us in Christ.  We live every moment eucharisting God, every moment offering our spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:5, NIV84).  Because we are no longer our own.  We were bought at a price.  That price was the life of the Son of God and Son of Man, Jesus the Christ.  Truly then, we say, “Oh give thanks to the Lord” – Give eucharist to the Lord – “for He is good, and His mercy endures forever!” Amen.

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