Maundy Thursday – St. Matthew 26:17-30
Every now and then, I get an email or see a post on the internet in which some Christian group is losing their mind because they heard an unsubstantiated rumor somewhere that the government is considering removing the phrase In God we trust from the currency; or that there is a movement to remove the words under God from the Pledge of Allegiance.
I find these concerns to be absolutely hilarious; and I have no idea why well-meaning confessing Christians get so worked up about them; because truthfully: who cares.
Perhaps I should explain.
What do you hear when you hear the words: In God we trust or under God? I hope you hear the God who we confess each and every Lord’s Day in the words of the Apostle’s, Nicene, and Athanasian Creed. I hope that you hear the name of the triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the name into which you were baptized.
But what do others hear?
I can guarantee they are not hearing or saying God in the same manner you are. Others have their own imagination of who or what God is. For others, God may be one person; or God may be a spirit; or God may be an object; or God can be loving or God can be hateful; or God could be nothing at all.
A problem that only affects Jews and Muslims you say? Only Hindus and Buddhists are concerned about such a thing?
What if I told you it was baptized and confirmed Christians? Perhaps people who were at one time members of this congregation? What if I told you that it might also be yourselves?
For the lies of the Devil know no boundaries; the Devil knows that he cannot drag you out of the Christian Church, you are a firm believer. So the Devil takes a different approach. He comes to you and he lies about God. Not that there is no God, but rather that there is a lot more freedom and flexibility from God than you ever knew.
For the original lie in the Garden of Eden, is that the serpent responds to Eve when she says that if they touch of the fruit they will surely die, that she will not surely die, because God would not do that to them.
After all, God created Adam and Eve; God went through all this work and effort to put together a perfect creation with Adam and Eve as the crowning achievement of that creation; God is not going to kill Adam and Eve just for eating one piece of forbidden fruit.
Isn’t God a God of love? And a God of love would never kill the objects of His love.
We still say that we believe in God, we just have altered Him ever so slightly to meet our own needs; to justify our desires.
It should, because in the world today, God, however you define Him: is flexible,and allows for freedom in whatever you want to do.
Don’t like the form of worship? Hymns that have been sung for over a 1000 years to hard and long? Prefer comfortable lounge chairs instead of hard pew benches? Perhaps you would rather worship God alone in your own home, at your own convenience.
Change it. After all, the God that you have designed is not concerned with how you worship Him, or even where you worship Him; as long as you do so in some way that works best for you.
Don’t like something the Bible says about the role of men and women in the Church or the home? Find those passages regarding sexuality a little uncomfortable? Need a little more flexibility when it comes to creation and the end times?
Ignore those passages; after all, God put that stuff in as the norm for an ancient civilization; no one in 2014 could ever be expected to abide by those rules. And God would never condemn anyone because they did not adhere to every single word in the Bible.
And never mind anyone who would ever question the God you have now molded in your image; whether He is decked out in red, white and blue; or if He is one person or more; or if He has a wife; or even if He is a She. The God you have created and defined according to your likeness has also been declared as unquestionable and off limits to all others.
For Satan has convinced you and everyone else, that God is whatever you want Him to be. He can keep the names and all the titles; He is just limited by whatever updates you have applied to Him and by whatever you want Him to be or not to be.
The problems with this are endless, as you might expect. But here is the prime problem: you have changed one thing about God so that He meets your needs; well the God that meets your needs is not going to meet your children’s needs, so they change something else; and their God does not meet the neighbor’s needs, so they make a few more changes.
With each change comes a God that resembles less and less the God of the Scriptures, and more and more the false gods of this world.
That is the danger of making your own God; your God is your God and cannot be anyone else’s; so they must make their own. And pretty soon, everyone has a God that is right in their own eyes; but none of these false gods offers salvation, because you created them, so they are defective from the start.
But let us back up for a moment: why do you want to change God? Why is the lie about God put forth by the Devil so tempting?
You want to change Him, because you want Him to be more like you, and more accepting of the sinful actions and desires that you wish to continue in without the threat guilt or shame or punishment.
But what has not changing God gotten those who have gone before you?
Well, for over 2000 years, the Christian Church on earth, clinging to God’s Word as timeless and unchanging and truly inspired has gotten the faithful to fix their eyes on the cross of Jesus and to receive eternal life by believing in His name.
What has changing God to meet the current needs of society and the sinful people that dwell therein gotten?
Well, for over 2000 years, those who have despised God’s Word, those who have changed it to meet their own sinful needs and desires, those who have crafted God in their own image, have received death and hell.
The reality is that the faith we confess in the creeds; the Scriptures that we read, mark, learn and inwardly digest, has done nothing but grant people salvation and eternal life, without any changes or assistance from you or I.
When we stop trying to change the Word to meet our own needs and desires, and instead, realize that the words spoken by Jesus, and the words recorded by the apostles are inspired by the Holy Spirit, then we realize that God does not need to be changed to meet the needs of others, instead the world is what has gone chasing after its own sinful desires, and needs to return to that Word of God which does not change.
And so today is a day in which we plant the flag of God’s Word once more and declare that the Devil’s lie about God stops here.
For at the heart of today is the trust we place in the words spoken by Jesus and delivered to us: This is My Body; This is My Blood.
We trust that God’s Word is true, and accurate, and certain, and timeless. We trust that when God says that our sins are forgiven, they are forgiven; that when God says that Jesus death atones for our sins, that it does; we trust that when Jesus says Baptism saves, it does so; and we trust that when Jesus says that the bread and wine are His body and blood given and shed for the forgiveness of sins, they are.
To kneel at this altar, and to receive this gift, is to confess to God and to one another, that the Word of the Lord endures forever, that the faith once delivered to the saints is the faith that you to confess; that you believe, teach and confess the faith as it has been taught to you through the Word, and that it is your desire to pass this faith on to your children and to your neighbors.
Today, the Word of the Lord does what it says it does once more: your sins are forgiven you; the bread and wine are the body and blood of Christ given and shed for the forgiveness of your sins; the promise of eternal life is for you.