We proclaim the Lord’s Death until He comes, as often as we eat of the bread and drink of the wine, that is, we proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.
Which is weird. Isn’t it? Proclaiming the Lord’s death seems like the kind of thing you would do if you were glad about it, if it were something to celebrate.
Which would be weird, out of step with contemporary thinking, we do not proclaim death so much as we celebrate life, we have memorial services and not funerals or even farther along down the road we actually just call them celebrations of life.
But here Paul calls upon us to proclaim Jesus death until He comes again and I think that bears a little looking into since it runs so strikingly against the common grain. After all, aren’t we heading toward Easter, toward a time of proclaiming Jesus enduring life amongst us? We make a big deal about that, people who seldom if ever come to church come at Easter and Christmas, they are remade as great parties, pancake breakfasts, festivals of chocolate and cream filling.
Hardly the environment for the proclamation of the Lord’s death, is it?
Well, maybe this is the season for putting the cart before the horse, but when we overlook this commonly spoken, but seldom examined phrase from Paul we allow ourselves to forget that the resurrection does not take away the sin of the world, the resurrection does not open the gates into eternity or fulfill the law.
All of that happens tomorrow, on the cross, in a much less chocolate-eggs kind of way.
The cross is the moment of truth, the truth about God’s love, the truth of God’s grace, the truth about sin and life and death and the reality of the promises of God. The resurrection is the moment when we realize that the promise is true, but it is true days before, on the cross.
We proclaim that, through the death of Christ, only through the death of Christ, through the power of God so completely marrying itself in love to the fallen humanity, so much so that death on the cross was not too high a price to pay for our freedom, that in this moment, this terrible, tragic, beautiful moment, the love of God was allowed to pour, un-hindered down upon us.
While we were blindly going about our business. A long way away, a long time ago, in a small little town at the crossroads of civilization, while most of humanity was utterly unaware of it, salvation came to pass.
A couple of days later, the sign was given and we were all allowed to breathe again because with their own eyes they saw the promise come true and they told someone, who told someone who told someone down through the ages until someone told us.
We do not proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes because we are a maudlin people, focused in on the suffering and torment of Jesus on the cross. There are plenty of those people in the world and if we ever run out of martyrs, I am sure that some of them will stand up.
But we also cannot shy away from it, cannot shy away from the fact that it was by this path that the Lord came to us and delivered us. It was through this horrifying expedient that we were offered the chance to take a taste of salvation and live the rest of our lives in anticipation of the whole meal.
As often as we eat of the bread and drink of the wine we are in that day, knowing the cost, enjoying the benefits, tasting the bread, taking the wine into ourselves and bringing that moment into vivid reality, taking in life in the midst of death, celebrating salvation at the foot of the cross.
If we shy away from this we run the risk of not being true to our remembrance of Christ, not being true to the magnificent gift we have received, trying to make ourselves comfortable, or at least prevent ourselves from being un-comfortable perhaps at the cost of relaying the truth of the message.
We proclaim the Lord’s death because that is what sealed our salvation and un-sealed the gates of heaven. And like a hiker who after a day’s journey into the high wilderness who is finally freed of the burden they have carried across their shoulders. We feel like we can fly when we learn that we have reached our destination. Just so we have had the burden of our sin and its penalties lifted from our shoulders so that when we see the sun rise again in a few days, we will be able to lift our eyes, our hands and our hearts and sing a great song of thanksgiving.
Like the Passover of the Lord, like just about everything, there is a cost. The Passover lamb was not just a sacrifice, it was dinner but still, its blood was the sign that death should pass by that house.
Jesus gives us his flesh and blood, our meal of salvation so that death might once again lose its grip on us, that it might be satisfied with Him.
We proclaim His death because it was His gift to us and until He comes again we gather together, the weak and the strong, the righteous and the flawed alike around the table set for us so long ago, where we will taste and know Christ even as we wait, where we will take him into ourselves and our lives as we wait, where until He comes again, we will proclaim His death which has made us live.