Based on 1 Corinthians 11: 23-26, (Paul writes) “For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
In the early years of the 20th century, in a corner of Madison Township in Southwestern Fairfield County, where Clear Creek intersects Middle Fork Creek, folks lived in a town called Revenge, Ohio. It was a little farm town whose only major business was the general store where local farmers could buy feed, small equipment, and other essentials. The general store still stands at the intersection of Clear Creek and Revenge Roads, but today it is a private residence.
Legend has preserved the story about how this town was named “Revenge”. Apparently, there was some competition between the Hartman family and the Bussart family as to whose store would prevail as the preferred shopping establishment in Amanda. Ray Bussart left Amanda and opened his store, forming the town he would name… “Revenge”. You can still see the old landmark Johnson Covered Bridge which has been restored and placed in a nearby park. But the town no longer exists. Revenge, along with such towns as Flint, Frampton, Knockemstiff, Rain Rock, and Rogue’s Hollow exist only in Ohio’s history. They are… Abandoned.
Every year as the church works its way through Lent and into the Passion of Jesus Christ, we encounter various themes. You’ve heard about repentance, surrender, keeping watch… you’ve heard about the suffering, the pain, and the death… tonight… tonight I’d like you to consider the abandonment.
By the time Jesus would ride into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, he had already been abandoned by the religious leaders of Jerusalem. They did not believe that Jesus was the Christ. But more importantly, they responded with selfish preservation when Jesus confronted them with the facts. Their religion had become man-made. All man-made religion stands in opposition to the gospel. Man-made religions are always a matter of ascent… a going up, up, up toward the eternal, toward the perfect, toward God. God is high above and we are down below, and if we get religion right, we will find ourselves up with God.
But Jesus does not bring this kind of religion. Jesus confronts the scribes and Pharisees and high priests with God come down to earth. And Jesus confronts us with the same message. We cannot approach God on our own terms. We cannot become religious enough, faithful enough, holy enough. Jesus’ message is one of humility, and we the proud need to hear it. How often, though, is our reaction like the scribes and Pharisees? Do we abandon Christ because His message takes no account of our excellence?
Or are we like those throngs on Palm Sunday? They were thrilled with the arrival of Jesus into Jerusalem. Finally, it seemed, the Messiah that they had awaited had arrived. But when, instead of usurping power from Pilate, or Herod, or anyone else Jesus stood silent and allowed Himself to be mocked and scorned and beaten… these crowds had nothing to do with Him. They, too, abandoned Jesus with cries, “Crucify Him”. This was not a King according to their desires.
Jesus is rarely a King according to our desires. He speaks of giving of our first fruits. He speaks of forgiving our enemies. He speaks of being Holy as the Father in Heaven is Holy. And so if we remain true to our desires to have Jesus be a King based on our own personal image of who He should be… we too might find ourselves abandoning him with the crowds.
But it got ever worse. First it was Judas. I truly hope that no one here would sell your baptismal inheritance for a few pieces of silver. I truly hope that no one would abandon Jesus in the way that Judas did, for his way ends surely in death and eternal damnation.
But after Judas, it was the rest of the disciples abandoning Him. How many fled from the garden when the going got rough? Jesus’ was so clear that His mission would include surrender to the authorities, but when the day came… when remaining a faithful disciple meant standing against corruption and evil… they turned tail and fled.
Even Peter, that rock, would deny he even knew Jesus.
Brothers and sisters, realize that behind our piety, behind our faithful church attendance, behind our good stewardship and obedient living, we abandon Christ. Sin severs us from Christ.
Sin brings Christ, in all his horrible bloody humility, to those nails and tree… to that rock called Golgotha. And it was there that our Father, Jesus’ Father had to abandon Christ as well. For as Jesus cried out those words of Psalm 22, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” He was not really asking a question. Jesus knew that it was necessary for Him to suffer Hell and damnation for the sake of everyone who had abandoned Him, for the sake of everyone who would ever abandon Him. Jesus was abandoned by all so that all He was left with was His own FLESH AND BLOOD.
Flesh and Blood. The very things he offers to you and to me in that Holy Meal called Communion. Flesh and Blood. It was all Jesus had left. He has given it all for you. He Abandoned HIMSELF for you.
And here in these words from 1 Corinthians 11, He invites you to eat and drink. To repent, to receive the forgiveness He earned once and for all, and to walk away from His meal strengthened in the faith that says, “Yes, Lord, though I’ve left you alone, I would follow.”
Jesus forgives. Jesus welcomes you back. You are His child anyway… He baptized you Himself with his Holy Word and ordinary water. And so His forgiveness is so complete for His children that He never abandons, He never leaves, never forsakes.
So taste and see that the Lord is indeed good. Good in a way that passes all human understanding. Good in a way that covers you with mercy. Good in a way that strengthens you against sin and the devil. Taste and see that Jesus shed His blood for you.
Revenge, Ohio will probably never be a town anymore. That kind of abandonment is permanent. Thanks be to God that no sin is too great, no lack of faith is too strong, no selfish desires are too evil that they cannot be forgiven, strengthened, or healed by the Body and Blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. You are whole and made new. Made new with eternal life in Christ. Come. Taste. See.