From the Pastor's Pen
“This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19 ESV)
In this month’s newsletter, there are two boxes titled, “In Memoriam.” Following our tradition, these boxes contain the names of members who passed away sometime over this past month. As it turns out, both members named this month, Mavis Johnson and Oleva Bernier, passed away just days ago, over the final full weekend of April. These “In Memoriam” boxes serve as notices to the congregation of the passing into glory of these two sisters in the Lord, and contain a few words in their honor; though the small space available to each hardly does justice to their long lives, accomplishments, and good works. Still, it is good to remember them publicly.
May is a month of Memorials and Remembrances. We remember our moms on the second Sunday of May (Sorry, dads; you’ll have to wait until June!), and we remember those who sacrificed their lives in service to our country on the appropriately-named national holiday, Memorial Day, May 30th. And that’s not even listing all the birthdays and anniversaries of events in our lives that are significant to us personally, such as . . . let me see . . . oh, yeah: such as Karen and my anniversary on May 4!
Even the Bible speaks of remembrances, especially of recounting and celebrating the things that God has done for us. Samuel put up a stone he called “Ebenezer,” which meant “Stone of Help,” to commemorate Israel’s deliverance from an attack by the Philistines. When God spoke to the prophets and people, he often began by reciting how he had delivered them from slavery, bringing them out of the land of Egypt. He commanded that the people bind his words onto their heads and arms, that they not forget his commandments. And Psalm 103:2 tells us, “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits. . .” Even most of Israel’s ancient feasts recounted God’s special blessings for his people: Passover (deliverance from slavery in Egypt); Pentecost (the giving of the Law on Mt. Sinai); Purim (deliverance from genocide by the Persians); Hanukkah (deliverance from Greek oppressions and desecration). Ancient Israel’s calendar was filled with such “Memorial Days.”
As Christians, we also remember God’s provision for our salvation, specifically through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Advent remembers God’s promises of a Savior; Christmas celebrates the birth of the Messiah; Epiphany remembers the revealing to the nations (represented by the Magi) of Christ; Lent marks Christ’s desert testing and victory over Satan; Good Friday remembers the death of our Lord for our sake; and Easter celebrates Christ’s resurrection and victory over death. Then there’s Pentecost, and the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the Church – and into the believers. Much of our worship remembers these hugely significant events in the history of God’s plan of salvation.
If you’re thinking I left out Maundy Thursday from that list, you’re right; I set it aside for a moment because it deserves special mention as the event where Jesus himself said, “Do this in remembrance of me.” What was he talking about? He was speaking of Holy Communion, which he was instituting at that very moment. He said to receive his body – in, with, and under the bread – and his blood – in, with, and under the wine – and to do so in remembrance of him. As the Apostle Paul added after quoting Jesus’ words, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.” (1 Corinthians 11:26)
In other words, each time we take Communion, it is a Memorial Day, a day in which we commemorate and remember Christ’s death for our sakes by receiving his broken body and shed blood in his name. We come to the altar rail “In Memoriam,” proclaiming his death and receiving the benefit of what he accomplished by his death: the forgiveness of our sins and eternal life. Let us not take his sacrifice lightly, nor despise his gifts of his own body and blood given for us.
So go ahead and remember all the events that we commemorate this May: but don’t forget that chief among them should be receiving communion on the 1st and 3rd Sundays. Join the 6th graders who will take their First Communion on May 15, and see that Christ is ready to bless you even as you remember him “In Memoriam.”
– Pastor Rich Eddy