"In Rememberence of Me"
Holy Thursday I Corinthians 11:23-26
The text for the sermon for today are the Words of Institution from I Corinthians 11: “Our Lord Jesus Christ, on the night in which he was betrayed, took break, broke it, gave thanks and said: ‘This is my body given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ After the same manner also, he took the cup, when he had supped, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me. For as of often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”
The title of the sermon for tonight is: “In remembrance of me.”
Memories. We all have memories. Good ones. Bad ones. Short ones. Long ones. Happy ones. Sad ones. Common to everyone here is that we all have memories. Millions of memories. Memories give us our sense of history, identity, roots, belonging, our sense of self, of who were are.
We all have family memories. Quickly, in your mind, think of a memory or memories with your family. ...... In a moment, your mind is flooded with images. A kitchen table.
The family room. A vacation. A mother. A father. A brother. A sister. A grandpa. A grandma. Flashes of memories. A vacation.
My mind can see it as if it were yesterday. The nine hour drive north up to Lake Williams in Canada. A left turn for four hours. Pretty soon no electricity. Hansen’s ranch. Four log cabins. A quiet lake. Old Rocky, a 28 year old horse, standing on the porch of our log cabin. The German trout frying in the pan. Old Tex with his bowed legs. Old Ingaborg, the German war bride. The old chicken coop. The old barn. The children in the hayloft. Those memories are so clear. And you have equally clear memories of your favorite family vacation. So vivid. In Technicolor.
Memories? They are alive, living, breathing, talking to us from the past. Memories give us history, identity, roots, belonging, the sense of our very selves.
And some memories are so painful, so very painful, just the thought of them makes us wince inside, and we can’t get rid of them. They are just with us, part of us. There is a story told an old black man, age 85, down South, sitting on his porch one summer evening, slowly rocking in his rocking chair, with his pipe, blowing circles into the motionless air. A young hyperactive salesman approaches him and shouts from the sidewalk: “Grandpa. I gotta a book for you here, that will help you remember everything from our whole life. It costs only five dollars.” The old man sat there in silence, reflecting, not saying a word as he rocked, and finally, after what seemed like an eternity, said: “Sonny, I’ll give you a thousand dollars for the book that can help me to forget.” Yes, all of us have memories that are so painful, we would like to forget them, but we cannot. Think of such painful memories for a fraction of a moment. They, too, are part of our history, identify, roots, belonging, the sense of our inner selves.
Memories give us clues about our relationships. That is, I remember my brother’s birthday every year. It is coming up soon, April 25th. I will send him a card and give him a call.
Chances are that you have more memories of people you have loved. Memories are a way of measuring relationships. That is, memories are like a thermometer. A thermometer doesn’t cause the temperature to go up or down; it simply measures the temperature. And so it is with memories: they don’t cause the relationships to go up or down. They simply measure how warm or cold those relationships have been. You think often and have many memories of someone you love deeply.
And then there are those sacred memories, those holy memories, those life changing events that you remember with clarity. A meeting. An encounter. An accident. Something that changed your whole life. I was twelve years old and Pastor Sommers said to me, “You can really pray Eddie. I want you to give a little sermon this Sunday from the pulpit.” I can see that moment with utter clarity, the pulpit, my hands, the little brass light. That moment shaped the rest of my whole history. Or, the night I asked Jan Cook for a date. I can tell you exactly where we were sitting, the table, the position of the chairs, the room, the feel of the moment. And life moved totally in a direction because of my marriage to you. You, too, have those sacred moments, those holy moments, those life-direction moments.
It is with these reflections that we approach the last supper of Jesus. For the disciples, their last meal with Jesus was a sacred memory, a holy memory, a life changing memory.
How could they ever forget what happened to them that night? How he took the towel of the servant girl and began to wash all of their feet? It was so preposterous for him to do such a thing. How could they forget how humiliating it was? How could they forget what he taught them, about the new commandment to love one another as God love us? And how could they forget, as they sat at the Passover Meal, that he took the matzo cracker, lifted it up and said such strange words: “This is my body, given for you. Do this in memory of me.” It was so strange. They didn’t understand it. And then he took the cup of wine with blood filled to the brim, and again he said such strange words: “This is my blood shed for you and for all people for the forgiveness of sins.” How could they forget a night like that? Their last supper? Their last meal with Jesus? Yes, it was a defining moment in their lives, a sacred memory.
Christians are people who are filled with memories about Jesus Christ. Millions of memories of Christ. And those memories of Christ are alive in us, living and breathing and giving us a sense of our history and identity. The more you love someone, the more memories you have of them. Those memories reveal the temperature of your relationship. As I have been thinking about this during the past week, I have take the memories I have of Christ in my life, and put them into four categories or groupings. I would like to briefly talk about each.
First, I have memories of Christ through Church, Sunday School, Bible studies, Bible camp, Vacation Bible School, retreats, mission trips. Like you, I have so many memories, a million memories. Christ speaking to me, to you, ....on Christmas eve worship with the candlelight, the Easter morning festival of the resurrection with Easter lilies and brass, all the Sunday mornings and where I sat in church in a certain pew. The Bible camps and campfires. The retreats. The servant events. Memories of Jesus speaking to our lives, being really present with us as a community. You too have a flood of such memories. You can’t count them all, but memories of Jesus being in your life.
A second place where I have memories of Jesus is reading or remembering the Bible, Jesus living in and speaking through his word. Favorite Bible verses that forever haunt my mind. I was fifteen years old and madly in love with my girlfriend, Lorna Finkelbaum, when I learned that treasured verse on love. “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love I am a noisy gong or a clanging symbol.” How I love those verses about love which have spoken to me throughout my whole life. And when somebody really hurts you deeply and your are all bruised and bloody inside emotionally, somewhere under your tears as time goes by, you hear the words of Jesus: “Forgive them, seven times seventy. Father, forgive them, they really didn’t comprehend what they were doing.” Or when some senseless tragedy happens to you life and you lose a job, a home, a child, a spouse, a reputation or whatever the tragedy may be, somewhere you finally hear the words ever so softly: “All things work together for good for those who love God.” And when you are being suffocated with your own selfishness and self-centeredness, you hear the words of Jesus ringing inside your head: “Whoever finds his life, will lose it; but whoever loses his life for my sake, will find it. What does it profit a person if he or she gains the whole world and loses their soul.” And when death rips your loved one from you, you hear these holy words, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” Memories of Jesus by the millions, when he speaks a word, a sentence, a story from the Bible at the right, precise moment in our lives. So many memories of Christ speaking through his word.
And memories of Christ being present with us in suffering. I hear this all the time from you, how life was so unbearable at a particular moment in time and you would not have made it through that epoch in time without the strengthening presence of Christ inside of you. I hear that echoed again and again. I remember 1967 and my wife and I had recently been informed that we would be unable to have children biologically and this was deeply unsettling to us. I remember driving down to Hastings State Mental Hospital on that particular Sunday morning, about 7:00 AM, where I was a chaplain to what were called “crazy people” in those days. I had keys that would open huge metal doors that walked deeper into the dungeon, where I actually saw chains on the walls where they used to chair up the mentally ill before the advent of drugs. Crazy people would come and sit on these hard benches on concrete floors to listen to this crummy little service that I conducted. And on the way to that sacred duty that particular Sunday morning, I don’t know why but the preacher on the radio spoke to my soul with such eloquence and I just bawled and bawled as I drove to work that Sunday morning as a young seminarians. I had so much inner pain that day, and .... Christ was there with me, speaking to me in that moment, through the radio. I can see and feel it as if it were yesterday. Yes, we all have our memories of Christ with us, to strengthen us and heal us from our moments of pain.
So millions of memories of Christ....at church, Sunday School, camp, vacation Bible school....speaking to us through the Bible...with us in our pain. And the fourth category of memories of Christ is his presence with us is in our moments of decision, our crossroads moments, our “Y” in the road moments of life. We all have these big decisions that we need to make a critical moments of our life, or not so critical such as who we marry, our occupation, our school, a divorce, a surgery, a house to buy, a geographic move, a moral dilemma. Throughout our whole lives, we are faced with these moral choices, and at those “Y”s in the road moments of life, we are forever asking God for guidance, direction, wisdom, perception of what we should do. Young people today wear a bracelet, WWJD, “what would Jesus do?” and you and I often ask God for guidance at critical junctions in life. And Christ has been there to guide us in our decision making.
Memories. We all have millions of memories of Christ....at church, the Bible, in pain, at Ys in the road.
It was the last night of Jesus’ life and the disciples would never forget the memories of those events. The foot washing. The wine. The bread. The words: “This is my body. This is my blood shed for the forgiveness of your sins. Do this is remembrance of me.”
Christians are people who remember Jesus Christ, and those memories are alive, breathing, pulsating with life, and those millions of memories of Christ give us our sense of history, identify, roots, belonging, the very sense of our inner selves. Amen.
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