And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this IN REMEMBRANCE OF Me.” (Mark 14: 19)
Polls reveal that many, if not most, Americans don’t know the purpose of Memorial Day. For most of us who do know, our celebrations make it look like we don’t.
We grill. We drink. We hang out. We play. We sleep in. And we do it in the name of fallen soldiers. The one thing most of us don’t do on Memorial Day is anything that actually honors fallen soldiers.
Like I did this morning, most American wake up on Memorial Day thankful for the day off but not thoughtful of the blood, and death, and sacrifice that purchased the liberty that we enjoy.
With the best of intentions, we set aside a time for celebration and remembrance; but over time we emphasize the memorial less and the celebration more.
We celebrate, but we don't remember.
What Americans have done with Memorial Day is what New Testament Christians did with Communion.
Communion, or the Lord’s Supper, is a re-enactment, a celebration, and a remembrance of Jesus’ blood, death, and sacrifice by which he purchased our spiritual liberty.
As citizens of the Kingdom of God it is our duty to remember and, as the consecrating liturgy of my church says, “to continue a perpetual memory of that His precious death until His coming again.”
But over time---
Over a very short time, the the New Testament church focused more on the celebration than the memorial.
So the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth:
Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper. For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others; and one is hungry and another is drunk. ( 1 Corinthians 11:20-21)
They used Communion Holiday weekend as an excuse to eat, to drink, to hang out, and to generally, “turn up” ---- in the name of Jesus. And let’s remember that these communion parties were held at the site, often a private home, that served as their church.
Paul sarcastically, but seriously, asked:
I can’t believe it! Don’t you have your own homes to eat and drink in? Why would you stoop to desecrating God’s church? Why would you actually shame God’s poor? I never would have believed you would stoop to this. And I’m not going to stand by and say nothing. ( 1 Corinthians 11: 22, The Message)
Paul’s solution was to recount the origin of the Lord’s Supper, to bring to their remembrance what they were supposed to be commemorating.
For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”
In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”
For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes. (1 Corinthians 11: 23-26)
History----yes, history---- is the key to regaining the sanctity of our commemorations.
Paul got the Corinthians to stop chewing and lounging and really think about what Jesus endured for them. He made them replay in their minds the Hell that Jesus went through so they wouldn’t have to go to Hell.
And he said, “Now, each of you, examine yourself as you participate in this commemoration.” (verse 28)
“You don’t want others telling you how to honor this day? Fine. Judge yourself for yourself.” (verses 31, 32)
The chapter concludes:
Therefore, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. But if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, lest you come together for judgment. And the rest I will set in order when I come. (verses 33, 34)
The best way to remember sacrifice is to make sacrifices for others. To inconvenience yourself so that someone with less can have more. Everything else we can figure out later.
So, when I come to our next Communion at church, I’m going to remember what we’re remembering, and I’m not going to be satisfied with the ritual and a quick dinner for myself afterwards.
I don’t know what it’ll be yet, but I realize now that I have to do something, something more, something sacrificial for others.
Now I remember. I remember what past soldiers, past saints, and my eternal Savior have done for me.
I pray that I will never forget again.
And that neither will you.
---Anderson T. Graves II is a writer, community organizer and consultant for education, ministry, and rural leadership development.
Rev. Anderson T. Graves II is pastor of Miles Chapel CME Church in Fairfield, Alabama; executive director of the Substance Abuse Youth Networking Organization (SAYNO); and director of rural leadership development for the National Institute for Human Development (NIHD).
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