Paul records for us the words of Jesus in 1 Corinthians 11. Verses 23-26 Jesus tells us that when we eat the bread we are supposed to eat it in remembrance of Him. And when we drink the cup, we are to drink it in remembrance of Him. Furthermore, as often as we eat the bread of Christâ€™s broken body, and as often as we drink the cup we are proclaiming the death of Christ.
Remember Christ. What does it mean to “remember” Christ?
Four Years ago today, over 3000 Americans were killed in an Islamic attack on The Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and more still in a Pennsylvanian field – where a third attack -probably headed for Washington DC was averted.
Flags will be flown at half staff and people will pause again to remember those who died on that day. These observances give us a glimpse at what it means to remember Christ in the Communion service.
Why do we want to remember the events of 9/11? Because remembering them – reminds us of the reason for so much of what we are doing today! Do you remember the feeling in your gut when you heard a second plane had hit the World Trade Center? Instinctively we recognized that this was no accident – it was intentional and we were at war.
When we look at the news in the evening and we hear about Iraq or Afghanistan and our soldiers getting killed in a foreign country, and people begin to ask the questions, “What are we doing there? And why are we sacrificing our boys over there?” If not for remembering the image of a plane exploding through the walls of the Pentagon we have no answer.
But in light of remembering the pain of that day four years ago, we find purpose for the trials of today. Muslims dedicated to the false god allah murdered thousands of Americans in the name of their religion – remembering that fact puts strength behind our cause today.
Returning to the communion then, we read the words of Jesus:
1 Corinthians 11:24-25 “He broke [the bread] and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me. In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”
When Paul records these words, he writes them in a specific context. When it came time to celebrate the Lord’s supper in Corinth, the people would obviously gather in one place and the folks at the beginning of the line would take whole loaves and eat them, while others would grab the communion wine and chug it!
So you end up with three groups of people in Corinth. Stuffed people, Drunk People, and people who have received nothing. The rebuke is pretty stiff – the first two groups are dishonoring the body and blood of Christ. They’re effectively slapping God in the face with their behavior! And as a result some of them are getting sick, and some are actually dying because of their behavior.
So Paul calls them to self examination. Before you take communion, he says, examine yourself – test your heart, test for sinful behaviors and attitudes.
But they’re going to ask the question, “WHY?”
Apparently they had fallen into this kind of behavior because they couldn’t remember the reason for the Lord’s Supper in the first place. So Paul reminds them. “Jesus said ‘do this in remembrance of me.””
In remembering the death of Jesus – they will remember their own sin, and more importantly their forgiveness.
Remembering Jesus means far more than that we just don’t forget. It means that the daily struggle to be more surrendered to God and the constant push to be holy meets its strength.The death of Jesus is the reason for everything we do. Remembering Christ gives meaning to the struggle to be holy.
Why continue to avoid the sinful pleasures of this world when I’d rather indulge? Because Jesus died to cleanse me from sin, how can I live in it any longer?
Why think of other people before I think of myself? Because Jesus exemplified this when he willingly died for me!
I really don’t feel forgiven, how can I be certain I’m forgiven? Because Jesus died for me, and every time I take communion I remember that his sacrifice is real! (Romans 5:8)
I failed again, what do I do? How can I know that God loves me? What’s the meaning of Life? How should I live? What should my priorities be? All of these questions and more find their answer in the death of Christ.
We don’t run to the cross because we have some morbid sense of obligation. And we don’t take communion because it’s a ritual and we’ve always done it this way. We remember the cross because it’s the foundation of our hope.
I retell the story of Jesus’ death every month because every month, just like this past month, we all struggled. We repeat the meaning of the bread and the juice because without the body and the blood of Christ we have no hope.
OH, but with the blood, we have hope! We have the promise of complete forgiveness. Oh, My God how wonderful you’re love becomes as it’s replayed in front of our eyes each time. How marvelous the sacrifice of Jesus becomes when we’ve come with pain and sorrow to the grave and we are reminded that the death of Christ means life beyond the grave for us! If our Mighty God should wait another month before returning, we will plan again to take communion because we will need to remember Christ to heal the pains we find.
The watching world might wonder why we have a fascination with communion, but whenever they ask the question – we can answer them and explain what communion is. It’s more than bread that we eat – the Body of Jesus was broken and damaged for us! It’s more than grape juice we drink, Jesus died so we might live!
That is what it means to remember Christ! Because we forget. Since we forget since we are weak, God graciously gave us a place to start over – here at the communion table. Here in these elements we have a new beginning. The story of Jesus retold.
1 Corinthians 11:23-26 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which 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 He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.
What a precious message we repeat today, as we return to the source of life in the death of Christ.