Memories and Symbols So We Will Never Forget
It was December 7 the first time I stepped off an airplane on to the tarmac at Tan Son Nhut, South Vietnam. It brought memories of discussions with my Marine Corps father of the red-letter day sunrise, December 7, 1941. 350 Japanese War Planes flew over the island of Oahu and rained death and destruction on Pearl Harbor. Eight battleships and ten smaller warships were put out of commission. Two hundred American planes were destroyed and 3, 581 servicemen were killed or wounded. The USS Arizona took a bomb down into its stacks, exploded and sunk in less than 8 minutes burying 1177 sailors. The day of the sneak attack, “a day of infamy” as stated by President Franklin Roosevelt. The national battle cry became, “Remember Pearl Harbor”. We have had others, “Remember the Alamo”, “Remember the Maine”, “Remember 9/11”.
The Lord’s Supper is not a battle cry (maybe it should be) but it is a call to REMEMBRANCE. When we receive the elements of Communion, we have a dual responsibility of receiving and remembering.
On the night before Christ was executed, Jesus had dinner with his closest friends. Jesus took bread, gave thanks, broke the bread, shared it with them and said, “this is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me”. Remembrance means more than recalling something or someone from the past. To remember is to make vivid, make real to recall and make contemporary the reality of the deed. In this case, it is to remember Jesus’ words, life deeds and death that brings life to us. We were redeemed, we are redeemed and we will be fully redeemed when He returns. The Lords’ Supper commemorates this fact.
To aid our memory, Jesus used two symbols necessary for life as constant reminders, the bread and the wine. Associated with Christ, they are powerful mementos. Extreme emotional memories.
Several years ago, I attended a memorial service for a good friend where we were asked by the family to bring reminders of the young man. There were pictures, letter jacket, baseballs, gloves and an assortment of miscellaneous items. Each person told the story behind the item and how much it meant to them. Our hearts were moved and there was not a dry eye in the place. Laughter, tears, smiles, were all mixed together.
Our Lord wants to be remembered this way through the wine and the bread. He wants us to recall his life energetically, love, joyous and happy. Dinner around a family photo album.
I remember reading a story about a 17-year-old girl killed in a horrific car accident by an 18-year-old honor student, band member who was driving under the influence of alcohol. The judge sentenced the young man to 2 years in jail which seemed too lenient but he then also required him for the rest of his life to visit the site of the accident on November 12 each year. He was to reflect and think about his poor judgement and his part in the taking of a life that did not deserve to die.
There is nothing more tragic and horrible than an innocent victim killed by a drunken driver. But my friends, we are no different. We took the life of Jesus Christ. Our sin nailed Him to the Cross. He was innocent. He did not deserve to die. We deserve to die, but He took our place and gave us Eternal Life. And so that we will never forget, we gather at the table to remember Him. We taste the bread and sip from the cup to recall the life that was taken, the sacrifice that was made and our part in the tragedy. WE MUST REMEMBER AND NEVER FORGET.