Summary: A communion sermon about the importance of remembering.
TOPIC: ?A Meal To Remember?
TEXT: 1 Corinthians 11:23-26
He looked so small, lying in his hospital bed. The disease had ravaged his body, causing him to loose weight. He couldn?t have weighed more than 90 pounds soaking wet. The most recent bad news had taken its toll, as well. His mood had changed dramatically ? not to somberness, you understand, more resignation, like the wind had been taken out of his sails. The room was fairly crowded. There were ten or so of us there in the hospital room, including his children. We gathered to celebrate Holy Communion. The service of remembrance had been scheduled several days before ? set at a time when friends and family could be present. All of this had been arranged because I had asked my old friend if he would like for me to bring him the Lord?s Supper. He jumped at my offer and asked if I could come by after his children arrived from out of town. You see, my friend knew that he was dying, and that likely this would be the last time he would be able to receive the sacrament that had meant so much to him over the years.
And so we gathered ? family, friends, people who loved him and supported him. We gathered to share our grief, and to remember our faith. I read the words of The Great Thanksgiving as we prayed together:
On the night in which he gave himself up for us, the Lord Jesus took bread, gave thanks to you, broke the bread, gave it to his disciples and said: ?Take, eat; this is my body broken for you. Do this in remembrance of me."
When the supper was over, he took the cup, gave thanks to you, gave it to his disciples and said: ?Drink from this, all of you, for this is my blood of the new covenant, poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.?
Then I took the bread, and, beginning with my old friend, I gave everyone a piece, one by one, calling their name and saying to each: ?The body of Christ, broken for you.? I took the cup, and passed it around to each, one by one, saying: ?The blood of Christ poured out for you.?
In a matter of minutes, the whole thing was over, the meal completed. But after the closing prayer, my friend pointed to the chalice, and with slurred words and hand gestures, made me understand that he wanted to hold the cup. I placed it into his hands, and he clutched it to his chest and wept. And as he wept, he talked: of almost thirty years of service as a minister in Christ?s holy church. He remembered the hundreds of times he had served the sacrament to countless people. And he remembered his sacramental theology ? that ?Christ died for us while we were yet sinners,? that the death of Christ was a sacrificial death, that Jesus had given himself up for us. And he remembered the promise of life everlasting for those who believe. He remembered!
It was the last time my friend received the sacrament. He went home from the hospital a few days later, and he went home to God a few weeks after that. A couple of days before he died, I visited with him. He was sleeping most of the time, but he roused up a bit. And he looked me in the eyes as he pointed to heaven and said: ?I want to go home!? And he did -- home to be with the God he had served, in one way or another, for nearly all of his 52 years.
Jesus shared the Last Supper with his disciples, and he told them to ?Do this to remember me.? It?s a simple thing to do: a little bread, a little juice. It?s a simple thing. The meal is simple. It?s the remembering that?s difficult. You see, we are so used to the meal; so accustomed to the words; so familiar with the process. I could not begin to count the number of times that I have taken the sacrament -- probably thousands since childhood. Time and time again, I have heard and said the words and eaten the bread and drank the juice. But I haven?t always remembered! ?Do this to remember me,? Jesus said, but I haven?t always remembered! Sometimes I have just gone through the motions, and I feel relatively safe in saying that you have probably done the same, yourself ? just gone through the motions, not really remembering Jesus.
That?s what happened in the church at Corinth, back in Paul?s day. Oh, they shared the meal, but they failed to remember. The supper had become something else besides the Lord?s Supper. It had become a shadow of the real thing, a poor substitute. And Paul did not hesitate to write them: ?When you come together, it is not the Lord?s Supper you eat!? They ate the meal, but they did not remember! Remembering is the important part!