“Do this in Rembrance of Me”
By Rev Caroline Dean
November 15, 2009
1 Corinthians 11: 18, 20-26
(mp3, 5.4Mb) ]
my body, which is broken for you; do
this in remembrance of me.” How are great people remembered? How do they leave a mark upon future
generations after they are gone? Some
people write books. Some people make statues or get portraits.
Some people build a company or endow a building. Some people leave
endowments or an inheritance for their family. Some people have kids, and
pass on their experience and their wisdom through their family.
We can at least go to their grave or memorial to celebrate their memory.
would Jesus have responded to these same questions? How do I want to
leave behind a marker of who I am? How do I want to be remembered? Jesus didn’t have many earthly possessions or
monetary inheritance to leave for his family. For generations Christians have longed to
find a material relic connected to Jesus’ life, like the Shroud of Turin or
pieces of wood that are from the “True Cross.” But Jesus’ goal was not to pass along material possessions. If you think about it, Jesus didn’t even
write anything down! - which amazes me, because you would think, if
God became man, that God would leave us some sort of tangible message, written
by God’s own hand; like a new 10 commandments or a synopsis of his
message. But he didn’t. Lastly,
Jesus did not even leave behind his body. We do not have a grave to visit to memorialize his death.
of a grave, a text or a material possession, Jesus leaves behind a
community. And that community tells his story. And one of the
cherished stories of Jesus’ life is the story of the Last Supper. In
this story we find out how Jesus wants us to remember him; what
he asks his disciples “to do” in his memory. Jesus doesn’t
leave us with some sign of his greatness,
He leaves us a meal.
says, do “this” in remembrance of me. Eat this bread and
drink this cup in my memory. But to be honest, sometimes I
wonder, what’s the big deal with bread and wine….er
grape juice? If Jesus built a building, we could all go there, once in
our lifetime, or once a year, to worship. We could stand in awe
of his handiwork. If Jesus left a written message, we would read and
study and memorize it. If Jesus left behind a holy
relic it would be a reminder of his humanity, and tangible proof of his
I’ve been thinking what do we “do” during the Lord’s Supper in order to
participate in the living memory of Jesus, like those who visit a temple,
a memorial or a great work of art. What does this table
the Christian tradition, the communion table is often a symbol of
hospitality. In Henri’s Nouwen’s
book, Reaching Out, he
points out that the German word for
hospitality is Gastfreunschaft which means,
“friendship for the guest” or literally “guest friendship.” Certainly we hope that when we celebrate the
Lord’s Supper at Christ Church we are invite strangers and
acquaintances into friendship with one another. However, Nouwen also points out that the word for hospitality in
Dutch, his native language, is Gastvrijheid, which
means, “freedom of the
guest.” Nouwen describes Christian
hospitality as “primarily the creation of a free space where the stranger can enter and become a
friend…Hospitality is not meant to change people, but rather to offer
them (an opportunity) a space where change can take
And so Jesus
didn’t leave us a “to-do” list but rather a table, a meal, a free
space. But besides the opportunity to comfort our growling stomachs, for
those of us who eat an early breakfast on Sunday mornings, what other opportunities
does the free space of communion offer us?
first opportunity of our Lord’s Supper is the space to celebrate
community. Imagine a thanksgiving feast, meticulously arranged at a
large banquet table-the places are set, the candles are lit, and the turkey is
carved. And yet there is no one to enjoy
the feast. Just like this
feast, Jesus’ table demands a celebration. The table may be
full, but without hungry people, without a community, it is
acknowledge that eating together is a good thing, but our schedules are too
demanding to pull it off. Most of our
meals are “TV dinners” and “fast food trips” alone or “on the run.” But we still eat Thanksgiving meals with
people around a table. There is something inherent about thanksgiving that
requires a group of people to celebrate it. So it is with the communion. In Paul’s letter to the
Corinthian church, communion has caused divisions in their community rather
than uniting them. Some eat too much food
and some eat too little. He accuses them
of eating their “own private meal” instead of eating the Lord’s Supper together. In
our individualized, privatized, sterilized world we don’t have much time to eat
together, or to engage one another as more than acquaintances, even those who
are closest to us. We don’t have time to know what’s going on in each
other’s lives or to challenge each other on what we think and what we do.
Yes, communion is
a short meal, but it is a meal when we gather as a community, literally around
the table. It is an opportunity to stop,
and engage in real community.
Jesus did not only leave a
legacy of bread and wine, he also
wanted to give us the church community
as a support, a challenge and an opportunity to be transformed
by grace. Just as the bread and juice help us remember the life
of Christ, so also our Christian community teaches us to love one another
as Christ loved us. Jesus left behind a meal that creates space for real
sometimes on Sundays it’s inevitable, we will “eat and run.” Sometimes on
Sundays we will get our “fast food” spirituality fix and take off. But how
we can learn to celebrate the Lord’s Supper together in real relationship,
lingering around the table, open to the rich opportunity of Christian community
that surrounds us each week?
(PAUSE) Imagine that same thanksgiving table. A
family of twenty is gathered around it, expectantly waiting. The places
are set and the candles are lit, but there is something missing! Thanksgiving
just isn't thanksgiving without a feast! And like thanksgiving, communion
requires two ingredients, a community and
we find the opportunity in the Lord's Supper to celebrate the materiality of faith. This time of
year, I am tempted to become an ascetic-to run off into the wilderness and hide
from Christmas commercialization and crowded malls. Last week Brantley
and I were “veging” out on the couch and after being
bombarded with Christmas ads, I leaned over and asked him if he was ready to handle all of the “must-have” products that our television
would try to convince us to buy. This
season seems to magnify our material obsessions, as we are confronted with that
latest gizmos, trends and "gift ideas."
makes me feel better in my own struggles, that in the history of the church we
have often struggled with our relationship to materiality. We have
denounced it and taken vows of poverty to witness against the world of
extravagant wealth. And there is a time and a place for that
witness. But these negative views of
materiality deny that we are material beings, with physical needs, rooted in an
escapable material world. If you assume
a holistic picture of humanity, where
the spiritual and material are intricately bound up with one another, then
there is a need for God to reconcile us in both spiritual and material
means. And let’s be honest, for most of
us a “vow of poverty” is impossible, with basic family expenses and mortgages.
Lord’s Supper does not denounce materiality. Jesus may not have left
behind a tower, a cloak or a scroll; however, he does leave behind the material celebration of his body present, in
the community through bread and wine. In the Lord's Supper, Jesus
proclaims his own materiality and gives us a ritual to symbolize the fusion of
our bodies with his own as we eat of his flesh and drink of his blood.
portrait of materiality at this table is different from the material
celebration of consumerism that is particularly potent in this season. We define ourselves by what we have. We compare what we have to what our
neighbor’s have. We forget to be
grateful for what we have because we
are so distracted by what we want. Like the Corinthian church what we have often divides us instead of
unifying us. On the other hand, this bread
and wine are meant to celebrate and
sustain community. We get a gift together. No one is left out and no one gets a better
gift than anyone else. Food cooked for a
family meal is no one's "possession" but it is a shared experience,
so also is communion a shared gift from the legacy of Jesus’ life, never meant
to be anyone's "possession."
The material elements of communion also relate to our material bodies.
Jesus says "this is my body,
which is broken for you." During communion we recognize the
brokenness of our bodies and yet all
bodies are welcome and affirmed at this table because Christ's body is broken
for all. In our larger culture bodies are categorized and assigned value.
Bodies are scrutinized under a certain system of points and demarcations. Certain bodies are not welcome at certain
tables. However, at this table, Jesus welcomes and honors all bodies.
We are all spiritually and physically broken and at this table we pray
for God's wholeness.
Lord's Supper does not simply value materiality; it "re-values" it as
a shared experience and a celebration where all bodies are affirmed as
beautiful despite our brokenness. At this table, Jesus gives us the
opportunity to experience real community, and he also hopes for us to celebrate
the feast as we take the material gifts into our own bodies and we are reminded
that all bodies are welcomed and honored at this table.
so come, let us keep the feast. Let us
linger around the table, open to the possibility of community and the beauty of
a shared meal. And let us remember the
one who loves us, and the one who left us this mysterious and wonderful
us pray: Gracious God, be with us now, teach us to go from here participating in real community and
affirming all bodies as sacred. May God
bless you and keep you, May God face shine upon you and be gracious unto you. May God lift up the divine countenance among
you, and give you peace, Amen.
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