Most of us would wish at times to have a better memory. It would make things easier, we’d stay in contact better with people if we remembered them all, we’d recall all we’ve heard and all our tasks would easily be accomplished. But we struggle with this thing called memory. Students need assignment books and notes sent home, you have a desk calendar at work, and another calendar at home, and still another on your phone.
Of course, not everything is essential to remember. But sometimes we remember and memorialize and honor other priorities and we take for granted and neglect that which is essential. Part of it is that we are so often like Peter on this night, we think we know better, we think we know what is best for us at all times and we want to tell our Lord how He ought to serve us. We want to be washed in certain ways and have things go our own way.
But sooner or later, we repent, we remember the Lord and His mercy. This is the life of the Christian. Remembering. Not just as a mental exercise, but by holding memorial, and remembering with faith the promises given. We need reminders of what God has done. It’s why there was a Passover Seder, to remember the covenant promise, to memorialize and recall God’s saving action in redeeming the people from bondage. They were told what to do, sacrifice the lamb, its shed blood poured out over the door will save. The received the Word, God said do this and they did it by faith.
God said “do this” again as the entered the promised land, and instructed that a memorial be made with stones at the Jordan River.
The reason is simple and clear. We need memorials, we need reminders of what God has done and is doing still for us or we will do as so many do and seek to have things our way and prioritize ourselves.
This is memorial and remembrance that was recalled in the circumcision, recalling God’s promises to Abraham. The covenant is recalled in the eating the of the lamb at the Passover. God’s sparing us from death is remembered in every sacrificial offering made. Throughout Old and New Testament our Lord gives us memorials, reminders, to look toward and trust His Word and promises.
He tells the people: “Remember and forget not the Lord your God” (Deut. 8). “Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy” (Ex. 20). “Do not forget the works of God but keep His commandments” (Ps. 78). “All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord; and all families shall worship before Him” (Ps. 22). “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not His benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life, who crowns you with steadfast love” (Ps. 102).
In all times and in all situations we have physical reminders of what God has done and can remember how He has intervened in times of trouble. It’s why the stones of Notre Dame meant so much to so many. It is not just a place of history, but stones and wood and artwork that proclaimed God’s mercy. It’s why these stones here matter, not just a place many have memories and events, but the place where God gives Himself and washes not just your feet but your soul.
And so we keep what Jesus said. We “do this” that is eat His body, drink His blood, not just as a mental exercise but a memorial that proclaims the death and resurrection we celebrate this week. It’s why this week is the holiest of weeks and is to be highlighted, we need reminder, we need memorial. Our Lord knows this and gives them for us. So eat the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, drink of His blood shed for you.
Do this often. For in this memorial, in this Sacrament, your sins are forgiven. You will never come closer to the Lord than in this meal. When Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon, he brought with him a small wafer and vile of wine, consecrated by his pastor. He read from the Gospel of John and had the Sacrament. He later said, “Then I ate the tiny host and swallowed the wine. I gave thanks for the intelligence and spirit that had brought two young pilots to the Sea of Tranquility. It was interesting for me to think: The very first liquid ever poured on the moon, and the very first food eaten there, were the communion elements. I could think of no better way to acknowledge the enormity of the Apollo 11 experience than by giving thanks to God.”
Regardless of where it is received, whether in a centuries old cathedral, on the moon, or here on the Arlington Prairie, Holy Communion is a precious gift of God. It’s as close as we can come to Christ this side of heaven. Receive it with a heart of thanks for it is the Lamb given for you. For it is the physical sign, that which you can taste and see, given with God’s Word and promise, to proclaim His death and resurrection, and receive the benefits of forgiveness, life, and salvation. Amen.