Ways of Remembering

A sermon from Maundy Thursday

“For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body that 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.” –1Corinthians 11:23-26

Children’s Time: What’s your favorite thing to eat? Something that you can have most any day when you sit down for dinner – or come home from school? Do you like bread? Jesus gave his followers bread and told them it was his body. He wanted them to remember him every time they sat down to eat. Then he gave them wine (something that very common – like a juice box would be today) and told them it was his blood. And that they should remember him every time they drank it. This “holy communion” may not look like a lot to eat… but it is food for our souls! Jesus knows we’ll need it to feed our faith. Some day you’ll be ready to join us at this table, like these young people who have come to the first communion class. Let’s say a prayer and thank God for food and for holy communion.

Intro: Dear friends in Christ: grace to you and peace, from the One who is and who was and who is to come: our living Lord and savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

“Let’s eat!” Isn’t that a wonderful thing to hear? I get to be the one saying it in my house most nights, as I’m in charge of cooking these days. We ring a little bell that hangs over the stove, and I call out, “Dinner! Let’s eat!”

But you know something? The kids don’t always come right away. It’s like they’re busy or have their earbuds in or something! Some nights have to walk down to their bedroom, open the door and say, “Helllloooo? It’s time to eat!” And even then, I’ll sometimes get a “Oh, okay… alright… I’m coming.”

Let’s just say that no one is suffering from true Hunger in my family. But we are forgetful sometimes of where our food comes from – and of all those who helped harvest the grains and ship the fruits to market. We should give thanks for these good things – especially bread – one of my favorite things to eat!

Don’t you love bread, fresh from the oven? Or at Subway, where you get to choose your favorite kind? And oh, how many kinds there are in the world!

There’s French bread, French toast, Texas Toast, Rye bread, Wonder Bread and whole wheat bread. There’s honey oat, pumpernickel, and 7-grain bread. Flat bread, pita bread and garlic bread. Dinner rolls, bread sticks and popovers. And don’t even get me started on bagels & croissants!

Bread is a staple of our everyday lives. It’s “the staff of life.” And tonight’s bread is extra special because it was baked by these children who will receive their first communion in just a few minutes. We celebrate with you this milestone, as we welcome you to the Lord’s table, by Christ’s own invitation.

And then there’s the wine. We had some pretty funny faces when these kids tasted the wine at the first communion class. There they learned about how this meal can help us stay close to God – to be forgiven – to be one family in the faith.

Many folks like a glass of wine, these days – but it was much more common in Jesus’ day – it was probably a lot safer to drink than the water, too. After having traveled to Africa this past summer – and seeing some of the water available to people, I know how much I take for granted every time I turn on the tap! (Let’s just say we drank a lot of Fanta Orange and Coca-Cola those three weeks!)

But wine was readily available to Jesus and his followers. So, there you have it. Bread & wine. Easy to come by – easy to remember.

Remember… huh? Remember what, exactly? And how were they to remember? Well, “as often as you eat and drink.” This is why many families say a prayer before mealtime – that most common of all daily occurrences – to remember. Do you have a table grace?

Those prayers help us remember – not that we’re hungry. Normally, our bodies tell us that. And, if we don’t listen and feed the hunger… we’ll die.

No, there are other ways to be hungry. You can hunger for affection. It’s been said that babies that are not held and cuddled regularly can suffer from emotional distress. You can hunger for Sabbath rest. When we don’t take the time we need to renew ourselves, we are in danger of starvation of a different sort. And then there’s our hunger for God. “Do this to remember me,” Jesus had said.

But he gave them another way to remember: the rooster!

When we were in Tanzania, every morning we were awakened by the sound of a rooster. It’s just what roosters do. They cock-a-doodle-do at the first sign of light. Whether we were in the city of Iringa or in the country visiting our village, the people kept chickens for their eggs and their meat.

And there’s nothing quite like that here in the city. We don’t have that morning wake up call. It’s either the clock radio, the buzz of an alarm, or the ringtone on your cell phone that wakes you to a new day.

And so it was, that Jesus chose something so common (a rooster) to help them remember: “Before the cock crows, you will have denied knowing me 3 times,” he told Peter. And so it was, that Peter denied Jesus when he was spotted in the courtyard, warming his hands by the fire. “I don’t know who you’re talking about. I don’t know that man!” He was afraid, or tired… or just plain forgetful.

Renowned preacher, Anna Carter Florence reminds us of this in a sermon: Somehow Jesus knew these things about us: we get hungry… and we are forgetful. “Every day when the sun comes up, the rooster crows,” she says. “Every day! [So,] Eat, drink, and remember. Deny, repent, turn around. Keep coming to the table. Keep passing the cup to one another.”

Jesus might have said today, “Before you get another text message, you will have betrayed me three times!” Something so common was all he needed to remind us daily of our need for remembering.

This is what holy communion is all about. It’s about getting hungry and forgetting our Lord – and maybe God even has to come down to our rooms to get our attention: “Let’s eat!” Let’s come back to the table to be fed and forgiven every time.

Welcome to the Lord’s Table. The Sacrament of the Altar. The Eucharist meal of thanksgiving. Take and eat and drink and remember. Amen.

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