Lesson 7: Eucharist as Remembering

The Last SupperIn our technological society, we forget how important remembering the past is for keeping our balance in life. Faith, hope, and love have always been used to summarize how Christians make decisions. Faith primarily is trust in the story that begins far back in history. Hope is the promise God makes in that story. Together, these two virtues inspire and inform the love by which Christians live in the present.

A significant part of that ancient story is the last supper Jesus shared with his followers. The formula used in the Eucharist includes the command, “Do this in remembrance of me.” The assumption is when we remember something from the past, we make it present. Just as when I think of my father, he becomes present in my life once again; so too when we remember Jesus, he becomes present.

When I find myself unable to remember significant events I once did, I am less of a person. One of the first signs of dementia is the loss of memory. Significantly, we seem to lose our short term before our long-term memory. Perhaps that is because the past that stretches back the furthest makes us who we are. It is that on which we depend for our identity. When we lose our ability to remember, we lose our selves.

Just as we remember at family meals events shared with loved ones from our past, so we remember at Communion meals moments in which Jesus’ expressed God’s love with his table mates. We primarily remember his last supper but that contains all sorts of examples of our loving relationship. It was there Jesus washed his disciples feet, called them friends, promised he would prepare a place for them in the beloved community, prayed that the Father would care for them, indicated he would give his life for their welfare, gave them the great commandment to love others as he loved us. We cannot remember the last supper without remembering it is like other meals during his lifetime when he shared food with sinners and tax collectors. Every one of his disciples would soon abandon him. So too, you have to remember his resurrection meals that all include sharing food as an act signifying their sharing themselves in love.

The technological society does not remember but rather spins the past in order to make it a means for getting what it wants. Our politicians force the past to support their programs. Our business people put the best face on past scandals to preserve their reputations and sell their products.

Hopefully, Christians remember in order that the truth might free us from our self- imposed chains. Trusting God’s love for us, we are not afraid to honestly confront our own and our society’s past.

A lot of memory is provoked at the Eucharist. We remember God’s promises and Jesus’ love. We remember our baptisms and all the times we experienced forgiveness of sin. We share all this with each other as we share the bread and wine. And we leave the table ready to love as we have been loved, forgive as we have been forgiven, save as we have been saved.

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2 Enlightened Replies

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  1. Concordia Hoffmann says:

    From my perspective, the smaller congregation can promote a sense of community. In a large congregation, I find it difficult to form attachments, much less breaking down ethnic reserves.

    And every congregation should have a core pf people who are prepared to visit the sick or home-bound to give them communion. Whether these people are sick or homebound for a few days or weeks should not matter. The core of communion people should make a phone call and visit the ill as soon as they know.

    Communion in the church service itself should not be regimented and orderly. I don’t have any suggestion for an alternative right now.

    Pastoral care should take precedence over all administrative details.

    • Derek Halverson says:

      I’m not actually disagreeing, but I’d like to point out from the perspective of someone who has moved a few times that to an outsider a smaller congregation is it’s own ethnic reserve, one that can be surprisingly difficult to break into. With people moving as often as they do, I’m not surprised that megachurches are ascendant while small community churches like the one I grew up in are sadly withering.

      More on topic with the lesson, I can see why the Eucharist is handled as it is during a service, however I think that the importance of people sharing a meal, or in some way sharing time so they can know and support each other, is lost in the process. I think it needs to return in some manner.

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