The Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Corinth because they had been abusing the Lord’s supper. There were divisions within that church. Instead of it being a celebration of the unity of the body, Communion had become a fractious thing. It had turned into the Haves versus the Have-nots. It had become an act of dismembering the body of Christ. Paul wanted to bring them back to the essential heart of what Communion is about. Join us this week as we learn together from 1 Corinthians 11.
- I will work to forget the shame and guilt from my past.
- I will remember the cross and the freedom found there.
I want you to imagine for a moment what your life would be like if you completely lost the ability to remember things.
Some of you may feel that process has already begun.
I want you to imagine for just a moment — a mental exercise — what life would be like if you were completely unable to bring to mind the books that you’ve read, the people that you’ve met or the experiences that you’ve had… if they were all just blotted out.
There once was such a man. His name was Jimmy. He suffered from a disease called Korsakoff syndrome, which left him unable to remember anything that happened to him after the age of nineteen.
The doctor who treated him writes about him in a book.
This doctor met Jimmy when Jimmy was fifty years old. This doctor knew him for ten years. He saw him at least once a week. Every time he saw him — every week for ten years — he had to be introduced to Jimmy, as if they were meeting for the very first time.
Jimmy would sit down with a magazine and read it. By the time he got to the end of the magazine, he would have completely forgotten the beginning of it. He could read it over and over and over again, and it would be new every time. He could read it the rest of his life, and it would be new every time.
Every time he looked in the mirror, he expected to see a nineteen-year-old boy. Every time, he was shocked to see this gray-haired, old man looking back at him. He forgot who he was.
Who you are depends on your ability to remember.
I want to read a passage of Scripture from 1 Corinthians 11, but before I do, let me say a word about the context.
Paul is writing to the church at Corinth, because they’ve been abusing the Lord’s supper. There have been divisions within that church. Instead of it being a celebration of the unity of the body, it’s become a fractious thing. It’s turned into the haves versus the have-nots. It’s been an act of dismembering the body of Christ.
Paul wants to bring them back to what is essential to the very heart of what this observance is about.
He writes in 1 Corinthians 11:23:
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.”
Paul signals his intention for this passage with a couple of little phrases he uses in verse 23.
He says that he received something and handed it on. Those are technical terms that were used in Judaism to talk about the transmission of critical religious instruction — faith-forming information.
Paul says, “This is what I want to hand on to you. This is of first importance.” Then he sketches this scene of Jesus and his friends.
We need to do some remembering for a moment.
For three years, Jesus and his friends — these disciples — have been inseparable. They have been together twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year.
Jesus’ friends have listened to his teaching.
They have watched him walk on water.
They’ve seen him feed five thousand people with five loaves and two fish.
They’ve seen him heal the sick, cast out demons, calm storms and raise the dead.
These friends of his left everything. They abandoned their jobs, their homes and their families, in order to follow him all the time. He has turned their world upside down, and now they’ve come to watch him die.
Jesus says this extraordinary thing to his friends. He says, “Eat this bread to help you remember me. Drink this cup to help you remember me.”
After three years, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year, is Jesus worried that they might forget him?
Well, frankly yes.
To tell you the truth, that’s exactly what he’s worried about — that they will forget him, not in a sense that he might slip their minds, and not that some day they would say, “Jesus who?”
He’s concerned about spiritual forgetfulness.
Who you are depends on your ability to remember.
Jesus draws on one of the most important words in all of the Old Testament. It’s used many times.
Joshua leads the children of Israel across the Jordan River. After they get across, he stops them, pulls out twelve men and tells them all to get a rock and make a pile of the rocks.
He says, “When your children see this pile of rocks and ask what the pile of rocks is doing there, I want you tell them about the time that we were crossing the Jordan River. God pulled the waters apart, so that we could cross on dry land. I want it to be there as a memorial. I want you to remember.”
It’s not just there. All through the Old Testament:
God says, “Remember the Sabbath. Keep it holy.”
“Remember that you were slaves in Egypt. I reached out with a strong arm and delivered you from Egypt.”
He says, “When you see a rainbow in the sky, I want you to remember that I have promised I will never again destroy the earth by flood.”
He says, “When you celebrate the Passover and eat unleavened bread for seven days, your children ask why are we doing this? I want you to tell them about the time that your lives were spared because of the blood of the lamb, so that it will be as the Bible says, ‘A memorial, a sign on your forehead.'”
Over and over and over again, the writers of Scripture say, “Remember, remember, remember.”
There is what one Old Testament scholar calls in the Scriptures “a theology of remembering.”
Here’s the crucial question. Why do you think God tells us to remember so often? Does anyone want to guess? It’s not a trick question.
Because we forget. We’re amazingly forgetful creatures.
We have two memory problems. One of them is that we forget what we should remember. We just forget stuff.
I want to see a show of hands on this one if you’ve ever forgotten something.
Let me prompt you with a few categories. If you’ve ever forgotten one of these, I’ll ask you to literally raise your hand in kind of a mass confession here.
If you’ve ever taken a test when you were a student and forgot an important date or piece of information…
If you’ve ever forgotten someone’s name or telephone number…
If you ever forgotten a birthday or, worse, an anniversary…
Raise your hand if you’ve ever forgotten your car keys…
Or if you ever walked out of Blue Oaks Church and forgot where you parked your car…
Or if you ever walked into a room, looked around for a moment and realized you can’t remember why you walked into the room in the first place.
Raise your hand if you have ever rented a movie and then remembered two-thirds of the way through that you’ve already seen it.
Raise your hand if you’ve ever forgotten something.
Raise your hand if you’ve forgotten the original question by now.
We are an amazingly forgetful people.
According to the writers of Scripture, what is especially astounding about us is our capacity to forget God — the capacity of human beings to forget the God who made them and loves them.
So God delivers Israel from Egypt. In a matter of days, the people of Israel are dancing and worshipping around this golden calf.
Moses says to them in Deuteronomy 32:18:
You deserted the rock that fathered you. You forgot the God of your birth.
You forgot meaning not simply that God just slipped your minds. You forgot meaning that you’re living as though God never loved you or saved you, as if God is absent from your heart. You forget God.
And it’s not just Israel. I do that.
I have times when my children come and interrupt me. They want to ask me to do something for them. The way that I respond to them — I can see when I reflect on it — is like I had forgotten God.
I go driving down a street, and there on the corner is a homeless person holding up a sign wanting help. If I’m aware enough to take the leading on my heart’s initial response to that, very often what it says to me is that I’ve forgotten God. I’ve forgotten that this is a human being that is loved by God.
Jesus says to his friends, to you and to me, “Remember me.” He means not to just call me to mind occasionally.
The word he uses is the Greek word anamnasis.
The negative form of that word is the word we get amnesia from. Jesus is talking about the kind of remembering that can help you avoid spiritual amnesia.
If you do it right and if you do it Jesus’ way when you remember, then what was real once before becomes real once again. You’re reborn.
When you remember, if you do it right, what was real in the past becomes real now.
We have that happen in our ordinary lives occasionally.
Sometimes a song will do it. There will be a song that you connect very heavily with a certain moment in your life. It brings back a flood of memories like they’re all present.
I asked Lisa, one of our pastors, if she would share with you a story about how songs connect with the people she ministers to.
Video: Lisa Herrington
It’s a powerful ministry Lisa has — helping people to remember.
You see, when Jesus calls us to remember, he’s not saying, “Call me to mind occasionally.”
When you remember, if you do it right, the God who delivered Moses from Pharaoh and the God that ushered his children across the Jordan River is suddenly seen to be present here and now.
The one that’s being delivered by that God is me.
The twelve stones suddenly become a burning bush that God inhabits. What was real once before becomes real once again.
The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is your God and my God.
Probably everyone in this room, if there were time, could come up with a pile of rocks — memories — about times when God guided you, healed you, blessed you or loved you, and about the moment when you first heard that song or those words “Jesus loves me,” and you realized it was true.
There is something else that I need to point out about this passage.
This passage is not about warm memories. This is not a nostalgic trip down memory lane that Paul’s talking about. This is a passage about death, a broken body and shed blood.
We have two problems with our memory.
One of them is we forget what we should remember. Do you know what the other one is?
We remember what we should forget.
I think maybe that’s a more painful problem.
I was talking some time ago to a couple that was going to get married.
Just talking about their wedding plans, the future bride broke down and started to weep.
Then she began to talk about when she was younger. She had gotten involved with a married man. She became pregnant and didn’t know what to do. She was from a Christian family. She agonized and finally had the child aborted. It left her with a wound that would not heal.
She heard people that she knew talk about that issue in ways that made her feel, rightly or wrongly, that it was not safe for her to tell anyone.
The greatest fear in her life that would not let her alone was that on the day she was going to be married, she would walk down the aisle in her wedding gown, but the memory of what she had done would just torment her. It was like a knife in her heart.
Her problem was she couldn’t forget it. She couldn’t let it go. It wouldn’t let her go.
There are different issues for all of us.
Maybe for you today, what would keep you from encountering and remembering Jesus is something that’s lodged in the memory banks of your heart that you cannot forget.
The real problem of human beings is we remember what we cannot forget.
Jesus says, know this about God. God is not only the universe’s greatest rememberer, but God is also the universe’s greatest forgetter.
The writer of Scripture says in Psalm 103:
For as far as the east is from the west, so far has God removed our transgressions from us.
Our sin is so irrelevant to God’s attitude to us that it’s as if he’s forgotten it. It’s as if God has taken on voluntary amnesia for us. It’s as if God — this omniscient, all-seeing, all-knowing being — has just had something escape from his memory. It’s blotted out.
Jesus says, “That’s the new covenant in my blood. That’s the sufficiency of my life, death and Resurrection for you.”
Today, Blue Oaks, you’re called to remember. And today, the good news is — you’re called to forget. Today is a day to forget.
I was driving home in Pleasanton not too long ago. I was on our street when I saw the flashing blue lights behind me. So I pulled over into our driveway.
The officer got out of his car, walked over to my car and I rolled down the window.
He leaned in and said, “Do you know why I stopped you?” I hate it when they ask that question, because there is just no good answer. “No, do you want directions to a donut shop? I don’t know.”
Okay, I apologize for that one. Please do not send me any emails on that. I know I shouldn’t have said it. I’m sorry I said it. It didn’t keep me from saying it, but I’m sorry I said it.
So I didn’t actually say that to the officer. I was looking for a more strategic answer in a moment like that.
I said to him, “No, officer, I have no idea why you stopped me. We just moved here recently. We used to live in Sunol. I was just driving home from church. I was probably thinking about the Bible. Did I mention I’m a pastor?”
He said to me, “Well, the speed limit here on this particular stretch of road is only twenty-five miles an hour. You wouldn’t want to run over any kids, would you?”
I knew the right answer to that question.
He said, “Plus, you just rolled through a stop sign. In Sunol you may roll through stop signs. Here in Pleasanton, a stop sign means stop.”
I said, “You must be so proud to be a police officer in Pleasanton.”
He had his ticket pad out and hadn’t made any notes on it. I don’t know what prompted me to ask this question, but I said to him, “What about the ticket?”
He said the most amazing thing. He looked at me and said, “Forget it. Forget it. Remember the speed limit when you’re on this road from now on. Remember to stop when you come to the stop sign. Forget the ticket.”
I did. He didn’t give me a ticket. I’ve never had anything like that happen before in my life.
It’s not that I get arrested all that often, but he just let me go.
Today, what we celebrate is a time to forget. I don’t mean that in an unhealthy way. I don’t mean that you repress or gloss over stuff. I mean, that as human beings, every one of us has memories that occasionally, when we allow them to, wake us up at three a.m. We stare at the ceiling wondering why we did what we did, and why it can’t be undone.
Jesus said that God’s heart, desire and intention toward you is that you not be tortured by guilt anymore.
God’s forgiveness for you is utter, complete and sufficient. It is all wrapped up in this business of the new covenant. It’s based not on what you can do and not on your observance of some moral code, but simply on the grace of God. It’s the new covenant.
Forget it, but remember Christ.
You need to understand this kind of remembering is a costly remembering.
From a legal standpoint, it is as if my ticket was just forgotten. It’s as if I had never gone too fast and never missed a stop sign.
For the last several months, every time I come to that stop sign and drive on my street, I remember. It changes me a bit. I drive a little slower and come to a complete stop. I don’t drive the same. When I come to that stop sign, I remember, and remembering changes me.
Jesus says, “When you come to the table I want you to remember.”
Probably, the meal they were celebrating together was the Passover meal. The purpose of the Passover meal was to remember that God had spared the first born of the household, because of the blood of the lamb.
Jesus says, “No! I want you to remember this new covenant. I want you to remember the body that was broken for you, and the blood that has been shed for you.”
It means that your sin, guilt and shame have been forgotten by God — no more allowing them to haunt you.
Understand, this remembering will demand something of you. The kind of remembering Jesus invites his friends to is a costly kind of remembering.
From the writers of Scripture, most often when that verb “to remember” is used, it’s used of God. God is the one who remembers.
Most often, God remembers his people.
What it means is not just that God says, “Oh yes, they are my people.” When the writers of Scripture say God remembered his people, they mean God has acted, delivered and saved. It’s a costly thing.
Do you remember when Jesus was crucified and two thieves were next to him?
One was repentant. The repentant thief had a request of Jesus. Do you remember what the repentant thief asked Jesus?
He said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. Jesus, remember me.”
You understand what he meant by that.
It’s not just acknowledge my identity but, “Jesus, I want to be with you. I’ve lived a pretty miserable life and am being crucified. It’s just. I have no complaint against the legal system. I’ve sinned against human beings and sinned against God. Nonetheless, Jesus, I’ve come to my last moment and have nowhere else to turn. Jesus, remember me.”
Do you remember Jesus’ response? — “This day, I’ll remember you. You will be in paradise. I won’t forget you. I will remember you.”
Do you know what that remembering cost?
It cost the cross, death on a cross, a broken body and shed blood — not a casual thing.
Remembering Jesus — the kind of remembering that he calls us to — is done in the shadow of the cross.
There will be effort involved in remembering Jesus. We’re called to that.
There will sometimes be pain involved in remembering Jesus. Sometimes there will be a sting to it.
That’s part of why Paul goes on to warn us in the next passage. Before people partake in this observance, in this remembering, they are to examine themselves.
The church of Corinth had become a very divided place. It made a mockery of the remembering.
When we come together to remember, there is something going on that’s beyond our ability to comprehend. We’re trying to express this in the way that we take communion today.
We — you and I — have become members of one body, Christ’s body — his body — that was broken for us.
He took on the brokenness of our world, our hatred, our hostility and our division. Now we’re invited to become his hands and feet.
Today, in some way we don’t fully understand and will not fully understand until we make it to heaven, Christ’s body is being remembered.
When we unite as members of the body of Christ on this earth, His body is remembered.
Do you remember Jimmy who I talked about at the beginning of the message? You may want to pretend like you do, even if you don’t.
The doctor wondered if the disease, Korsakoff syndrome, had left Jimmy capable of any kind of meaningful, spiritual life at all.
The doctor walked by the chapel one day. Inside of the chapel at this hospital, there was Jimmy. Do you know what he was doing?
The doctor writes that he was kneeling on the ground. He was receiving communion.
It turned out he went to the chapel on a regular basis to receive communion.
The doctor writes, “When he was in there at that moment, it was like he was another person. All of the anxiety and the emotional confusion that usually surrounded him were gone. He was just focused and at rest.”
There was a peace about him that the doctor didn’t think he was capable of.
He writes at the end of his account about Jimmy, “In the moment of communion, he found his soul.”
Who you are depends on your ability to remember.
Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me.” For when you remember, if you do it right, what was real once before becomes real once again. You proclaim the death of our Lord until he comes.
Alright, let me pray for us and then Michaela and the team will lead us in a song of reflection, and then we’ll take communion together to close the service.
Blue Oaks Church