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A Life to Remember

Isaiah 66:1-5

Jim Davis

Sherri Yates told a story about her 5-year-old son observing her taking communion. She said that he watched intently as she received the elements and bowed her head to pray.

A few seconds later, she stole a peek at her unusually quiet son to see what he was up to. He was by then intently watching his daddy at prayer after taking communion. I was delighted that he was observing the solemnity of the occasion. "Good parental example," she thought.

Her gratification was short-lived as Seth leaned toward her and whispered: "What's in that stuff? You eat it and go right to sleep." (Citation: Sherri Yates, Glendale, AZ, Christian Reader, "Lite Fare.")

The danger of having special days like Memorial Day and special memorials as the Lord’s Supper is that somewhere along the way the real purpose of the memorial is overshadowed by the traditions established to memorialize the event.

There is a story about a priest that would always go over and touch a radiator in the church building after his prayer for the communion. A new priest took over his parish, but the new priest never went over and touched the radiator after the communion prayer. Some members got very upset because he never followed the practice of touching the radiator after the communion prayer as the old priest had always done. The young priest didn’t understand the practice, so he asked the old priest about his practice of touching the radiator after every communion prayer. The old priest admitted that he always touched the radiator, but he touched the radiator to get rid of the static electricity so as not to give those taking communion an electrical shock.

The Lord’s Memorial is about a Living Christ

How often do our traditions overshadow the real meaning of our practices? Do we ever allow the death, burial and resurrection of Christ to overshadow Christ’s life? The death of Christ was never meant to overshadow his life. It is very easy to allow our observance of the Lord’s Supper to overshadow the importance of Christ life. It was his death that truly defined the purpose of his life. There is no way we can reflect upon his death without remembering his life. When Jesus told his disciples, "do this in remembrance of me" he was not confining remembrances of him solely to his death, burial and resurrection. The remembrances of Christ have to do with his life.

A few days ago we had a memorial service for Ahlene Del. Did you notice that what was said was almost solely about how she lived? When her death was spoken of it was defined by how she lived. It is almost impossible to honor the memory of a person without honoring the way the person lived.

It was Christ’s life that gave his death meaning! Jesus dying for our sins was the result of his choosing to obey the Father which led to come to earth to become one of us. You see how his death is all about his living for the Father. We must not overlook Jesus’ life by solely reflecting upon his death. Jesus’ life gives us a single clear message to come and follow him in obedience. You can see how this memorial service is about continually choosing to live for God. In a sermon on Easter I stated that the resurrection is not about dying but about a powerful way of living. So it is with the Lord’s Supper; it is about reflecting on how to live for Christ. Paul reminds us to examine ourselves as we partake of this memorial (1 Corinthians 11:28).

Experiencing the death of Christ for me is all about discovering how to live for Christ.

2 Corinthians 4:7-12
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. NIV

When my life experiences the death of Christ Jesus’ life is revealed in my body. The results will be that it will bring life to others. When I seek to die with Christ, Christ’s life is revealed to the lost.

If we want to honor those soldiers who have given their lives to set us free, we must dedicate our lives to upholding the cause for which they died. In a very real sense we must die. Die to self-enslavement to set others free. Their deaths must create the desire in us to spread freedom to a world that is enslaved. It has been hard for me to understand how we can support our troops without honoring the purposes they seek.

It is so easy to forget the purpose behind Memorial Day. When you think of Memorial Day Weekend, you probably think of family gatherings, cookouts, homemade ice cream, and so on.

The good people of Lake City, Colorado, think of those things too. But they take their holiday festivities a step further than most of us by staging ... A COFFIN RACE!

I am not making this up. On Saturday, May 24, they'll do it again, rigging up caskets on wheels and whizzing down the town's main street. Looks sort of like a soapbox derby, only sponsored by the local morgue.

One year's winner, Mike Doty, created a cadaver crate with lawnmower wheels. After crossing the finish line, the 5-foot-6 1/2, 275-pound champ chalked up his victory to "my great physical shape."

The coffin race is one of a handful of activities remembering Alfred Packer, who in 1874 took five gold prospectors into the mountains near Lake City, where they were trapped by a snowstorm. They ran out of rations, but Alfred found an "alternative"--albeit grisly--food source: his gold-digging companions.

Today, posters around town proclaim the event: "Commemorating Lake City's Infamous Man-Eater!" (The posters also pitch the Tubby Carl Memorial Showmanship Award, whatever that is.)

Other activities include a skeleton-assembly contest and the annual Alfred Packer Barbecue Cookoff, with $700 in prize money.

There's also a flea market and plenty of food, including one entrepreneur selling "manburgers"--hamburgers shaped like little men. And then there's the big dance at the town armory on Saturday night.

Sounds like a blast.

Don't know about you, but I'm just dying to go! (Citation: "Strange World," Campus Life, Vol. 53, no. 10. Rich Bersett, Belleville, Illinois)

Churches can also become side tracked when it comes to celebrating the Lord’s memorial. I have seen those who only run into the church building to take communion and leave immediately when it is over. That is the limit of their fellowship with the church. I think many of those individual fail to understand that Christ’s sacrifice was about bringing us into fellowship with each other in a new and living way through the body of Christ.

The Lord’s Memorial is about living for Christ

It is our living sacrifice that gives the Lord’s memorial supper its full significance. The Philistines had oppressed Israel for twenty years when Samuel became judge in Israel. God had allowed the Philistines to oppress Israel because of her sins. Samuel interceded for God and persuaded Israel to put away her sinful practices of idolatry. They assembled at Mizpah and fasted as they confessed, "We have sinned against the Lord" (1 Samuel 7:2-6).

It was then that Samuel offered a burnt offering on behalf of the Israelites. That burnt offering would have meant nothing without their commitment to live for God through confession and repentance. Obedient lives gave meaning to their sacrifice.

1 Samuel 7:10-13
10 While Samuel was sacrificing the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to engage Israel in battle. But that day the LORD thundered with loud thunder against the Philistines and threw them into such a panic that they were routed before the Israelites. 11 The men of Israel rushed out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, slaughtering them along the way to a point below Beth Car.

12 Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, "Thus far has the LORD helped us." 13 So the Philistines were subdued and did not invade Israelite territory again. NIV

When we bring our lives to God through the Lord’s memorial supper it allows us to realize the presence of God. Keep in mind that the memorials throughout the Bible were memorials God established for his people. They were established to allow God’s people to realize his presence in their lives.

Exodus 28:9-14
9 "Take two onyx stones and engrave on them the names of the sons of Israel 10 in the order of their birth--six names on one stone and the remaining six on the other. 11 Engrave the names of the sons of Israel on the two stones the way a gem cutter engraves a seal. Then mount the stones in gold filigree settings 12 and fasten them on the shoulder pieces of the ephod as memorial stones for the sons of Israel. Aaron is to bear the names on his shoulders as a memorial before the LORD. 13 Make gold filigree settings 14 and two braided chains of pure gold, like a rope, and attach the chains to the settings. NIV

The precious stones were to be upon the shoulder-pieces of the ephod, stones of memorial for the sons of Israel; and Aaron was to bear their names before Jehovah upon his two shoulders for a memorial, i.e., that Jehovah might remember the sons of Israel when Aaron appeared before Him clothed with the ephod (cf. v. 29). (Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament: New Updated Edition, Electronic Database.)

Isaiah 56:4-5
To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths,
who choose what pleases me
and hold fast to my covenant--
5 to them I will give within my temple and its walls
a memorial and a name
better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name
that will not be cut off. NIV

God meets us in this memorial as we remember his Son’s sacrifice. In it he accepts the memorial offering his Son has made for each of us. It is as if we are offering the sacrifice afresh each time we partake as a memorial to God. God enters into our presence in a very special way each time we observe this memorial and establishes it as a memorial in his presence.

A well-known painting of the Vietnam Wall depicts a young widow and her daughter standing at the wall, reaching up and touching the name of the husband and father who died. The reflection in the polished granite is not of the mother and daughter but of the husband and father reaching out his hand to touch theirs.

That is the Lord's Supper. We arrive at the table and reach out our hands to take this unleavened bread and this fruit of the vine. In response to our act of faith, Jesus touches us.

According to a news report, a certain private school recently was faced with a unique problem. A number of middle school girls were beginning to use lipstick and would put it on in the bathroom. That was fine, but after they put on their lipstick they would press their lips to the mirror leaving dozens of little lip prints. Every night, the maintenance
man would remove them and the next day, the girls would put them back.

Finally the principal decided that something had to be done. She called all the girls to the bathroom and met them there with the maintenance man.  She explained that all these lip prints were causing a major problem for the custodian who had to clean the mirrors every night. To demonstrate how difficult it had been to clean the mirrors, she asked the
maintenance man to show the girls how much effort was required. He took out a
long-handled squeegee, dipped it in the toilet, and cleaned the mirror with it. Since then, there have been no lip prints on the mirror.

What that maintenance person did left the kind of impression upon those girls that Christ’s life must make upon our lives. Paul seeks to leave this kind of indelible impression upon us in the following verses:

1 Corinthians 11:27-32
27 Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28 A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. 31 But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment. 32 When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world. NIV

If we come and partake of this memorial feast without striving to live worthy of the sacrifice, we sin against the body and blood of the Lord.

Hebrews 10:26-31
26 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. 28 Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," and again, "The Lord will judge his people." 31 It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. NIV

We sin against the body and blood, and trod underfoot the Son of God when we partake of the Lord’s Supper in a flippant way. Don’t we also offer his sacrifice anew each time we observe the Lord’s Memorial?

It is one thing to sin in weakness, and another to deliberately live in sin. Your life is the only thing that can give personal meaning to Christ’s memorial.

2 Peter 1:5-9
5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. NIV

It is our way of living that gives meaning to Christ’s sacrifice. When my knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ becomes unproductive in my life, i.e., it ceases to guide my life, it means that Christ sacrifice has lost its purpose for me.

The significance of any memorial is lost when we lose sight of its original purpose. The purpose of memorials is for them to have a changing impact upon our lives. I think the self sacrifice of the soldiers in Baghdad has given a fresh meaning of Memorial Day. It is one thing to teach about memorials; it is another for them to have an impact upon our lives.

Isaiah 66:2-4
"This is the one I esteem:
he who is humble and contrite in spirit,
and trembles at my word.
3 But whoever sacrifices a bull
is like one who kills a man,
and whoever offers a lamb,
like one who breaks a dog's neck;
whoever makes a grain offering
is like one who presents pig's blood,
and whoever burns memorial incense,
like one who worships an idol.

They have chosen their own ways,
and their souls delight in their abominations;
4 so I also will choose harsh treatment for them
and will bring upon them what they dread.
For when I called, no one answered,
when I spoke, no one listened.
They did evil in my sight
and chose what displeases me." NIV

For the Israelites to come and offer a bull as a sacrifice without respecting God’s way of living was paramount to killing a man. What made the sacrifice acceptable was a contrite spirit and respect for his word.

Conclusion:

The movie SAVING PRIVATE RYAN portrays one of the bloodiest conflicts imaginable.

A crack military unit is sent in to rescue the private. The Rangers were to take Omaha Beach, and then go after the private deeper into enemy territory. The struggle is fierce and many lose their lives in the bloody conflict.

Upon reaching the location where Private Ryan is holed up, he resists leaving saying that with an upcoming battle on the way, he must stay and fight. The Rangers vow to stay and fight as well.

The battle is gory and most of them die horrible deaths—except Private Ryan. The soldier played by actor Tom Hanks is seen sitting down having been badly wounded. Private Ryan leans over in concern and Hanks shoots back, "Earn this!" Then he dies.

The beautiful thing about the death of Christ is that there is nothing we have to earn—or ever could earn. The price Christ paid is far beyond anything we could ever earn. We cannot buy it, nor pay him for it. But in a real sense we must make his death effective in each of our lives by seeking to live as he lived. (Adapted from Tom Allen, Seattle, WA, www.preachingtoday.com.)

 

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