Saturday, November 5, 2016



In 2013 the British National Army Museum voted it "Britain's Greatest Battle".  If you are thinking perhaps “D-Day and Normandy” you’re close, that placed second.  Or maybe you drifted back further to the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, Waterloo placed third.

Most of us would be hard pressed to come up with the correct answer and that is unfortunate.   On the location of the battle there is a monument which contains these words, “When you go home tell them of us and say for your tomorrow we gave our today.”

And most of us don’t even know that it happened, the world has forgotten.

It happened in Kohima, a town in Northeast India, in the spring of 1944.  The Japanese had launched an offensive called the “U Go offensive” with the ultimate goal of preventing the British from liberating Burma.   And the British decided that the Japanese forces would not get past Kohima. 

And so on April 5 1944 12,000 Japanese troops began their offensive, defending Kohima were 1,500 British troops under the command of Colonel Hugh Richards.

For the next 64 days the Japanese hammered the British in what some refer to as the "Stalingrad of the East".   And after 64 days the Japanese retreated, one Japanese war correspondent, Shizuo Maruyama, wrote  “We had no ammunition, no clothes, no food, no guns. At Kohima, we were starved and then crushed.”

Many feel that the battle of Kohima was a turning point in the war in the pacific.  And yet for many it is now an non-event.  Human memory is such a fragile thing.

This fall my preaching theme has been “Hashtag This” and we’ve been looking at various words and phrases in the bible that would probably have warranted a Hashtag if anyone had been tweeting or posting on Facebook 2000 years ago.

Today we are going to the story of the last supper which was read for you earlier, and in particular we are going to stop for a while on #rememberme.

I think it’s fitting that Remembrance Sunday falls on a Communion Sunday but are times to remember. 

The last supper is chronicled in the 3 synoptic Gospels, that is Matthew, Mark and Luke.  John mentions the foot washing but doesn’t deal with the meal itself.  And then Paul picks up the story in 1 Corinthians, in the account that we read earlier.  I always find it interesting that Paul starts his account with these words.  1 Corinthians 11:23  For I pass on to you what I received from the Lord himself. Things that make me go hmmmmmm.
And there are those who would tell us that Paul simply received this in some form of revelation from Jesus, maybe a dream or a vision.  But what it says is this 1 Corinthians 11:23 For I pass on to you what I received from the Lord himself. 

Doesn’t say how he received it.  Hmmmmmmm.

Later in his story, Paul tells us that he received some of his training as a Pharisee in Jerusalem, he was close to the same age of Jesus, and he belonged to the religious groups that brought charges against Jesus. So I wonder, now understand that this is just speculation, Denn’s mind doing what Denn’s mind does. 

I wonder if the many stories that Luke told, in his Gospel, of Jesus meeting and debating with the Pharisees came from a young eye witness named Saul?  Or maybe one of the many stories that are recorded where Jesus speaks with an unnamed “expert in religious law”, if the person Jesus was talking to might have been named Saul who would later change his name to Paul.   Just wondering.

I wonder if Saul may have met Jesus during his ministry years and rejected his invitation to follow him?  I wonder if maybe he heard him speak of the last supper in post resurrection conversations? 

But regardless of how Jesus told Paul, we have in this account Jesus’ perspective of what happened that night.

So why did Jesus tell Paul, and why does Paul tells us?

If We Don’t Take the Time to Remember, We Won’t 

Paul doesn’t spell it out but the gospel writers do, the reason that Jesus was having dinner with the Apostles was to celebrate the Passover, the greatest celebration on the Jewish Calendar. 

But the fact that the Jewish people were still remembering the Passover 1500  years after it happened wasn’t accidental.  The Passover celebration was mandated and every year the Jewish people would step away from the ordinary to celebrate the extraordinary. 

The celebration went back to the beginning of the Old Testament when God delivered the people of Israel from the slavery of Egypt.  And in the book of Exodus God spelled out the Passover celebration.  And each element had a purpose, and that was to remind the people what had been done for the people of Israel.  The purpose was so they would not forget.    

And the Passover celebration is still an essential part of the Jewish faith.  Why?  Because around the world, in good times and in bad, in wartimes and in peace Jews take the time to remember.

Even during World War 2 in the death camps of Nazi Germany Passover was celebrated.   Because the Jewish people understood that If we don’t take time to remember, we won’t.

2000 years ago on the evening before he would be arrested and ultimately be crucified Jesus met with his apostles for the Passover dinner and he understood the frailty of human memory. 

And just as he had instituted the Passover 1500 years before now he defines a new point of remembrance.  In our tradition we call it Communion, others refer to it as the Lord’s Table or the Eucharist.  And Eucharist comes from a Latin word that meant “gratitude.”

And around the world Christians come together to celebrate and to remember.  I have participated in communion in six countries on four continents, and as different as they have been in some ways they’ve been similar in many other ways. 

At Cornerstone we normally celebrate communion once a month, or so, other churches do it weekly while others will only celebrate three or four times a year. 

At Cornerstone we normally use pita bread, other churches use wafers while others use matzo bread or wonder bread. 

At Cornerstone we use grape juice, for a whole variety of reasons.  You might be interested to know that the process of pasteurizing grape juice so it wouldn’t ferment was developed by a Wesleyan Pastor named Thomas Welsh for use in communion at his Church.  His son Thomas ultimately started a company that began marketing the grape juice to evangelical churches as “Biblical Wine”.

Other churches use wine instead of grape juice.  I’ve partaken in communion with red grape juice, white grape juice, wine and in West Africa we used a fruit flavored soft drink called Vimto and once,  because we didn’t have anything else, we used Coke.

But regardless of what we call it, how we celebrate it or how often we celebrate it the reason that we celebrate communion is so we won’t forget.

Later this morning and then on Friday you will be called to remember a different type of sacrifice.   

Each year at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month we pause for two minutes of silence.  And it is remembering the end of the First World War.  In some countries it is called Armistice Day, in others Remembrance Day and in others Veteran’s Day and some just call it Poppy Day. 

It was first observed in 1919 a year after the surrender of Germany signified the end of WWI.  Now it goes beyond simply remembering the end of that war to recognizing those who have served in the Armed Forces.  And for the most part it is a stylized night vigil. The Last Post was the common bugle call at the close of the military day, and The Rouse was the first call of the morning.

And we do it so we don’t forget the sacrifices made by our military.  It is not to honour or glorify war, but to remember.  Because If We Don’t Take the Time to Remember, We Won’t 

But it’s not just about remembering.  It’s about remembering something.   

Let’s go back to our scripture

1 Corinthians 11:23-24  For I pass on to you what I received from the Lord himself. On the night when he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and said, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this to remember me.”

So the first thing is that We Are Called to Remember the Bad

In Passover the bread that was used was a hard unleavened bread called the Bread of Affliction.  And that comes from Exodus 16.  And it was a reminder of the suffering the Jews had endured while they were slaves.

Even while they were escaping there were those who looked back to Egypt with longing.   In Exodus 16:3  The Israelites said to them, "If only we had died by the LORD's hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death."   No, they didn’t sit around pots of meat eating all the food they wanted. 

They were confusing captivity with the Gold Correl.  They were beaten and starved and killed by the Egyptians, and each year at Passover the bread of affliction reminded them of that.

And it is so typical of us to forget the bad, if women didn’t forget childbirth every child would be an only child. 

In the communion celebration it was the Bread of Affliction that Jesus held up and offered to the disciples.

But more than that he wanted them to remember his words from John 6:47-51  “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes has eternal life.  Yes, I am the bread of life!  Your ancestors ate manna in the wilderness, but they all died.  Anyone who eats the bread from heaven, however, will never die.  I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and this bread, which I will offer so the world may live, is my flesh.”

Jesus  wanted them to remember that he willingly gave his life for the Apostles and ultimately for us.  It is a reminder that not only did Jesus die for our sins but he died willingly and painfully.   600 years before Christ offered his body the prophet wrote Isaiah 53:5  But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.

And if you read the gospel accounts you discover the sacrifice that Jesus made for each of us.  He allowed himself to be beaten, to be flogged with a whip tipped with bone and metal shards, to have a crown of thorns pushed onto his head and to be nailed to a cross.

Sometimes as protestants we trivialize the crucifix of the Catholic church and say “We don’t keep Jesus on the cross.”  Oh stop it, the Catholic church doesn’t believe that Jesus is still on the cross, they believe in the physical resurrection of Christ.  Unlike some protestant churches. 

But sometimes I think the Catholics remember better than us what Jesus went through as they see him beaten and bloody on the cross.  Another tangent. 

And on November 11th we not only pause to remember the time that the Armistice was signed on November 11th 1918 but we pause to remember those who died to make that a reality, those who didn’t come home or didn’t come home whole.  In 1879 General William Sherman spoke to the graduating class of the Michigan Military Academy and said “I’ve been where you are now and I know just how you feel. It’s entirely natural that there should beat in the breast of every one of you a hope and desire that some day you can use the skill you have acquired here.
Suppress it! You don’t know the horrible aspects of war. I’ve been through two wars and I know. I’ve seen cities and homes in ashes. I’ve seen thousands of men lying on the ground, their dead faces looking up at the skies. I tell you, war is Hell!”

And so today we will remember. 

At this time I’m going to ask those who have been invited to assist with communion to come forward. 

At Cornerstone we celebrate an open communion that is we don’t limit it to members of Cornerstone or of the Wesleyan Church.  Instead it is a celebration for the Family of God.  So this morning you might be a Christ Follower and when you hold the bread you will remember the day you decided to follow Jesus.  Perhaps you haven’t made that decision yet but you are acknowledging that Jesus is the son of God and died for your sin and you are remembering his life and death and resurrection.  He is offering the gift of forgiveness, salvation and eternal life, but it is a gift that is only valid when it is accepted. 

It was during the Passover celebration that Jesus broke what was known as the bread of affliction. And so two thousand years ago, Christ told his disciples, don't forget me, don't forget the sacrifice that I made, don’t forget what I've done for you, whenever you do this remember me and what I've done. 

BREAD the same night that he was betrayed, he took bread and gave thanks saying “Blessed are you, O Lord, our God, King of the universe who brings forth bread from the earth”

After he had given thanks he broke the bread and gave it to his disciples saying, "This is my body which I've surrendered for you, eat and remember what I've done for you" 

Distribute Elements.

Let us remember the body of our Lord Jesus Christ that he gave up for each one of us.   It was through his sacrifice that we have eternal life.  Take and eat with thanksgiving for what he has done for you.  

But it wasn’t just the bread in the Passover feast that Jesus offered up that night, if we keep reading we discover in   1 Corinthians 11:25  In the same way, he took the cup of wine after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood. Do this to remember me as often as you drink it.”

Not only are we to remember the bad, We Are Called to Remember the Good.  When the people of Israel celebrated the Passover they were first called on to remember why God rescued them but more important the entire feast was to celebrate the fact that God had rescued them.

The feast was called the Passover for a reason. At the end of the plagues that visited the Egyptians when they wouldn’t permit the people of Israel to leave we are told that the angel of death came upon the country and the first born of their flocks and herds and families died.   But the Israelites were to mark their homes with the blood of a sacrificed lamb and the Angel of Death passed over their homes.

So while the Passover began with the memory of their slavery it ended with the story of their deliverance.  Of the promise being fulfilled.

When we pause to eat the bread in the communion celebration we are taking the time to remember the sacrifice that Jesus made for us.  We must never forget the price that was paid.

But then Jesus tells the Apostles that the wine was to remind them of his blood, and just as the people of Israel were saved and delivered because of the blood of the Passover lamb that the blood of Christ would save us.  

We are reminded in Colossians 1:19-20  For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ,  and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.

And again in Romans 5:9  And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation.

We need to remember that Jesus gave his life for us, but we must never forget that our salvation was sealed with his blood.  And when we drink from the cup we are remembering the miracle of the new birth, the touch of grace and the gift of forgiveness. 

We are reminded in 1 John 1:7  . . . the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.

When we pause to remember later in the service and again on Friday, we can’t forget the sacrifices that were made, the lives that were lost, but we need to remember why they gave their lives. 

Sometimes I get a little cranky at how few people actually take the time to go to a cenotaph on Remembrance Day.  Seriously people, it’s an hour on a day you are getting paid to remember. 

But that’s one of the freedoms that our vets fought and died for, so we could decide for ourselves things like that, that we wouldn’t live under a totalitarian government who would force us to attend their functions.   And if you want to rake your lawn at the 11 hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.  You can.

So let’s take a few moments and remember what Christ did for us through the shedding of his blood, he forgave us, he saved us.  He did for us what we couldn't do for ourselves.

CUP    It was after the meal that he took a cup of wine and gave thanks saying “Blessed are you, O Lord, our God, King of the universe, who created the fruit of the vine.”

And after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying "This cup represents the new covenant of my blood.  Whenever you drink it, remember the cleansing power that my blood has had in your life." 

Elements are passed

As we drink let us remember the blood of the lord Jesus that was shed for you, and for your eternal salvation.  Whenever you drink it remember that he shed it for you and be thankful.

But when we remember we not only remember the past, and we not only remember the present, but we look ahead to the future. 

1 Corinthians 11:26  For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are announcing the Lord’s death until he comes again.

We Are Called to Remember the Promise

In the Passover Feast  the meal is ended with a prayer that the night's service be accepted by God. And then they speak the words “Next year in Jerusalem!” Which is the hope for the Messiah to come and for the glory of Jerusalem to be restored.

Communion for us is the acknowledgment that the Messiah has come but more than that, Jesus tells us to remember that he will come again.  The reminder that whatever happens, that we’ve read the end of the book and we win. 

On Friday I will take part in our community remembrance day ceremony at our new cenotaph and I will read the words of Isaiah 2:4  The LORD will mediate between nations and will settle international disputes. They will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will no longer fight against nation, nor train for war anymore.

Are you seeing the pattern?  Because that promise won’t be fulfilled until Christ returns. 

And so we close with the words of the Apostle John that he wrote in the last verses of the last chapter of the last book of the bible.

Revelation 22:20-21  He who is the faithful witness to all these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon!” Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!  May the grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s holy people.

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