REMEMBER ME

JOHN 22:14-23

 

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            There is an absolutely corny joke that I picked up somewhere. It’s about a bill collector in Georgia who knocked on the door of a client who lived out in a rural area. This client owed the bill collector’s company money.

            “Is Fred home?” he asked the woman who answered the door.

            “Sorry,” the woman replied.  “Fred’s gone for cotton.”

            The next day the collector tried again. “ Is Fred here today?”

            “No, sir,” she said, “I’m afraid Fred has gone for cotton.”

            When he returned the third day, he said sarcastically, “I suppose Fred is gone for cotton again?”

            “No,” the woman answered solemnly, “Fred died yesterday.”

            Suspicious that he was being avoided, the bill collector decided to wait a week and check out the cemetery himself.  Sure enough, there was poor Fred’s tombstone. On it was this inscription: “Gone, But Not for Cotton.”

            That’s terrible, I know, but it is a reminder that tonight as we eat the bread and drink from the cup of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, we are signifying that Christ is neither gone nor forgotten.  We are signifying that he is present, here with us, as we take the sacred host in remembrance of him.

            Travelers down I-75 in the eastern part of Tennessee, just north of Knoxville, will see a sign for the Museum of Appalachia. T his unique museum is the handiwork of John Rice Irwin, a former school teacher and historian who has tried to capture the best of Appalachian culture.

            A reporter from the Smithsonian magazine tells of being shown Irwin’s office, which was overflowing with books and items waiting to be tagged.  Hanging in Irwin’s office is his most prized artifact.  It is a crazy quilt, made up of solid and plaid fabrics embroidered with various animals and everyday items.  There is a chicken.  A horse.  A salamander.  A fiddle.  A Jew’s harp.  There are the words, “God Bless Our Family.”  The quilt was made by Irwin’s grandmother, who pieced it together at the turn of the century, before she married.

            Irwin first laid eyes on the quilt years ago, and until he saw it, he knew nothing of his grandmother’s passions or creative talents.  “She had put on the quilt all the things she liked . . . If it were not for the quilt, her great-grandkids would only have known her name,” says Irwin, “and that she spent all her time cleaning, cooking, darning socks, ironing things that wouldn’t lend themselves to any kind of perpetuity.”  They would never have known she had artistic abilities.  In an apparent contradiction to the otherwise anonymous nature of her life, she inscribed a plea on the quilt that Irwin calls “the most dramatic two words I’ve ever read.” They say, simply: “Remember me.”

            Remember me.  This quiet mountain woman did not want to be forgotten.

A pastor tells of celebrating the Lord’s Supper with Father Lawrence Jenco, a former hostage for several years in Beirut, Lebanon.  In the sacrament, when Father Jenco came to the place where the priest repeats Jesus’ request to his disciples: “Do this in remembrance of me,” Father Jenco said, instead: “Don’t forget me, now.”

            “‘Don’t forget me, now.”  How many times, says this pastor, “must [Jenco] have wondered, in his dark prison, whether anyone in the outside world remembered that he even existed.  In those long years this good man was taken up into the heart of Jesus, as Jesus, too, was about to be seized and tortured.  He knew that Jesus, too, was afraid that his whole life would be for nothing: that he would be forgotten.  He had good reason to think so: didn’t he predict that even his closest friends would run away when he was arrested?  And they did! ‘Don’t forget me, now.’  Ever since that day,” says this pastor, “whenever I celebrate the Eucharist, I hear Jesus saying that to me: ‘Don’t forget me.’ It’s so easy to forget. Our lives are so busy. The world is so much with us. But this is all that Jesus asks of us: that we remember him.”

            That is why we are here this evening to remember, to celebrate the risen Christ.

An Italian mystic and novelist Luigi Santucci sought to capture Christ’s thoughts at that Last Supper with his disciples.  Listen to his words:

 

            At this point I see his eyes wandering around over the remains of the bread on the table-cloth, and then shining with an ineffable inspiration: this, this would be his hiding place. That’s where he would take refuge [ in the bread which he broke for his disciples]. That night [the soldiers] wouldn’t capture him in his entirety; they’d think they’d done so, they’d think they’d dragged him away from his companions, yet really they would scourge and crucify a ghost: he had hidden himself in that bread. Rather as in Galilee, when they wanted to seize him and kill him or make him king, he had the knack of hiding himself and disappearing from sight. So he stretched out his hand over the already broken bread, broke it into smaller bits and, raising it in the air, pronounced the words of the magic transition: ‘This is my body, it’s been given for you . . .’

“That’s why he looked over that table-cloth for the easiest, most familiar and most concrete thing: bread . . . That evening Christ measured out for us all the millions of evenings before we’d see him face to face; he measured out the long separation. He knew that men forget things within a few days, that distance destroys things . . . If Peter himself, and John and Andrew and James would forget, then in order that their children and their grandchildren shouldn’t forget, he had to throw between himself and me that never-ending bridge of bread . . .”[1]

 

            What a magnificent image: a “never-ending bridge of bread . . .”  That’s what the Lord’s Supper has been for Christians over the twenty-one centuries since Christ’s death and resurrection: a never-ending bridge of bread.  As long as we eat the bread and drink the cup, we will not forget.  We will not lose touch with who we are and who made us his own.

            Do you remember the climax to the story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaeus who found themselves in the presence of the risen Christ, but did not recognize him?  At the end of the story they did have their eyes opened and they did recognize him.  How? Luke tells us, “And he was known to them in the BREAKING OF THE BREAD” (24:35).

            As long as we have the bread and the cup, we will remember.

            And so, as you take the bread and the cup this night, in your heart remember. And give thanks.  Christ is not dead.  He is alive.

            One Sunday morning a little boy commented, “I like it when we have bread and medicine at church.”

            After thinking for a few minutes, the boy’s mother figured out what he was talking about.  In their church, they used small plastic disposable cups for communion.  And they resembled the small cups that they had at home that come with cough syrups and other children’s medications.

            This meal should be medicine for the soul.  Take, eat, remember, and let the risen Christ enter your life anew.


[1] Luigi Santucci, Wrestling With Christ,, pp. 155-157.