A friend of mine was telling me about a visit to another church. The sermon was interesting, but not uplifting. The preacher was not expounding Scripture, but rather reviewing a book he had read recently. ‘But then’, my friend said, ‘with the sermon over, we went into communion. And oh how meaningful the service then became – for we remembered Jesus’.
My friend told this story in the context of arguing for a weekly observance of the Lord’s Supper.
Frankly I am sympathetic to this argument. The older I grow, the more wearied I become with listening to sermons – I guess that is why I prefer to preach them! ‘Words, words, words’, said Eliza Doolittle, ‘I am sick of words’. And if the truth be told, we Baptists can be incredibly wordy. We tend to judge a service by the quality of the sermon. Not surprisingly, therefore, in our Baptist colleges, preaching can often be the ‘virility’ test for would-be ministers.
If I were the only pebble on the beach, then I would love to climax every Sunday morning worship service with a celebration of the Lord’s Supper. After all, there is Scriptural justification for such a practice. For instance, Luke’s description of the church at Troas gives the impression that there the disciples always ‘broke bread’ ‘on the first day of the week’ (Acts 20.7).
And yet there is a danger if every service became sacramental in character. The Lord’s Supper means so much to us Christians, but can be impenetrable to those who have yet to follow Jesus. For this reason, I never hold a dedication service on a day when we have communion – it would not be right for visitors to have to sit through the Lord’s Supper. Indeed, there are regulars in our congregation who will not come to church if there is communion. The Lord’s Supper is for the Lord’s people – and where there are others present, then it is not appropriate.
This morning, however, it is highly appropriate to remember Jesus. Throughout the weekend our focus to a large extent has been elsewhere. We have been concerned for the church, and not least the future of the church – and rightly so. But now we come to Jesus. Jesus, who said to his disciples in the Upper Room: ‘Remember me’. ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me’. (1 Cor 11.24). ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me’ (1 Cor 11.25).
Earlier this year the American pop star Miley Cyrus sent out a tweet, with a quotation from the theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss: ‘You are all stardust. You couldn’t be here if stars hadn’t exploded… So forget Jesus. Stars died so you could live’. What utter rubbish. Does the big-bang, if that be proved, reduce the significance of Jesus? Surely not! In the words of the Apostle Paul, ‘The Son of God loved me and gave his life for me’ (Gal 2.20). How could we forget Jesus? How could we forget the one who has dealt with our past, secured our future, and gives us purpose for this life? And yet sometimes our focus is elsewhere. Sometimes in the rough and tumble of life, we forget Jesus. Indeed, sometimes in the rough and tumble of church life, we forget Jesus.
When I was a boy I was a Crusader – i.e. I belonged to a Bible class for boys, which has long since changed its name – though having said that, I am not convinced that the title ‘Urban Saints’ is any better than that of ‘Crusaders’. Whatever, our motto was taken from Hebrews 12.2: ‘Looking unto Jesus’ as it reads in the AV. Or as Eugene Peterson so memorably expresses that and the following verses:
Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed – that exhilarating finish in and with God – he could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever. And now he’sthere, in the place of honour, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!
Yes, let’s remember Jesus.