Every church congregation develops a series of customs which soon become familiar. For many years in our congregation it was customary on the Sunday before December 7, Pearl Harbor Day, to have the veterans of the World War II rise and be recognized. When a new preacher was hired he was evidently not told of this custom. The veterans of the war were then few, and no recognition was given. To the old-timers in the church this seemed almost sacrilegious. The custom is now gone.
The problem is repeating itself, however. The older generations take note of the anniversary of September 11, 2001. But if you ask the next generation for the significance of that date, you will get a blank stare. They have no idea why you hold this date with regard. The reason for this is simple: September 11 didn’t happen to them. It happened to you. For many of our people, if it didn’t happen in their lifetime it’s not worth remembering.
Older heads know better. We know that there are some things that are worth memorializing even though they happen before we were born. For example:
- We remember and memorialize great changes in our society. Who could fail to be stirred by a visit to Independence Hall in Philadelphia, touching the Liberty Bell?
- We remember and memorialize great sacrifice. To go to Gettysburg and walk the battlefield is a moving experience. The sheer number of marble monuments tells you that the survivors were compelled to remember the great number of their fallen comrades.
- We remember and memorialize great men. If you go to Washington DC you can see the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument and many others.
These things took place; these men lived well before our time. How do we memorialize something like that? Sometimes we do it in stone; sometimes we do it in ritual.
You see, of course, that all three of these kinds of great things to remember apply to Jesus Christ.
What greater change has ever happened to the human race than the advent of the grace of God?
What sacrifice could be greater than the sinless One on the Cross?
What man could be greater than the man who was God in the flesh?
The sacrifice of the Cross happened about 2000 years ago; we remember it in ritual so that we might be reminded of an event that none of us have ever seen — but all of us know. Whenever you take the bread and the cup . . . , remember the greatness of the grace of God, the sacrifice of Jesus, the man who was God in the flesh. Take, eat and drink, and remember.