Thursday, April 09, 2009

Remember me

The Last Supper, William Blake, 1799

Luke 22: 1-23
******* United Church of Christ
April 9, 2009 (Maundy Thursday)

I used to think it odd that church folk would give money in memory of a beloved church member, only to have it spent on curtains. Or a handicapped bathroom. Or a new church kitchen dishwasher or oven. Another octave of handbells makes sense me. So does a set of hymnals or pew Bibles. Silver Communion ware. Or larger items such as a new organ or piano.

Practical items seemed almost arbitrary, without reverence or dignity. That is, until Bob Shanklin gave me a vacuum cleaner. It was to help clean up all the needles that fell from my first Christmas tree—first as a single, working pastor. He gave me the Christmas tree too but seventeen years later, I still have the vacuum cleaner.

At 90, Bob was the oldest of three Bobs in the first church I served. They went out to lunch every Saturday, and when I came along, they adopted me as a sort of granddaughter. Bob Shanklin especially took me under his wing. When I was pregnant with Andrea, he would take me out for lunch, ordering me a huge glass of milk and even buying the glass for me so I would remember to drink plenty of milk during my pregnancy.

Bob had a lot of love to share. He would have given everything he could to share that love with anyone who needed it. And it’s a vacuum cleaner that reminds me of his heart, his faith, and his giving spirit.

Jesus was also very practical with the items that would be used to remember him. It was Passover: there would be bread and wine, things that were elemental in the life of observant Jews. These were also very earthy, incarnational things: food and drink for the body, that would become incorporated into the body. It would become a part of us and we could take it with us wherever we went. By eating and drinking this blessed bread, this holy wine, the body would never be the same again. And neither would bread and wine ever be the same again.

How has this story, this meal become incorporated in us? To re-member is know once again that something is a part of us, integral to who we are. The blood of Christ intermingles with our own. What was once a piece of Passover bread is now the body of Christ, you and me and a whole host of others, blessed and broken for this world. By this bread and cup we have become a member of the great salvation story. We repeat this meal again and again to remind ourselves of the grace and forgiveness that have been made incarnate in Christ, and by his life, death, and resurrection, now incarnate in each one of us, and in this church family.

We began this Lenten journey with the reminder that one day we will be dust--something a vacuum cleaner can make short work of and an even shorter memory. How will we be remembered? As the Psalmist wrote, “[the] days of our life are seventy years, or perhaps eighty, if we are strong; even then their span is only toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away.”

We could make a name for ourselves in the world; we could do great and glorious things. But if we look at our lives we will see what is required of us, what is needed. The prophet Micah said it plainly so that we would be practical for the sake of God: “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Justice, kindness, humility--these are elemental in the life of Christ and in the lives of those who remember him and serve him.

It is the sacred memory of Christ that makes all this possible, his continuing grace that comes to us in this holy meal. That Christ-spirit is present with us this evening, as we remember what the world can do to one who loves so completely.

1 comment:

Jan said...

Remembering. . . .yes.