At Luke 22:14-20, we find the story of Jesus instituting what has become know as the Last Supper. It is on this occasion, very near the time of Jesus death, that He instructs them to re-live the sharing of this meal with the words, “Do this for the remembrance of me.”
The word, remembrance, comes from the Greek word, Anamnesis, which literally means, “to re-live” an event. Who is re-living what event? We normally think of this as a time for worshipers to re-live the suffering and death of Jesus of Nazareth. It is important to reflect on the suffering Jesus experienced in the flesh. Our suffering will never be as severe as His.
It is equally important to remember the promises made possible through the new covenant with God made evident in Jesus Christ. The death and resurrection of Jesus have conquered death and the grave and made everlasting life possible for every believer.
However, we don’t normally think of God as the one doing the re-living or remembering.
Palestinian Judaism was full of memorial language. Services at the Temple often included memorial offerings (sacrifices). In these cases, it is God who is remembering. (See Numbers 10:10) In this case God is remembering [God’s] promises to humankind. Another example of God remembering is the gift of the rainbow: “It shall serve as a reminder of the covenant between me and the earth.” (Gen 9:13)
In this case it is God remembering the covenant with humankind, and humankind observing the proof of the covenant. It is not that God would forget the covenant, but a covenant is accompanied by evidence.
I have at times compared a covenant to a contract, but the difference is important to note. A contract is between two entities, normally sharing equal responsibilities within the contract. A contract is not valid unless there is “consideration” (payment of some sort). A covenant, on the other hand, is a promise given without payment.
We often use the words, “Jesus paid for our sins”. This can be dangerous language because it could lead us to see God as demanding blood to satisfy a debt. Jesus sacrifice was a memorial sign of the new covenant between God and humankind, not an act of a cruel, bloodthirsty God.
“Do this in remembrance of me” means to re-live the act of God in making a new covenant to fulfill the old covenant between God and the Hebrews. Under the new covenant, God has invited all humankind to be reconciled as children of God.
When we celebrate the Holy Eucharist (Communion) we are sharing with one another in the remembrance of God’s love. We are reminded that we do not and cannot live only for ourselves, but that we have a moral responsibility to improve ourselves and our world. It is a reminder that we all share a part in re-living the loving, redeeming, reconciling way of Jesus.
Blessings and Peace to you All,
Rev. Dr. David Bridges is the pastor at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Grove. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. St. Andrew's worship service is at 10 a.m., every Sunday, and broadcast on KWXC 88.9 FM at 5 p.m. on Saturday and 7:30 a.m. on Sunday.