How Taking Out the Trash Teaches us about the Lord’s Supper

I’ve been reading through the book of Judges. It’s a sad book. The refrain in the book is that God’s people “do what is right in their own eyes” (Judges 17:6; 21:25; cf. 14:3).

This morning I finished the book before church. As I finished, what struck me is how scary the ending of the book is. It’s scary in this way: the book is full of activity by God’s people—full of commotion, even some apparent piety—but God is missing. God is either an afterthought or a casual mention before the people do what they really want to do, namely, that which seems right in their own eyes. So they make plans; they attempt to correct sin; they fight a war; they “solve” a tribal problem—but they don’t remember God. They mention God, of course, but they don’t really remember him. And that’s scary. Lots of activity, little remembering of God. 

What Does it Mean to “Remember?”

But “remember” is a funny word, isn’t it? What does it mean? What does it, biblically speaking, mean to “fully remember”?

Consider this. If you are at my house on a Tuesday morning at 7:30 AM, as we sit at the kitchen table and eat breakfast, from down the street, you’ll be able to hear the noise of a huge machine getting closer.

And closer.

And closer.

The machine is coming up the south side of the street, the side my house is on.

When you hear the noise, you might then also hear my wife ask me, “Honey, did you remember to take out the trash?” What’s my wife really asking? What does she mean by “remember”?

If I say, “Yes, last night I remembered that I was supposed to take out the trash. However, I did not actually take out the trash.” Is that remembering? Well, not really.

To remember to take out the trash is to remember in such a way that it produces a response—the appropriate response. Consider also what it means to remember to lock the door or bring your passport to the airport. No, remembering—in its full biblical meaning and often its full cultural connotation as well—does not mean to simply and briefly recall something to mind so that you can then do all the other things you want to do with your day—and your life.

True remembering is remembering in such a way that it produces a response. This is how Paul uses the word remember in Galatians 2:10 when he speaks of being eager to “remember the poor.” Surely, this is not merely calling to mind that poor people exist but rather an action that produces care and generosity for them.

Do This in Remembrance of Me

In the gospel of Luke, when Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, he told his disciples, “Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19; cf. 1 Corinthians 11:24). In fact, we have this statement carved on the wooden table that we use for the Lord’s Supper.

There are several views on what takes place in the Lord’s Supper, and the view that we hold, one that many Protestants hold, is called “memorialism.” The idea of a memorial is that we remember someone or something. And a memorialist view of the Lord’s Supper focuses on remembering what Jesus has done for us in the gospel.

But we should not misunderstand this memorialist view. When we ascribe to this view, we mean the full connotation of “remember”—to remember in such a way that it actually produces something within believers when they participate by faith. That’s why our own denomination, The Evangelical Free Church of America, states that

the Lord’s Supper [and baptism] . . . visibly and tangibly express the gospel. Though they are not the means of salvation, when celebrated by the church in genuine faith, these ordinances confirm and nourish the believer (EFCA Statement of Faith, Article 9).

Your Response?

My aim this morning is to help us remember the saving death of Jesus Christ as neither an afterthought nor a pretense of piety. Rather, let us remember the death of Jesus in such a way that it produces a response.

As we pass the elements, what response do you need to make this morning? Is there a sin that you need to forsake? Is there a good activity that you need to reinstate? Is there joy in the gospel message that needs to be revived?

I’m so thankful for the Lord’s Supper. It’s God’s periodic invitation to forgetful people to remember the good news: the good news that God loves us and through his death and resurrection he has expensively purchased for us everything we need for life and godliness.

Two Quick Things

Just two more quick things. First, this is a meal for Christians. If you are not a Christian, we are so glad that you are here with us. However, we ask that you not participate because by participating you would be saying something untrue of yourself, namely, that you are a Christian who has been changed by the gospel. We would never want to put you in a place where you felt pressured to do that. Perhaps you can use this time to think about what it might mean to begin to follow Jesus and to experience his love for you.

Second, as we pass the elements. We will be passing the bread and the cup at the same time. By this I mean that both are in one tray; we’ve put two cups together, one on top of the other. So as the tray comes by you, please make sure you take both of them. And then please hold them until we have all been served.

[Communion is served while a song is played . . . ]

The Bible records that on the night that Jesus was betrayed, as they were eating, and when he had given thanks, Jesus took the bread and broke it. And he said, “This is my body which is broken for you. Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). 

[While holding up the bread . . . ] “The body of Christ, broken for you. Take in faith.”

In the same way, after they had eaten, he took the cup saying, “this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28; cf. Luke 22:20).

[While holding up the cup. . . ] “The blood of Christ, poured out for you. Take in faith.”

Let’s pray . . .

 [Photo by A Yee / CC]