Sermon – 2nd August

Well who would have thought when I led you in a celebration of Holy Communion on March the first that none of us would take communion again for 22 weeks.

I will tell you later about the first time I took communion in 1968 but in the 52 years since there has never been a month in which I have not meet with the Lord at His table.

I had not expected today to be as emotional as it is. Nor have I realised how much I have missed doing this in remembrance of Him. True its not quite like normal and we share only the bread for the time being.

However, it is, it will be a bit like the feast itself; in that we do it spiritually now to think forward to the time we feast with Him in the great banquet. There we will all drink the finest wine. The New Wine of the Holy Spirit.

I have never been quite sure who the ubiquitous they are in the many ‘they say’ phrases but in any case one of the many things that ‘they say’ is that a gold fish has a memory span of only 8 seconds.

I have never really believed that. Tim, my son once had a Goldfish called Michael or to give him his full name Michael Fish. If you entered the room Michael automatically swam to the surface and I can only assume that is because he remembered that it is possible that when someone comes into the room that he might get fed.

Memory is a wonderful thing isn’t. It’s a curious paradox that the older you get the more memories you have in the database and the worse and less accurate the memory becomes.

However, it’s also true that memory is a precious thing. In the course of my work as a Vicar I visit many people who might well say that their memories are the most precious and valuable things they have.

They can make an empty day full and a heavy day lighter. We keep mementos, we store photo albums, and we keep scrapbooks to fuel the power of memory.

Last week was both the 7th anniversary of the death of my first wife Hilary and the 11th anniversary of the death of my beloved brother John. As a result, I spent a happy afternoon with the photo albums. In the process I stumbled across the album of pictures of my trip to Israel in 1993. I spent a very happy few minutes looking through it. It brought so many things flooding back. The taste of fresh falafels, the heat of the Jericho Sun, the experience of floating on the Dead Sea and the thrill of peering into the cave were the Dead Sea scrolls were first discovered.

I am also amazed at the power of memory to associate two things together. I once did a journey and the previous time I did the journey was many years earlier. When I first did the journey, I was listening to a talking book on the tape player and as I came to a particular junction all those years later I found I was remembering the exact point in the tape the story was at those years before.

It was a Cadfael murder mystery and the monks had just acquired a new Holy relic.  Where am I going with this?

When we were at college, we learned a posh word in relation to the institution of Holy Communion. That word was the Greek word anamnesis.

The anamnesis of the Eucharist the lecture was called.

The same root word that we get the word amnesia from. Jesus wanted to plant a memory in the minds of his followers. He did this by founding a basic wonderful ritual that would remind his followers of him. He knew that festivals hold a key place in all our memories. He knew that he addressed a group of followers for whom Passover held a very central place and he sought to implant this new image in the midst of that treasured core of memory.

The bread and the wine help us to remember Jesus. He knew it would and it still does.

I once talked to a teacher who was not a professing Christian. When she asked for thoughts about how to do ‘do Easter’ with the children she freely admitting that she could not make head or tale of the story and frankly found it all rather gory. If you watch Mel Gibson’s passion of Christ you experience the graphic gore. Yet in fact the gospels are remarkable in their understating of the gore.

The bible does not stress it. There is horror in the story, but it is in no way hyped. There is a sense of course in which none of us can fully understand Easter. But we know that at the core of it is a body broken and blood shed and Jesus says don’t dwell on the blood. Don’t dwell of the spear wounds or the whip lashes. What you need to do is remember me not as a hero who died in the past but as a presence with you in the present.

For just as we have bread and wine with us today, so we have Jesus with us with us today.

Don’t get me wrong I am a good reformed evangelical Anglican.

Jesus is not materially present in the bread there is no real presence in the wine. But Jesus is really here. He is present in his body the church and he is present in me as a member of the church. And as we eat this bread and as I on our behalf drink this cup we remember that afresh.

Can you remember the time you first did this, because I can?

I was 16 and Jesus had turned my life around and given it direction and the cup was passed to me by Colin Buckland the schoolboy who led me to Christ.

It was an informal end of term service celebrated with a bap so floury that it left our hands white when we broke it, and a half bottle of Beaujolais purchased with our combined dinner money.

Yet it was the loveliest feast I had ever attended.

It was a feast of victory a feast of agape love.

It was then and it still is today.

Jesus was real then in a 1960’s Port-a-cabin in a school playground and he is alive today in this our lovely country church. COVID 19 doesn’t make him any less real. He will be known to us this morning in the breaking of the bread as he was known to the Emmaus disciples 2000 years ago.

It will be one more time in which Jesus will stretch forth His arms to bridge the time until we drink wine with him in paradise. We will remember the Lord’s death until he comes.

Let us Pray.