A sermon delivered by Robert Browning, Pastor, First Baptist Church, Frankfort, Ky., on November 4, 2012.
Did you grow up in a church which observed All Saints Day? I did not, but have grown to appreciate it as an adult.
All Saints Day is a time when Christians remember family members and friends who have gone to be with the Lord. Of course, in our country we do this the fourth Monday in May on Memorial Day weekend, but as you know, this is an American holiday which has its roots in the Civil War. All Saints Day is a religious observance which can be traced to the 7th century.
The first day in November was selected to remember church saints, followed on November 2nd by what is known as All Souls Day, a time for remembering all believers who have died. I am confident many of your friends who are members of liturgical churches attended services last Thursday and Friday to remember and honor those who have died, or they will participate in one this morning.
As I mentioned earlier, I have grown to appreciate All Saints Day. I think there is great value in remembering the contributions others have made to our lives, and thanking God for sending them our way and welcoming them home as their journey here ended.
Evidently, remembering those who have gone to be with the Lord was important to Jesus, too. On the night before his crucifixion, Jesus assembled with his disciples in the Upper Room to observe Passover. Luke tells us Jesus acted as the host that evening at the meal.
When it came time to eat the unleavened bread, Jesus took the bread, offered a prayer of thanksgiving for it and passed it around the table. After all had been served, according to Luke and unique to him among the gospel writers, Jesus spoke these words, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
It is obvious Jesus was giving this ancient ritual new meaning. It was not just Moses and the Exodus they were to remember that night, but now they were to remember him when they assembled to break bread and drink from the common cup.
Why did Jesus want the disciples to remember him after he was gone? Was this merely the wish of someone soon to die who did not want to be forgotten? No, this command was much more about them than it was him.
Jesus knew their memories of him would guide them. When faced with critical decisions, they needed to remember what Jesus did under similar circumstances. They would benefit from recalling what he taught them, and how he modeled his faith because this would help them make wise decisions, which would honor God and make life better for everyone.
Their memories of Jesus would also inspire them. If he could courageously face stiff challenges and remain faithful to God, so could they. If he could handle disappointments, detours, setbacks and carry heavy burdens without giving up, they could, too.
If he could stop and listen to people when he was tired and help them carry their load, so could they. If he could curb his appetite for things in order to have more to give to those who were struggling to get by, so could they.
By God’s grace, they could be as strong, resilient, generous and faithful as he was. By God’s grace, we can, too.
Their memories of him would comfort them. The tone of his voice, touch of his hands, expression on his face and gaze in his eyes would warm their hearts and strengthen them for their journey. His words of appreciation for their friendship and his assurance of unconditional love would sustain them in their darkest days.
This morning, let me encourage you to do the very thing Jesus instructed his disciples to do. As you hold the bread and the cup, remember Jesus—his life, words, deeds, compassion and courage. Let these memories guide, inspire and comfort you.
Who else do you need to remember today? Whose voice can you hear giving you advice? Whose example of a faithful life inspires you? Whose words bring you comfort? Who made it possible for you to be who you are and where you are this morning?
Thank God for them and ask God to help you continue their good work.
What will people remember about you after you are gone? What do you want them to remember? Are there some things you don’t want to be known for? Do you need to make some changes in your values, priorities, attitude and lifestyle?
It is never too late to make changes, you know. You still have time to make new memories. Why not start today?
Take advantage of these next few minutes and ask God to show you what needs to be changed in your life, so you can begin making these changes, along with new memories.