This is a day of remembrance. A day for remembering the liberation from slavery and oppression in Egypt. It was never an easy freedom. The book of Exodus tells a long tale of Moses’ attempt to persuade Pharoah to let the children of Israel go, culminating in the arrival of the Angel of Death who passes over the people of the Hebrews but kills the first born of Egypt. Liberation does not happen without death. At last they are getting ready to leave and they share a meal of roasted lamb. And this meal is given as a perpetual memorial, the annual meal that connects them with leaving the place where they were mistreated. And this Passover meal is still shared to remember the hard won freedom, as it was on Monday evening in many homes in Bensham.
And then some 1,300 – 1,400 years later, the Passover is celebrated once again. Jesus has his Last Supper with his disciples, which may or may not have been the actual Seder meal. There is no mention of lamb, which would have been central to the Passover meal. Rather, Jesus reinterprets the Passover in terms of bread and wine. Again, he makes the meal a memorial. “Do this in remembrance of me”, he says, as he breaks the bread and shares it. And at the end of the meal, in Paul’s account, he takes the cup and declares that this is the new covenant, the new relationship between God and man, a relationship sealed in the blood of Christ on the cross.
Once again the meal of bread and wine tells the story of liberation, but this time liberation is from the slavery of sin and the oppression of death. And the sacrifice that effects salvation is not the slaughter of sons, but the self-giving of the Son of God. “This is my body” says Jesus. “This is the new covenant in my blood.”
And so we eat the bread and we drink the wine. We share it, because we are all in this together. And we remember. We remember Jesus, all that he did and said, and the way he was taken to the cross and hung and died for our sakes. And we know that isn’t the end of the story, but for the moment, we remain there in the darkness, standing at the foot of the cross while the light of Christ is extinguished.
We look back. That is the purpose of a memorial – to look back. We look back and we relive the story of liberation from Egypt and we relive the story of the Last Supper. We are there, and we are part of it. And Christ is here, with us, and every time we celebrate the Lord’s Supper together.
But we also look forward to another meal, the great banquet of the kingdom of heaven when we will feast with the Lord himself. There were so many stories about the heavenly meal. Heaven is like a banquet where everyone is invited, where there is enough for everyone, a place for everyone who wants to be there, where no one is excluded.
This is a moment out of time: we look back to where we’ve come from and we look ahead with much anticipation to the Great Feast of the Kingdom, and we are present here in this moment, gathered around this table with Christ our Lord, here and now. We bring the past into the present, and the distant future becomes NOW!
And that changes us. We are transformed by being here tonight. We are made into God’s Freedom People, made fit to serve God, fit to serve in our church, our communities, our world. Our calling is to carry on the story, to free our church, our communities, our world from slavery and oppression, from sin and death. We are called to work for justice, for what is right, to liberate individuals who are enslaved by poverty or circumstances or forced into labour without any say. We are called to feed those who are hungry and campaign about the causes of poverty. We are called to acts of mercy and healing, to listen to those whose voices are not heard. We are called to hold the hands of those who suffer and who anticipate the coming of the Angel of Death.
But we do not do this work unaided. Christ is with us. Christ works through us. Christ feeds us and nurtures us, so that we can do his work. And we do what we can do. We do what Christ asks us to do. We do what Christ enables us to do. And we can do no more.
But tonight, we are here to remember, to give thanks, to praise God, to stand alongside the disciples as they receive the bread that is the body of Christ and the wine that is his blood. And in being here, we proclaim the Lord’s death, and wait until he comes again.