Today’s Reading: 1 Corinthians 11
The generation you are from will determine which historical tragedy you will remember as an American.
On Sunday morning, December 7, 1941, Japanese war planes bombed Pearl Harbor. Eighteen battleships were sunk or destroyed. Two hundred airplanes were put out of commission. And the servicemen who were either killed or wounded numbered 3,581. America’s war cry as she entered World War II was, “Remember Pearl Harbor.”
I grew up when that changed to “Remember 9/11.” That was the day—September 11, 2001, when the towers fell.
The world does not need so much as to be informed as it needs to be reminded. The Bible tells us again and again to “remember.” That is what Communion is. And that is what Paul is challenging us to do in 1 Corinthians 11. Some churches participate in Communion every week, some do it once a month, and some churches a few times a year.
Communion is a mini drama of salvation, using the props of bread and wine. Here’s what Paul says about Communion in verse 26: “Whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are retelling the story, proclaiming our Lord’s death until he comes” (TPT).
Here’s how it reads in The Message translation: “What you must solemnly realize is that every time you eat this bread and every time you drink this cup, you reenact in your words and actions the death of the Master. You will be drawn back to this meal again and again until the Master returns. You must never let familiarity breed contempt.”
Communion is one way we can express our love for Jesus, because it is a way we can say to Him, “We remember what you did for us.” Whenever we participate at the Lord’s table, we too have a battle cry: “Remember Jesus Christ.” Remember the cross.
And to help us remember, we get the bread and wine props.
Props are important reminders. When we get married, an important prop is part of the wedding ceremony. When we get the prop, we say, “With this ring I thee wed.” When we say those words, we don’t mean that the ring or putting the ring on the finger is what makes us married. It’s a prop to remind us, and to show everyone around us, the commitment we have made. That’s what the sacraments of the church are. Props to remind us.
To make it anything more than a symbol is dangerous. It’s like loving our wedding band, when we need to love our spouse.
To cling to a symbol is what many try to do and they miss what God was trying to show us. What was God reminding us of with the bread and the cup?
The bread means God came. We say the bread is His body—that’s God in person. In his first epistle, John says that this Jesus came in bodily form: we touched Him, we saw Him, we heard Him. He did not write a message in the sky for us. He did not shout it audibly. He came to tell us that God loves us. God came in person for us.
The cup reminds us that God cares. The blood means God cares. The cup of juice reminds us that it should have been us paying for our sins, but God cares so much for you and me that He took our place. He cares and He died for you and me on the cross. The juice means God cares and took our place.
Did you know that some astronauts had Communion on the moon? On July 20, 1969, two human beings changed history by walking on the surface of the moon. But what happened before Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Neil Armstrong exited the Lunar Module is perhaps even more amazing. We know that Neil Armstrong was the first man to walk on the moon, but Buzz Aldrin took Communion on the surface of the moon. Some months after his return, he wrote about it in Guideposts.
Aldrin knew he would soon be doing something unprecedented in human history and he felt he should mark the occasion somehow, so he took Communion elements with him out of the earth’s orbit and on to the surface of the moon. He and Armstrong had been on the lunar surface only a few minutes when Aldrin made a public statement: “This is the LM pilot. I would like to request a few moments of silence. I would like to invite each person listening in, wherever and whomever he may be, to contemplate for a moment the events of the past few hours and to give thanks in his own individual way.” He ended radio communication and there, on the silent surface of the moon, 250,000 miles from home, he read a verse and took Communion. Here is his account of what happened:
In the radio blackout I opened the little plastic packages which contained bread and wine. I poured the wine into the chalice our church had given me. In the one-sixth gravity of the moon the wine curled slowly and gracefully up the side of the cup. It was interesting to think that the very first liquid ever poured on the moon, and the first food eaten there, were communion elements. As so, just before I partook of the elements, I read the words which I had chosen to indicate our trust that as man probes into space we are in fact acting in Christ. . . . I read: “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me, and I in him, will bear much fruit; for you can do nothing without me.” John 15:5 (TEV)
“And of course,” says Eric Metaxas, writing about the event, “it’s interesting to think that some of the first words spoken on the moon were the words of Jesus Christ, who made the Earth and the moon.” So whether we take Communion on the moon or in our home or in our church, it has one purpose: to remind us that God came and God cares.