Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

March 6, 2016


The precious gift of memory


        Memory is a precious gift. We are wise to treasure it, nurture it and use it. But we must guard against using it wrongly.

        Remembering the mistakes of others has little value. Since we all err it is best to forgive and forget the blunders of others. And hope our friends will afford us the same kindness. 

        Dastardly deeds are not easily forgotten. The terrorist attack of 9-11 burns in our memory. Though memories fade with the passing of time, this heinous crime will be remembered as long as we live.

        The God of the Bible calls upon his people to remember not the evil deeds of others but rather the kindness of God. The Passover Feast, for example, was begun in obedience to God’s command that the Jewish people remember how God delivered them from bondage in Egypt.

         Jewish families have obeyed that command for centuries, gathering in early spring every year to remember the kindness of God. In early years the father of each family would bring a lamb “without blemish” to be slaughtered by the priests. The blood of the lamb was spilled upon the altar. The meat was returned to the father and cooked for the entire family to enjoy that night. Unleavened bread, cooked without yeast, was included in the Passover meal. The bread reminded them of their hasty departure from Egyptian slavery.

        This celebration had been observed for centuries before Jesus came. But with his coming, in “the fullness of time,” God did a new thing. Time was divided and a new era began.

         Jesus understood his mission: he would become the sacrificial lamb, the perfect lamb. His life was unblemished by sin. No truer words were ever uttered by John than these: “Behold the lamb of God.” When Jesus died upon the cross he was the lamb “slain from the foundation of the world,” fulfilling the plan of God.

         Judas betrayed him. The Jewish leaders insisted that he die. The disciples ran. The bloodthirsty crowd cried, “Crucify him!”  The Romans scourged him unmercifully. They executed him upon a wooden cross without realizing that Jesus was giving his life for the sins of the world. His life, he said, was not taken from him.

         Before this mighty deed of God occurred on Calvary, Jesus had arranged to eat a Passover meal with his disciples. We call it the Last Supper. There he explained what was about to happen before he would suffer.

         During the meal Jesus took bread, broke it and gave thanks to God. Now many Christians bow their heads and offer a prayer before each meal. My parents taught my siblings and me to pray before meals. We still do, even in restaurants, holding hands and offering a quiet prayer to express gratitude to God. It is humbling to realize that we practice this habit because Jesus prayed that night in Jerusalem before breaking bread and sharing it with his disciples. We do it because he did it!

         How natural it seems for a father or a mother to offer a prayer of thanks at the table, so that children may learn to take nothing for granted! I am so grateful for this legacy from my parents – the practice of prayer at mealtime. Tears of gratitude well up in my eyes as I remember my parents insisting that no one begin eating until a prayer of thanks was offered!

         When Jesus had given thanks, he broke the bread, and giving it to his disciples, said those remarkable words, “This is my body, given for you: this do in remembrance of me.” The meaning was clear. The breaking of the bread symbolized the breaking of his body on the cross. Every time I take Holy Communion, I tremble inside, realizing once again that Jesus died for me.

No wonder Charles Wesley cried in more than one of his hymns, “for me, for me, He died!” It is an overwhelming truth – He died for me, for you, for us all. He willingly endured the cruelest form of execution – flogging and death upon a cross – for me and for you. Does it not move you to thank him for this unmerited mercy?

        What a price Jesus paid for our sins! Can we dare to forget what it cost God to make salvation available? Jesus expects us to remember him when we eat of the loaf and drink of the cup. He knows that when we remember what he did for us, we are motivated to offer our own lives as vessels of honor in his service.

        Jesus died for you. Remember that. It will affect the way you live!  + + +