Sermon: Examine Yourself
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 11:23-29
Preacher: Patrick H. Wrisley, D.Min.
Location: First Presbyterian Church Fort Lauderdale
Date: April 18, 2019, Maundy Thursday
1 Corinthians 11:23-29
23-26 Let me go over with you again exactly what goes on in the Lord’s Supper and why it is so centrally important. I received my instructions from the Master himself and passed them on to you. The Master, Jesus, on the night of his betrayal, took bread. Having given thanks, he broke it and said,
This is my body, broken for you.
Do this to remember me.
After supper, he did the same thing with the cup:
This cup is my blood, my new covenant with you.
Each time you drink this cup, remember me.
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.
27-28 Anyone who eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Master irreverently is like part of the crowd that jeered and spit on him at his death. Is that the kind of “remembrance” you want to be part of? Examine your motives, test your heart, come to this meal in holy awe.
Please humor me a moment as I am going to teach you two similar-sounding words that have very dissimilar meanings. The first word is anamnesis. Try it. The second word is one you have heard before, amnesia. Anamnesis and amnesia. Two very similar-sounding words that come from the same Greek root word but have two drastically different meanings.
Let’s start with the easy one, amnesia. We know that people who suffer amnesia are people who struggle to remember things. People with amnesia have forgotten certain facts about their lives. Well, if amnesia means to forget, anamnesis is the word for ‘remember.’ Jesus uses this word in our scripture today. “When you eat this bread and drink from this cup, do so in anamnesisof me.” It’s a word that means more than recollecting a fact or memory; anamnesismeans to re-member, to reattach ourselves, to the original event as though we are living it all over again in the present moment. Pastorally, there are times when I think the Church collectively and Christ-Followers individually, are more inclined to have spiritual amnesia as opposed to spiritual anamnesis with regards to the Lord’s Supper. What makes me say that?
We come to the Table without thoroughly examining ourselves and our walk in Christ.
We talk to our pew-mates, text message or make calls during Communion.
We grumble because we want to be served in our seats as opposed to coming up and having to dip our bread in the chalice.
We’re apt to check our watches to see if it’s time to be done with the service so as to beat the Baptists and Methodists to lunch or dinner.
Yet, as we read in verse 28 of the Scripture tonight, we’re implored to “Examine our motives, our hearts, and come to this meal in holy awe.” But my friends, do we?
Beloved, I want us to take a moment and look at the Lord’s Supper. As I read these words of Christ directed through Paul, I find myself asking, “What, Lord, what is it that you want me to remember? What is it that you want me to relive and experience as though I was with you that night with the disciples?” Looking at and sitting with this question, I have come to some conclusions.
First, note verse 24: This is my body, broken for you. Do this to remember me. You see, as we eat of the bread, we remember the way Jesus lived his life as well as how he died. His life was a continuous breaking of himself as he distributed himself to the people he loved: The Leper, the Prostitute, the Roman, the Greek Woman’s dying son, the Pharisee’s dying daughter, and the socially and spiritually outcast woman whose twelve-year menstrual flow was healed. Jesus lived his life on the edge of cultural norms in order to ensure the Presence of God was brought into the shadows of everyday existence. We’re to remember that just as Jesus gave himself totally to those he taught and cured, he ultimately gave himself broken and despised at the same hands of the people he taught and cured. It is through his brokenness that you and I are given the gift of Easter Life. So tonight, we’re to remember that our new life was bought with a price of the broken and distributed life of Jesus of Nazareth. The baby we heralded into the world just four months ago at Christmas has had his wooden manger fashioned into a wooden cross. We’re to remember the way he lived his life and each of us are called to follow by way of his example.
Second, though, note verse 25: After supper, he did the same thing with the cup: This cup is my blood, my new covenant with you. Each time you drink this cup, remember me.
What are we to remember here? Whereas verse 24 describes that way Jesus lived his life, verse 25 calls us to remember the purpose of his life. It’s all about the new covenant.
We don’t use the word covenant in our vernacular much today. A covenant can spell out a list of boundaries on what is and is not acceptable but it also has another meaning. It means making a promise.
When Jesus is saying that we are to remember the new covenant between God and ourselves, we’re not so much remembering a list of do’s and don’ts; rather, we’re to remember that on this night when Jesus was betrayed and commuted a death sentence, we are to remember the promise and hope his death provides. Jesus is telling us to remember that from now on, when we drink of the cup, we are remembering that God has, in and through Jesus the Christ, instituted a new promise between God and His created. And that promise is a promise of life, of hope, and of peacefulness. We’re to remember that God’s new agreement with us through Jesus’ Passion is not based on a list of do’s and don’ts and musts; Jesus’ Passion, God’s commitment to us His beloved, is based on reckless, lavish grace.
Third and finally, as we come this night, we are to remember that we too, both as a Church and as individual disciples, have in some way betrayed our Lord Jesus. Paul tells us to examine ourselves. As he says in verse 26, “We must not let familiarity breed contempt.” Indeed, we must examine ourselves! How can we remember and reflect on the way Jesus lived and died and contemplate on why he did it and not honestly stop and look into the mirror? The breaking of the bread and the drinking of the cup forces you and me to ask ourselves how we are living our faith. As a church, we’re to be honest on whether we are being the hands and feet of Jesus out in the world where we’re called to be!
If we’re honest, we come this night when our Lord hosts this dinner and have to admit we have betrayed him
…with our words,
…with our reluctance to use our talents and spiritual gifts,
…with broken promises,
…with divided loyalties,
…with lackadaisical commitment to discipleship,
…with our stinginess of our financial resources,
…with our convenience-based faith.
…and with our lack of love we show each other or to those in the world who are considered “The least of these.”
My beloved, this night, come to the Table and remember. Remember what tonight and tomorrow means to God. Remember the life Jesus lived. Remember how Jesus died. Remember the new promise of the blood covenant. Remember how you, how I, have betrayed Jesus. And don’t forget to remember this one important reality as the night slips into darkness. Remember who you are: You, my beloved, are a child of God. Let it be.
Patrick H. Wrisley, D.Min.
Senior Pastor & Teaching Elder
First Presbyterian Church
401 SE 15th Avenue
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301
© 2019 Patrick H. Wrisley. Sermon manuscripts are available for the edification of members and friends of First Presbyterian Church, Fort Lauderdale Florida and may not be altered, re-purposed, published or preached without permission. All rights reserved.
Scripture taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.