MEMORIAL

 

DO we fully realise the importance of the weekly Memorial Service? There may be a danger in these days of multiplicity of Meetings—fraternal gatherings, mutual improvement classes, study circles, singing classes, vacational campaigns, all of which have valuable features—to lose the correct sense of proportion. Let us put first things first: and the first in importance of all our meetings is that for the Breaking of Bread.

Do not let us forget that the Memorial Service owes it origin to a command of the Lord Jesus to his disciples: “This do in remembrance of me.” Paul reminds us that it was given “the same night in which he was betrayed”—a solemn and an arresting association of ideas. Can we not enter somewhat into the spirit of that “dark betrayal night”? The partaking of the Passover with its vivid reminder of God’s intervention and Israel’s deliverance: our Lord’s evident satisfaction in partaking with his disciples—“With desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer”: the sudden challenge of the Master: “Verily I say unto you, one of you shall betray me”; followed by the heart-searching enquiries “Lord, is it I? is it I?” Then the linking up of the Passover with the breaking of bread and drinking of the cup after Jesus had given thanks, and associated the emblems with his body soon to be broken, and his blood about to be shed. Could those disciples ever forget the inauguration of that Memorial Feast?

Years later the apostle Paul, in giving the salient details of that inauguration to the Gentile believers in Corinth, reminds them: “As often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup ye do show the Lord’s death till he come.” Surely the emphasis in that quotation is on the word “often”! How often shall the servants of Christ meet to remember him? If it were left to ourselves to decide, the answers would be many and conflicting: we are saved from such uncertainty. The apostolic example has been preserved for us in the record given in the Acts of the Apostles (20:7). “Upon the first day of the week when the disciples came together to break bread.” Here then are our instructions based on the inspired record: “Do this in remembrance of me,” said the Master; “Do it often,” said Paul; “Do it on the first day of each week,” said apostolic example.

I believe many brethren and sisters today feel that we may be called upon, in the none too distant future, to face some great trial of our faith, perhaps the last and supreme test the brotherhood may be called upon to endure. We may possibly be wrong in so indulging our imagination. One thing is certain, however: if we are faithful in the simpler and obvious duties of our profession, we shall be all the more able to meet the greater trials should these come. Every first day of the week brings with it a simple yet infallible test of our loyalty to Christ. Have we obeyed his command to remember him in the breaking of bread and drinking of wine? How many times have we failed to do so this year? Have we forgotten? Christ does not forget, and the “book of remembrance” is a Divine reality. Only the gravest of reasons can be adequate to justify our failure to obey our Lord’s request. Was it impossible—really impossible—for us to be at the meeting? Then there is the possibility of breaking bread at home, as many a brother or sister in isolation must do. Were we on holiday? Then did we, amongst our preparations for that holiday, find out the address of the nearest ecclesia and time of meeting? Or if there were no ecclesia accessible, did we ourselves make the few essential preparations to remember Christ in the way appointed?

Each first day of the week brings its opportunity, and its test of loyalty to Christ. Happy shall we be if we can assure ourselves in the day of account that we have been consistently faithful in this matter of the remembrance of our absent Lord.

(F. Turner 1939)