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The Danger of Memory Loss

May 30, 2010
Sermon:  The Danger of Memory Loss
Text:  I Corinthians 11:23-29


I invite you to turn with me to the eleventh chapter of I Corinthians, beginning at Verse 23.  We have heard these words often, especially when we have celebrated the Lord’s Supper.  These words carry a particularly important meaning for us today.  Hear now the Word of God.

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you:  The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.”  In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.”  For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

The loss of memory can indeed be very dangerous.  All of us have lapses, some perhaps more than others. 

On Wednesday afternoon of this week, a number of us gathered behind the building that houses the Alzheimer’s Association.  There, we shared words and prayers of dedication as we commemorated a memory garden, so appropriate for the Alzheimer’s Association. 

I remember when my mother-in-law, Miz Lib, was diagnosed with the severe problem of Alzheimer’s.  Her physician told us that we needed to take the car keys away from her.  We knew that was not going to be easy for somebody who was as fiercely independent as my mother-in-law was.  We finally convinced the doctor that he would have to be the one to take her keys.  He graciously did that though she threw a hissy-fit, which is a good South Carolina term. 

He told her, “You are in danger,” and explained, “You will look in this direction and see a car coming.  Then you will look in the opposite direction and see that the road is clear.  By then, you will have forgotten that a car is approaching from the first direction you looked and you will pull out.  It happens all the time to people who have short-term memory loss.”

Losing your memory can be dangerous. 

Sometimes we forget because we simply neglect to remember.  We do not take the opportunity to use techniques that help us remember, such as making notes to ourselves. 

Remembering special days is very important for me.  When I get a new calendar, I immediately write Clare’s birthday in it.  I mark the dates for Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, and our wedding anniversary on that calendar, and I make sure that Kathy Green writes it on her calendar, too.  I can promise you that Clare Neely has written those dates on hers.  

Losing your memory can be dangerous. 

Memorial Day is a day of remembrance.  It is a way of remembering that war is costly.  I read this week that we have now lost 1000 soldiers in Afghanistan.  The count in Iraq exceeds 4000.  All war is costly.  One of the worst battles of the entire Civil War was the Battle at Antietam.  Most people died on one day than on any other battle of the war.  Memorial Day helps us remember that war is costly, and it also helps us remember that freedom is costly.  Freedom is not free.  It has to be carefully guarded.  It has to be carefully protected. 

Memorial Day is a secular holiday.  It is not a particularly religious holiday.  For us who are Christians, however, it can become a religious holiday, not because we want to cultivate a civil religion but because this issue of remembering is right at the core of our faith.  Throughout the Bible, Scripture repeatedly reminds us to remember. 

When Joshua led the people of Israel across the Jordan River into the Land of Promise, the waters of the Jordan were parted.  Joshua instructed one person from each tribe to take a stone out of the riverbed and build a monument on the bank.  I doubt the monument was very elaborate.  It was probably just a pile of twelve stones.  Joshua said, “This will be a memorial, a way to remember what God has done.” 

The Passover Feast was a memorial.  When Moses instituted the Passover, he wanted the people of Israel to remember their bondage in Egypt and remember the miraculous way in which God set them free from that bondage.  “Remember that God called your father Abraham, that he was a wanderer, and that in his old age, he realized the promised covenant of God.”  “Remember that you were in bondage but were set free.”  “Remember that God brought Israel to greatness though she was a weak nation.”  “Remember the commands of the Lord.”  Remember…  Remember…  Remember…

We see Jesus also celebrating the Passover Feast in an upper room with his disciples.  There, he reinterpreted the elements of this meal, telling the men, “Not only do I want you to remember what God did for the people of Israel, but I want you to remember this night.  I want you to remember the events that will occur tomorrow.  I want you to remember that this bread symbolizes my body and this cup symbolizes my blood.” 

Freedom is not free.

As we celebrate Memorial Day as a country, please remember that it is not just a day off from work.  It is not just a day for a barbeque or a day we say that summer begins.  Remember that freedom is not free.  Remember that the greatest freedom we have – the freedom from sin and death – was purchased on the cross of Calvary.  When we take these elements of the Lord’s Supper – the bread and the cup – we do this as a memorial.  We do this to remember.  We do not just look to the past, but we also look to the future.  Did you hear what Jesus said?  “Do this in remembrance of me until I come again.”  We look forward to the future.  It is a time of hope.

When we come to this table, we bring a variety of experiences, all kinds of emotions.  Let this table be for you a healing balm.  If you come here with guilt and sin in your life, repent and receive the grace of Christ.  If you come here with a burden of grief, and some of you are grieving, let this table be a sign of hope for you, a sign that Christ Jesus has conquered death itself.  Come with open hearts and open hands.

This table does not belong to Morningside.  It is not a Baptist table.  This is the Lord’s Table, and all who profess Jesus Christ as Lord are invited to take this Supper. 

We will celebrate this Supper together now.

On the night when he was betrayed, Jesus took bread.  He broke it and said, “This is my body, broken for you.”  As you eat this bread, I want you to remember the love of the Lord Jesus Christ.  We must respond to that love.  These words come to my mind: 

My Jesus, I love Thee, I know Thou art mine; 
For Thee, all the follies of sin I resign; 
My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art Thou.  
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.” 


Jesus said, “This bread is my body, broken for you.”  Do this as often as you do it in remembrance of him.  Eat ye all of it.

 Why do we love Jesus?  Listen. 

I love Thee because Thou hast first loved me,
And purchased my pardon on Calvary’s tree; 
I love Thee for wearing the thorns on Thy brow;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.


Jesus said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood.”  Drink it as often as you drink it in remembrance of him.  Drink ye all of it.

I know some people here today have a decision to make.  We invite you to respond to whatever the Lord Jesus has placed on your heart.  If you have never accepted Christ as your Savior, could I invite you to make that decision today?  We have remembered what Jesus did for us.  Now we must ask ourselves the question, What will we do for him? 

Kirk H. Neely

© May 2010

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