Sunday, April 1, 2012

Remembrance Day

And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it,
and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body given for you;
do this in remembrance of me." 

-- Luke 22:19  

Americans call it Veterans Day. But for Canadians, November 11 is Remembrance Day--a special occasion for remembering the thousands of men and women who sacrificed their lives in military service during WWI, WWII, the Korean War and in Afghanistan. 

One of them was George Lawrence Price, a soldier who was killed only two minutes before WWI ended on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918. Private Price was the last of more than 66,000 Canadians who died in what was then called The War to End All Wars. It's in his memory--and that of thousands of others who made the ultimate sacrifice--that Canadians pay tribute with two minutes of silence every November 11.

Christ-followers also set aside a special time to remember sacrifice. We remember Jesus' death, burial and resurrection through Communion, a symbolic meal where we take in His body in the form of a small cracker ("the Bread of Life") and grape juice ("The True Vine"). In Matthew's Gospel, we read that the night He was arrested, Jesus gathered His apostles to celebrate the Passover meal, which itself symbolized the Jew's escape from slavery in Egypt:
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take and eat; this is my body." Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you.This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins."
At the time, the apostles failed to recognize the significance of their Master's words. But within just a few hours, Jesus was arrested by the Jewish authorities, tried, found guilty and handed over to the Romans for execution. Luke's Gospel paints a vivid scene following Jesus' crucifixion in a place called Golgatha ("The place of the skull"):  

It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." When he had said this, he breathed his last.

"That surely was the Son of God," exclaimed the awe-struck Roman soldier who witnessed the scene.

Not long before, Jesus and His apostles had entered Jerusalem in triumph amid the cheers of the people's approval. But now, His followers were in despair. Their Master was dead. And they wondered if all was lost. But three days later--just as the Old Testament had foretold--Jesus was resurrected from His tomb and appeared in bodily form. And not only to the apostles, but to hundreds of other witnesses!

Thomas--remembered to this day as "Doubting Thomas"--said he wouldn't believe the stories about Jesus' resurrection unless he saw the nail marks in His Master's hands. And Thomas did believe once Jesus appeared to him and revealed those wounds.

"Put your finger here; see my hands," Jesus said to Thomas. "Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe."   

The eyes of every apostle opened wide. They believed. And they remembered. 

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