Our memory matters to God. After a personal encounter with God, a pillar of rocks would be built so the mercy of God would never be forgotten. In response to the great saving acts of God, festivals were established so the people could celebrate and never forget. Pilgrimages and parties, feasts and festivals were held for the purpose of maintaining the memories that defined God’s people.
When the Israelites entered the land, God gave them new disciplines of memory: doorposts and tassels, promises to repeat, stories to tell. All of these were so God’s people and their children and their children’s children would never forget.
This has not changed. God knows we are faithless when we are forgetful. A promise forgotten is a promise unkept. God knows what we remember is who we become. So, as he has always done, God establishes a discipline of memory.
Disciplines of remembrance, of course, are not always exciting. Flash cards are a discipline of memory. Rehearsal is a discipline of memory. God commits us to these disciplines, not for their inherent pleasure or excitement, but because the cost of forgetting is too great.
We are the people who have been redeemed by Christ’s blood—rescued from slavery and passed over for judgment because Christ has taken our place. To forget the meaning of Communion is to forget who we are.
This is why Communion is not the arena for innovation but the arena of repetition. Paul writes to the Corinthians,
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” (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).
And so let us also remember.
Ethan Magness is pastor of spiritual formation with Mountain Christian Church, Joppa, Maryland.