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Communion Meditations (2018)

 

Photography

Originally scheduled for June 17

For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near.

(Hebrews 10:1 NASB)

 

Before the invention of photography, it was much more difficult for people to visually show you what they meant. Paul, in this passage, uses the concept of a shadow where we might use a photograph. Think about it from World War II. Some of the photos that came out of that conflict are highly memorable. For those who served in that war, these pictures bring up memories. For others they tell a story — a story of hope, a story of struggle and finally a story of triumph. Look at these examples:

·         In 1940 Winston Churchill had his picture taken. The photographer had just gone over and snatched away his cigar, and Churchill had quite a glower on his face. It became the picture of the English Bulldog; sheer determination, the will to victory. It is so iconic that the British government is about to issue some new currency with that picture.

·         In the South Pacific, on the island of Iwo Jima, some of the Marines raised a flag when they reached the top of Mount Suribachi. It is such a symbol of defiant sacrifice leading to victory that the firefighters who responded to the World Trade Center in 2001 staged their own picture in a very similar manner. It told us that Marines don’t quit; neither do firemen.

·         Finally, as the war’s end was announced, we have the memorable photo of a sailor grabbing the nearest nurse and kissing her deeply. It is a picture of joy bursting forth from the human spirit. (I’m told he had never met the nurse before.) It is a picture of hope, revealed.

These three photographs, among others, keep alive the memory of World War II. But have you ever asked yourself how people kept memories alive before there were photographs? One of the most common ways was to turn the memory into a ritual. In this way people could share memories; a newcomer to the community could be enlightened as to its history and traditions by participating in such rituals. Such rituals also tell a story — which is extremely important when you’re trying to get that story into your children or your grandchildren. Finally such rituals often point not just to the past but also to the future, telling one and all the hope that we share.

Old Testament rituals are like that. They are shadows — like photographs — other things that were to come. When Christ arrived, the shadows were replaced with the real thing.

Communion is one of those things that replaced the older rituals. In communion we see our shared memory of Christ on the Cross: the bread, his body; the cup, his blood. Most of us are accustomed to this and recognize it as such. But you might recall the first time your children took communion with you. You had some explaining to do. But they learned and now it’s part of their memory. Likewise your grandchildren will do the same thing. Communion is a way to share the faith with your children and grandchildren. But it also points forward: Christ told us he would not drink from his cup until he came again. In communion we remember that promise, and say, “Even so Lord, come soon.” Communion is the clear picture of our memory of the cross. It is the illustration we use with our children and he gives us hope of his soon return.

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