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
(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
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.