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Communion Meditations (2013)


Originally scheduled for January 20

Sir Winston Churchill, in his memoirs of World War II, recounts an incident which occurred after his first visit to the United States during the war. On the return trip (in a battleship) he stopped in Iceland. The United States had just started to take over the defense of Iceland, and Churchill was invited to review the troops of both the United States and Great Britain who were on the island. Apparently the commanders wanted to give the world the impression that there were far more troops than actually were available. They arranged Churchill’s review to be a march in a column of threes — thus taking a great deal more time than would usually be required.

Sir Winston recorded the fact that the march was accompanied by a band playing the marching song of the US Marine Corps, “United States Marines.” He tells us that the tune “bit so deeply into my memory that I could not get it out of my head.” Have you ever had a song do that to you? Most of us have, and it can be quite annoying. We might pause and ask why.

The human memory is a rather complicated thing, but we can see in this instance three very good reasons why the tune got stuck in his head.

·         Repetition. It was a long march and the band had to repeat the tune quite a number of times.

·         Focus. It’s not like the band was playing in the background, or that he was listening to elevator music. He was reviewing these troops; you’re supposed to be paying attention when you do that.

·         Simplicity. As a form of music, the march is not noted for its complexity. All marches have the same meter and tempo. They are designed to keep everyone in step. That doesn’t allow for a lot of complexity.

Communion, in its own way, uses the same elements. It’s not something that we do once; depending upon what church group you belong to, it can be administered weekly or even daily. Most denominations do it frequently, so it is not a rare event but repeated one. When we put have communion, it is the focus of every Christian’s attention. It is the center point of worship. We do it in an atmosphere of calm and quiet, so that all can focus their thoughts on the meaning and purpose of communion. When done correctly, there is nothing else going on to compete with it; it’s the only thing were doing at the time.

It is also a model of simplicity. The bread represents the body of our Lord; the cup, his blood. It is designed to be a symbolic picture of the suffering of Christ on the Cross. In short, when our Lord instituted the Lord’s Supper he meant for it to be something you would remember. Therefore, Christian, let it bite deeply into your memory, so that it will not go out of your head. Take, eat and remember.

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