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The Rt. Rev. Edward Malcolm: “Do This in Remembrance of Me”

April 21, 2007

This sermon by Bishop Edward Malcolm of the Church of England (Continuing), “Do This in Remembrance of Me,” appeared in their Journal for April 2003. I found it to be quite a thoughtful piece:

    When the Lord Jesus instituted the memorial meal we know as the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion He gave a gracious gift to the Church. The words of the Prayer of Consecration in the Book of Common Prayer, taken from I Corinthians 11:23-26, show us that what we do at Communion is taken directly from the example of Jesus Himself. It is a prayer to which none can object in good conscience, for it is such a scriptural prayer. That in itself, however, may not help us to answer a most important question; what do we do in remembrance of Christ, and how do we remember Him?

The rule to be followed in trying to understand what the Bible means in any given point is to look at the context—what were the circumstances surrounding Jesus’ actions and words? Two things are clear.

            The first is that Jesus and His disciples had come to the end of a meal. This meal was of course the Passover meal, ordained by God, and commanded as a memorial for Israel. The second thing was that Jesus was about to be taken, tried, and put to death. Whatever He said or did in the days and hours before He died were bound to be highly significant, especially as He had foretold the event, and so was clearly prepared for its coming.

             We must think about the Passover itself for a moment. This was the occasion, recorded in Exodus 12, when Israelite families in Egypt were commanded to take a lamb, to kill it, to daub its blood on the door posts and lintels of their houses, and to roast the carcass and eat it. Further, they were to do this dressed for a journey, ‘And thus shall ye eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste: it is the Lord’s passover.’

            This meal, then, served two purposes. The primary purpose was as a sacrifice,in order to propitiate the wrath of God as He passed over the land to smite all the first-born of the land of Egypt, both man and beast. Those who were sheltered under the blood were spared, for the blood was counted as a token upon the houses where they were. The fact that it was a sacrifice is demonstrated by the command that the lamb had to be without blemish. Those who offered the sacrifice acted in faith, believing that God would visit the land, and that He would destroy the first-born in each house where the blood was not to be found. Further, they believed that by obeying God in this matter, He would spare them in mercy.

 The second purpose of the Passover meal was to provide food for the travellers. They were to eat it as ready for the journey. The journey before them was arduous. They would need food for strength in order to complete it. So they were partakers of the sacrifice, striking the blood on their door-posts, and eating the roasted animal as commanded. They derived physical and spiritual benefits from it. Their bodies were saved from death, and their bodies were strengthened for travel. Their faith was strengthened through obedience, and their faith was strengthened through receiving the mercy of God.

            When we consider the death of the Lord Jesus, we know that He died as the Lamb of God, given for the sins of the whole world. That He died on the feast day, in spite of the desire of the Pharisees that He should die some other time, is highly significant, for God was offering another Lamb, equally without blemish, and for much the same purpose as the Passover lamb. That lamb saved the firstborn in each family from death; this Lamb saves the world from death. That lamb was the means by which Israel went out of Egypt with all that nation’s wealth, to enter the Promised Land; this Lamb is the means whereby all may escape death through the promise of resurrection, to receive the rich blessings of God’s mercy, and to be assured of eternity in God’s kingdom.

            If we look back at our question, What do we do in remembrance of Christ? it is clear that we both break bread and drink wine together, as He did with His disciples, and also that we do so in the full knowledge of the deliverance that is ours through the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Israelite who ate the meal, but gave no thought to the facts of the passover and exodus, simply ate a meal, for no spiritual benefit. The Israelite who remembered the passover and exodus, but who did not eat the meal, did not remind himself of the sacrifice, or of the strengthening of faith and body that the lamb provided. Both eating and remembering are needful.

            The meal we eat in the Lord’s Supper is not an aid to physical strength as the Passover meal was, because our journey is not physical in that sense. However, it is a source of spiritual strength. As with the Passover, it is faith that is aided. “Take and eat this in remembrance that Christ died for thee, and feed on him in thy heart by faith with thanksgiving.” We are called to do three things.

            Firstly, we are called to eat in remembrance that Christ died for us. Note that this is stated personally—‘for thee’—not generally—‘for all’. Therefore a true partaking is only possible for those who believe, who are partakers in Christ’s death and resurrection. When we consider what the blood of the lamb purchased for the people by way of deliverance from God’s judgement, and that the way to the Promised Land was open as a consequence, we see that the blood of Jesus, delivering us from the wrath of God, opens to us the way to God’s kingdom.

            Secondly, we are called to feed on Him in our hearts by faith. Since the bread and wine will not sustain physical life, we must view them as spiritual realities. Faith is strengthened by a consideration of Jesus’ death and resurrection, of the fact that He is the “full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world.” We know that we have in Jesus the only way to the Father, and that His blood-shedding has covered us from God’s wrath towards sin. Faith is strengthened by a regular and frequent celebration of the Lord’s Supper, for faith, like the body, needs regular food. It is not the celebrating act that strengthens, but a right understanding of what it signifies, and a hearty acceptance of Christ as Saviour that causes us to be fed in this manner.

             Thirdly, we are to feed on Him with thanksgiving. Given all that has been said so far, it is surely inconceivable that we should feed in any other way. Rejoicing is the only state in which we can feed, for when we consider the benefits that are ours, with regard to sins forgiven, the assurance of eternal life, and the promise of the kingdom of God, we can do no more or less than to rejoice with humble, thankful hearts. May we learn truly to feed on Him who is our Saviour, whenever we have opportunity to come to His Table, to partake of His Supper, in the manner He has laid down.

I like Bishop Malcolm’s emphasis on thanksgiving in the Eucharist–a good lesson for any of us, whatever our views on the Feast may be.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. rob k permalink
    April 23, 2007 4:06 am

    Will – I agree, Thanksgiving should be part of the eucharist. We should be especially thankful for the gift of Christ’s Real Presence of His Body and Blood in the eucharist. Un fortunately I don’t see, at least in the selection above, any mention of that. In fact, it seems there is a studied avoidance of that. Certainly communion has to be more than the strengthening of faith brought about by the “remembrance” of Christ’s sacrifice.

  2. April 23, 2007 12:59 pm

    I admit I am curious about Bishop Malcolm’s views on this subject. Given that the C of E (Continuing) comes across as a fairly Reformed group my guess is that they would fall somewhere between Calvin and Ryle on the matter. But that is JUST a guess.

  3. rob k permalink
    April 23, 2007 3:01 pm

    Will – Now I know why was not familiar with Bp. Malcolm’s name. I didn’t realize that he is with a continuing group that, I guess,split off pretty recently. Like the AMIA in our country, which I think is of a fairly Reformed bent. By the way, if ECUSA does actually fracture, which I hope doesn’t happen, the groups splitting off will have differences more basic than the issue before ECUSA, homosexuality. Such things as ecclesiology, the ministry, the sacraments, etc.

  4. Anonymous permalink
    January 20, 2013 8:47 am

    I knew Edward for a few years before moving and was a member of his church. He is firmly of the traditional Evangelical mould of the CofE. He did indeed leave the CofE over the ordination of women and is critical of women bishops and actively homosexual clergy but I have seen him preach and pray many times about loving the sinner. .He is a good and faithful servant of Christ, believing that the Scriptures are the key to learning and that Christ’s commandment is to remember Him and His sacrifice, not to believe He is there over and over again. Jesus made one single sacrifice and that is all that was required. The Lord’s Supper is not, in my way of thinking anyway Jesus presenting his physical substance again, we do not need it. It is simply a reminder of His one, perfect sacrifice for our souls.

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