Memorial

Memorials are customary gatherings, in our society, to give honor to loved ones who have passed.  It helps the living deal with the passing, and provides a time and place where all affected can gather and remember the loved one.  Beyond this gathering, there are other ‘memorials’.  Anything from a simple marker with their name on it to elaborate facilities bearing the name of the person deemed significant.  We remember those who have passed, in multiple ways.

The Old Testament had some significant memorials to guide the Israelites in recalling God’s blessings upon them in the past, and these were also a reminder of God who worked for his children. These memorials, however, are no longer in effect.  The New Testament is the covenant of which the Old Testament prophets spoke.  When Jesus shed his blood on the cross the old covenant was fulfilled and the new covenant was mediated (Col. 2:12-14; Gal. 3:15-27; Heb. 9:15).  Paul reminded the Roman saints that we cannot serve both laws, we are only bound by the law of Christ (Rom. 7:1-7).  The instructions of the old covenant are no longer applicable, including the memorials they were instructed to observe.  In contrast, as we study the new covenant we find that there is only one memorial we are to observe.  Humanity may desire to memorialize the birthplace and date of Jesus’ birth, but God did not give us instruction for that.  In fact, we do not know for certain when Jesus was born.  Likewise, there are events in the life of Jesus and even the apostles which some have wanted to memorialize.  These have no instruction from God, so we must avoid those actions.  God instructs us to remember the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross through the simple, yet profound, actions of the Lord’s Supper.

The Lord’s Supper is a simple observance.  The instructions are found in the gospel accounts and in Paul’s first letter to Corinth.  References to the observance of this memorial are found in the book of Acts.  Our hearts and minds are called upon to remember the body Jesus gave and the blood Jesus shed in this simple observance.  We need to resist making elaborations for effect as we partake.  This memorial is to be observed by each local congregation as they are assembled, and it is to be observed on each first day of the week.  This is the pattern, the instruction, which Jesus has given through the apostles and prophets of the New Testament (Matt. 26:26-28; 1 Cor. 11:17-33).

In our desire to honor those who have passed, often in our grief, we are pressed to provide lasting reminders of their lives.  The day-to-day memorials of our loved ones is up to us.  Christians, however, need to have a wider view and approach these ‘memorials’ with wisdom.  Do not take from what we can do for the Lord to honor one of his servants.  Then, exercise self-control in regard to memorials of the Lord.  We give glory to God when we follow his instructions in everything.  When each ‘season’ comes around, and varied holidays are promoted in some observance of spiritual matters, return to scripture and follow it.  If the scriptures are silent, feel free to ignore the events which some human mind has invented.  The latter is the best process, if you do otherwise do it carefully to prevent violation of teaching or practice of scripture.  It would be terrible for a good desire to lead us away from obedience to God.

Greg Weston