GERALD COWAN’S PERSONAL PERIODICALS
Number 648 • June 3, 2021
COMMUNION: RELATIONSHIPS REMEMBERED, REJOICED IN, AND RENEWED
Do you know the significance of our national Memorial Day observance? For far too many it is a day to clean up grave-sites and decorate them with flowers – a day to remember the people, important to us, who have died. Some governing officials wanted this last memorial day to be in honor of those who died in the ongoing covid19 pandemic, especially those who died in battling the disease (ironic when coming from those who actually exacerbated the crisis by inappropriate measures that spread the disaster rather than curtailing it). But aside from that, and granting that it might merit peripheral notice, the historic memorial day began and should continue as a remembrance honoring those – military persons – who lost their lives in the defense of the country from its enemies, both external and internal enemies who sought to overcome or destroy the nation. It should be a day of remembrance and thanksgiving – remembering the lessons learned and commitment to continued protection of the country and continuance of its principles and the liberty and freedoms gained at such painful cost. It has been said, “If you are free in this country, thank the veterans who have secured your freedom and your rights as citizens.”
It may be immodest, but I say that too – I am a veteran of a long-ago conflict (my service was 1950–54), and I remember why I volunteered to serve: not for expansion of an empire and not as a job, a way to earn a living but to secure for others the same freedoms I wanted for myself and my countrymen. Obviously I did not die in service in that war, but many of my compatriots did. It is important to me that their service (and mine too, if I am honest about it) not be forgotten but be remembered and respected and appreciated.
As president Abraham Lincoln famously said, “That these honored dead shall not have died in vain” and that our nation may recover from its scars and have a new birth of freedom and rights.” Neither that (Civil) war nor any other, including the so-called “First and Second World Wars,” have been successful in gaining and maintaining freedom and peace but let us grant that the motives of the participants were worth the cost they paid for their service. Desired and earnestly sought blessings often come at a high price. We should remember and rejoice – particularly when someone other than ourselves paid the price and we ourselves benefit without any real cost to us. How disgraceful and dishonorable it is – but the condition is rampant and spreading rapidly in our country – to dismiss, disrespect, discount and deny and be dissatisfied with what has been done for us by our (improperly honored) dead.
Memorials are intended to remind us, to enable us and make us remember. The subject is easily expanded. Let me suggest two or three appropriate memorials and then ask whether you are properly engaged in remembering and rejoicing, and if necessary reaffirming and renewing, in your own life.
MEMORIAL TO MARRIAGE
There’s a quaint practice of renewing wedding vows, not practiced often and probably not understood as it should be, usually done on one of the notable anniversaries, for example on the 25th or 50th anniversary. My wife and I have occasionally pledged our continuing commitment to each other privately, but not publicly in the presence of some official. I think we will do that on our 75th anniversary, which is only ten years away. People are not getting “remarried” – you can’t do that without first ending the marriage. They’re simply repeating, renewing or reaffirming their initial vows to each other and with God. It is effectively a symbolic re-commitment of themselves to each other. It is a declaration that love has endured and continues, and that, “We meant it when we first said it and we still mean it – we don’t want to lose what we have gained” (2 John 8). It is a way of saying, “If I could marry you all over again, I would, because it is still right and proper, good and mutually beneficial for us to be married. to each other.” It can be a way of expressing love, for declaring appreciation and rejoicing for the time already spent together and the prospect of more togetherness yet to come. Sometimes the vows of renewal, re-commitment, rededication – call it what you like – are more meaningful because understanding has been deepened by experience. The public renewal of wedding vows sends a powerful message to others: “Marriage in the Lord is wonderful and precious – you ought to try it too.” You see how it all comes together here: remembering, rejoicing, and renewing – a memorial to be held in sacred memory.
A MEMORIAL TO SALVATION
The Liberty Bell in Philadelphia summoned the citizens to hear the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence, read out for them by Colonel John Nixon. In that historic moment the Liberty Bell fulfilled the purpose designated by its inscription: Proclaim Liberty Through the Land unto All the Inhabitants Thereof. The inscription is taken from Leviticus 25:10. God’s Word is to ring out through all the land too, to all the inhabitants of it – to proclaim the liberty that is available to all, but available only through Jesus Christ. The message we really want to be ringing out to the world is about freedom in the Lord, the salvation and redemption that are possible only in him, in the Christ.
Have you been saved from the guilt and penalty of your sins against God, against His Christ and His Holy Spirit, and His Law – against yourself and against others? If you say yes, can you remember the date, the circumstances, and how you were saved – who helped you to do whatever was deemed necessary for salvation? I remember. It was at the 11:00 worship service of the church in San Diego, California. The preacher was Floyd Hamilton. He had helped my wife be “restored” to Christ after a notable lapse in faith and service. At her instigation and support he focused on me – teaching me, I think also often “preaching directly to me,” and helping me arrive at the decision to give my life and entrust my soul to the Lord, and then after my declared faith and repentance baptizing me into a new saved relationship with the Lord and His church. Keeping and displaying a baptismal certificate falls into the category of memorial to one’s salvation. There have been times when I knew it was necessary to repent and return, to restate publicly my need for renewal, reaffirmation and reconciliation – a kind of rededication to God. I think that is needed more than most people are willing to admit. It’s a way of saying, “I still mean it” to God.
THE LORD’S SUPPER IS A DOUBLE MEMORIAL
I don’t need to tell you the “Lord’s Supper” is, first of all, a memorial to Jesus Christ, to his body and blood sacrificed for us on the cross. Second, it is a memorial and reminder of what we have become and what we have now as a result of what he did. We are the spiritual bride/wife of Jesus Christ, in a relationship with Him that can be properly called a marriage to Him (Ephesians 5:22-32). Eating it is a memorial to His death and also to the life we received and have in him. Each time we eat the Lord’s Supper it is a celebration in love and gratitude to Him, a reminder and testament of His continuing presence with us and His promise to return and fulfill His promise that we can and will be eternally present with Him. Here is a further thought about participation in the Lord’s Supper. It is reminder and testament of our becoming one of His people – a reminder that we gave ourselves body, soul, and spirit to Him, that we accepted and are rejoicing in His salvation of. It’s away of saying, “Thanks be to God and to our Lord Jesus Christ for the immeasurable gift (2 Corinthians 9:15). Should we rededicate ourselves, renew and reaffirm our vows to Him? Each time we eat and drink in this memorial to Him we are repeating and renewing our marriage vows to the Lord, saying: “We still mean it and rejoice in it as being right and proper, good and mutually beneficial to each of us.”