For the Sake of Whose Memory?

Do this in remembrance of me.

The English grammar of 1 Corinthians 11:24 and Luke 22:19 is slightly different than the Greek. For those interested in technical matters, the English has an objective genitive, “remembrance of me.” The Greek has a simple possessive pronoun, “my remembrance.”

What’s the difference, you may well wonder.

“In remembrance of me,” pretty clearly means, “so that you remember me.”

“My remembrance, ” on the other hand, can mean the same thing, or it can me, “so that I remember” or “my occasion for remembering.”

The place of human memory at the table is pretty clear. Whatever else it does, Holy Communion reminds us that Jesus gave himself for us.

What about God’s memory? Is there a sense in which God remembers? I think so, and the key is in the word “covenant.” Jesus said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood.” A covenant is an agreement between two parties. It is a relationship of deep personal significance bound by oaths and promises. In God’s relationship with us, God takes the initiative and carries the burden of responsibility. God’s covenants with us are very one-sided, but they involve two parties nonetheless.

Through the sacrament of baptism, we become partakers in this new covenant God established in Christ. The sacrament of communion serves as the regular means of covenant renewal and participation. When we gather at the covenantal table, both sides remember what the bread and the wine signify.

On the human side, the tokens of bread and wine call forth faith in Christ from those who are gathered at the table.

On God’s side of the equation, he remembers the covenant he established in Christ and he remembers the Fatherly love he has for those who are united to him in faith.

Does the Father have a bad memory and need reminding? Would the Son forget that he gave his life? Of course not. The Bible, however, frequently speaks of God remembering. Perhaps it is an anthropomorphism, but God’s remembering is part of his covenant relationship with his people.

In human relationships, birthdays and wedding anniversaries are important occasions for people to remember their love for each other. We should love each other every day, but occasions of ritualized memory are also significant. Similarly, holy communion is ritualized memory for the church in its relationship with the Father through the Son. It is an occasion for all parties to God’s covenant to remember how we got here and the promises we made.