Remember Who You Are
Charles Paul Conn, the president of Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee, tells of seeing a Yellow Pages ad for a restaurant in the Atlanta area called “The Church of God Grill.” Now, I tried to find a listing on the web for this particular restaurant, and I couldn't—though I did find about a million references to Conn’s story about the restaurant (this could be a preacher's story; do your own research before you head to Atlanta for a chicken dinner). It seems that Conn was struck by the unusual name for a chicken restaurant (no connection to "Church's Chicken" which was named for its founder George W. Church), so he called and asked the manager for the back-story. This supposedly true story provides something of a cautionary tale for the church—
“Well,” the man began, “We started a little church down here, and we started selling chicken dinners after church on Sunday to help pay the bills. People liked the chicken, and we did such a good business, that eventually we cut back on the church service. After a while we just closed down the church altogether and kept on serving the chicken dinners. We kept the name we started with, and that’s Church of God Grill”
So it would seem that this church got so busy doing something that was not really its core purpose (raising money to pay the bills) and in the process essentially forgot its identity. That is something that the both the church and individual Christians need to guard against.
That is essentially the point of the Lord’s Supper, which Jesus establishes in our reading today from Mark 14. In communion, we are to remember Jesus and His cross—the “this do in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19, 1 Cor 11:24) has been carved into millions of communion tables through the years. But the point isn’t that we are in danger of forgetting that Jesus died on the cross; the danger is that we will put something else other than His cross at the center of who we are as Christians and as a church. We are to be, as the titled Leonard Allen’s book of years ago suggests, a “Cruciform Church.” We are to be a people with the cross at the center, not just of our worship, but of our lives.
Once a week we come together to eat the bread and drink of the cup that reminds us that Jesus died and lives again. We also remind ourselves that in living for Him, we die to ourselves each day as we seek to be disciples who “deny themselves and take up their cross and follow” Jesus (Mark 9:34). If we don’t remind ourselves constantly of the cross at the center, then we run the risk of forgetting who we are. If that happens, we might as well close the church and open a chicken restaurant.