A Reminder, A Warning, A Challenge
A Reminder, A Warning, and A Challenge
St. Stephen’s Church, Napier 12 June, 2005
In recent weeks and months I am sure we have all been shocked by the number of deaths on the road. As I thought about this, I remembered how the civic authorities in Newcastle on Tyne in England used to have a very effective way of impressing the road toll on their citizens. Whether or not they are still following it, we can learn from it.
At the top of a soaring pillar of a monument at a busy road intersection, they had two outstretched arms from which two bright white lights shone.
Whenever there was a fatal road accident, these white lights were switched off and two big red ones on another two outstretched arms were switched on.
In Newcastle they knew when someone died on the road. The red lights said that a life had been lost.
Today, I want to take the message of those lights and to see how it can light up for us something of the message of the Sacrament of Holy Communion, which we celebrate this morning.
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First of all, the red lights were a reminder. They were meant to forcibly remind people that another person had been killed on the roads.
And Jesus said of the broken bread and poured out wine, “Do this in memory of me.”
The sacrament is meant to make us remember. It is as if Jesus said, “I know how busy you are; I know how easy it is for the human mind to forget even the things at the heart of your faith. Come here and remember.” And so we come to remember the life, the death and rising again of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
So that’s the first thing - the sacrament is meant to make us remember.
Now, secondly, those red lights in Newcastle were a warning. They were meant to warn ever motorist who saw them to drive more carefully; every pedestrian to be more alert as they went about their business. They were a warning of what recklessness and carelessness had done.
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Even so, the broken bread and the poured out wine are the symbols of the broken body and the shed blood of Jesus Christ, and are, therefore, the supreme warning of what sin can do.
Sin took and broke on the cross the best life that had ever been lived on this earth. So in this sacrament we have a warning of the terrible, ghastly, destructive power of sin. It says, “Be careful – this is what sins like yours have done and can do!”
So, secondly, we have a warning.
And, thirdly, those red lights in Newcastle were a challenge – a challenge to see to it that things like that do not happen in that city again. A challenge to every road user so to move along the highways and byways that the red lights will never have to be turned on again.
Just so, in this sacrament as we see these symbols of the agony of Jesus Christ, there comes the challenge, “You are worth all that; God thought you worth the life, the death, the suffering of his Son.” And if you and I are worth all that, we cannot waste and spoil our lives. We cannot turn our backs on such love. Rather, we must seek for ever to be worthy of that sacrifice and worthy of that love.
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And so I say today, may this bread and wine remind us of all that Jesus Christ had done and is doing for us! May they be a warning to us of the destructive power of our sin! May they challenge us to be truly worthy of Christ’s sacrifice. The sacrifice that speaks of the great love of our God, who so loved the world and everyone in it that he gave us his Son, so that we might not die, but have eternal life.
And to him be the glory! Amen.