After reading my Maundy Thursday sermon, I know that some of my seminary friends are throwing a fit. They might be accusing me of seeing the Holy Eucharist as simply a meal by which we remember Jesus, and not something by which God can work.
This all goes back to the debates concerning the Eucharist in the 16th century. Catholics taught that the bread and the wine became the body and blood of Christ (I won’t get into this too much, but if you’re curious, just read Aristotle!).
On the other hand, Protestants taught that this was a memorial meal. A chance to simply remember what Jesus had done, but without attaching any sort of significance to the bread or wine.
Now Anglicans took a different direction. Anglicans taught (and should still!) that what becomes of the bread and wine makes no difference. What matters is that the bread and the wine are good for us; that they effectually work for our good.
Now my sermon on Maundy Thursday (drawing on I Corinthians 11:23-26) emphasizes the fact that the Holy Eucharist is a meal by which we remember Jesus. “…do this in remembrance of me.” But I don’t stop there, and I believe that my sermon is firmly within the Anglican tradition. Because we remember what Christ has done for us, the Holy Spirit works within us as we continually grow in God’s grace. In other words, I believe that with God’s Spirit, our memories can be efficacious.
This is akin to repentance. In order to repent, we first have to look back and remember what we have done wrong. Then, and only then, after we have recognized (literally, “known twice”) our faults, can we trust the Holy Spirit to help us grow in our lives of grace.