Pay it Forward – Hand it On
This is a night for remembering.
It is a night for remembering the Passover, the Exodus and the manna in the wilderness.
It is a night for remembering Jesus’ last acts of teaching and service in washing his disciples’ feet.
It is a night for remembering the Last Supper that Jesus ate with his disciples.
It is a night for remembering the new meaning Jesus gave the bread and the wine.
Through the Holy Spirit they become for us Christ’s Body and Blood.
We do this “in remembrance of him.”
St. Paul, as he describes the Lord’s Supper to the church in Corinth begins his teaching this way:“I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you.”Implicit in this phrase is the idea that what we are remembering is not for memory’s sake alone. We remember in order to pass on the significance of that memory to others.
Paul received; … he handed on.
The Jews received freedom in the Exodus, and they hand on the story to their children each year at Passover, so they too might know God’s freedom.
We receive, remember, and hand on the same story, along with its deepened significance in the life of Christ.
This idea of “receiving,” “remembering” and “handing on” appears several times in scripture. In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, we find it three times.
At the beginning of the 11th Chapter: “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions just as I handed them on to you.” (vs. 1-2) Paul is saying that he is remembering, and acting out in imitation, the life and mind of Christ. He boldly proclaims that if people would just imitate him, Paul, they would be imitating Jesus himself! Would that we all could make such a claim about our own lives! “Just do what I do, and you’ll be acting like Jesus.”
Paul also commends the believers in Corinth because they are remembering and continuing to hand on the traditions – like the prayers and the Lord’s supper, just as he handed them on to the new believers when he started the church a few years before.
Later, in Chapter 15, he says: (vs. 1-4) “Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you– unless you have come to believe in vain. For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures…”
Here, what is being remembered, received and handed on is the very crux of our faith, The Good News, the Gospel: In fulfillment of God’s plan for his people, Christ died for our sins, was buried, and was raised on the third day, bringing new life to us and to the world.
That’s the Good News in a nutshell. This is the Good News that is proclaimed to us, that we receive and, in turn, are called to hand on to others. So, as we spend this night remembering, receiving the testimony and the traditions handed down to us, how are you and I handing them on to others?
There’s a saying that “God has no grandchildren.” In other words, each person needs to hear, receive and believe the Good News of Christ for themselves. There’s another saying that goes, “Christianity is only one generation away from extinction.”
Just because your parents were Christians, doesn’t mean that you are. Just because you believe, doesn’t mean your children will automatically believe.
Our belief in Jesus Christ, his love and sacrifice for us, is a treasure to be received, remembered and handed on.
A while back, there was a movie that came out called, “Pay it Forward.” I’m sure a lot of you have seen it. In the movie, a young boy begins an experiment. He goes out of his way to do good – to serve others somehow, and he asks those people to “Pay it Forward.” “Don’t try to pay me back, just do something good for someone else.”
At first, the experiment seems like a failure, but unbeknownst to him, there is a movement across the country of people “paying it forward.”
In essence, that is the message of this particular night. Remember, yes. But remember so that you can “Pay it Forward.” Experience the Good that God has given you, and then, pay it forward.
“This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” “As often as you drink [this cup], do it in remembrance of me.”
We “pay it forward” when we invite others to the table to hear the message of God’s saving love, and to receive for themselves the power of Christ’s Body and Blood.
We “pay it forward” when we follow Jesus’ example of service. After he washes the disciples feet, he says, “For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.”
Pay it forward. Hand it on.
Handing on our faith doesn’t just happen automatically.
The very word Paul uses is a slippery word. Parodidomi means to hand on, deliver, entrust, commit, give; hand down, pass on; commend. The very actions we have been talking about.
But the very same word can also mean “to hand over or deliver up (as in, to be arrested); It can mean to “betray, or deliver to death.”
Just a few short hours after Jesus gave his disciples the sacrament of the Eucharist and an example of humble service to be handed on (parodidomi) by his followers, he will be handed over (parodidomi) by Judas to the authorities. He will be handed over for crucifixion. He will be handed over to death.
Where in our lives do we hand Jesus on? Where in our lives do we hand Jesus over?
Are we handing Jesus on to our children, our grandchildren, our spouse, our neighbors, our friends, and our co-workers?
Where are you consciously, both in word and deed, handing on the good news of Christ?
Are you Paying Forward God’s love in humble service to others?
Are you finding ways to share, not only in example, but in words, what Jesus means to you?
When was the last time you shared with a loved one how you felt God was leading you? What might it mean for you to share an answer to prayer with a close friend?
What might it be like to offer to pray with, not just for, your sister or your neighbor? Have you shared with your children or grandchildren the stories of our faith?
Are you Paying Forward what you have received without pay that is beyond price?
If we are not handing Jesus on in faith, we are, in fact, handing him over.
We can, by what we say and do, and more often, by what we don’t say or don’t do, hand Jesus over to be rationalized, marginalized, or even vilified by others.
Even when we sometimes do hand on our faith in some ways,
we still often hand Jesus over – to our busyness, our pettiness, and even our wantonness.
Two thousand years ago, Jesus allowed himself to be handed over to death so that we can hand on the Good News of freedom and life that death and resurrection accomplished.
He paid, once and for all, the debt of sin and a broken world that we cannot repay. We must pay it forward as we share the Gospel.
So tonight, Receive, remember, and then Go – hand it on.