The Presbyterian Pulpit
A sermon by the Rev. Dr. David E. Leininger

THANKS FOR THE MEMORY, BOB

Delivered 8/3/03
Text: John 6:24-35
To read endnotes, click on the the note number, then click on the to return to your place in the text.

All week long the kudos and compliments have been coming. With the passing last Sunday of Bob Hope, the man they are calling the Entertainer of the Century, we are diminished. As Woody Allen noted, "It's hard for me to imagine a world without Bob Hope in it." I suspect there are millions of others who would echo that, especially those who, as young men and women in uniform around the world at some distant Christmas, were able to enjoy his traveling shows to bases in the far corners of the globe. We agree with President Bush that "America [has] lost a great citizen. We mourn the passing of Bob Hope. Bob Hope made us laugh." Indeed. Thanks for the memory, Bob.

Did you see Andy Rooney's column in the paper yesterday? He wrote,
Enthusiasm isn't listed as a virtue in the Bible but it's one of the most attractive attributes a person can have. An entertainer who loves to entertain has a big head start appealing to an audience, and no one ever loved being on stage more than Bob Hope. Every time he got up in front of a crowd, he had a good time and it was catching; his audience had a good time too.(1)
I was interested to see that the New York Times informed its readers of Bob's death by running an obituary written by Vincent Canby, the veteran Times entertainment critic who himself died three years ago. The peculiar incident of one dead man writing about another was cause for some enjoyment in New York's tabloids. The New York Post wrote, "If there are any mistakes, obviously don't call the writer." Uh huh. I guess if you are going to have fun with an obituary, it is fitting that it be for Bob Hope. It is all part of what we remember him for.

Over and over this week we have heard "Thanks for the memory" repeated. That was not only Bob's theme song, it IS the way the nation feels. And I began to think, what will be said about me when my time comes? Will there be any memories to say Thanks for? How about you? The answer is pretty much in our hands, isn't it?

You are familiar with the name Alfred Nobel, after whom the Nobel Prizes are named. Nobel made his fortune as the result of an invention of his - dynamite. One morning he awoke to read his own obituary in the paper. You see, his brother had died, but a careless reporter had published the obituary of the wrong Nobel. It described him as "the dynamite king, the industrialist who became rich from explosives." It made Alfred Nobel sound like nothing more than a merchant of death. Needless to say, Nobel was more than a little upset by what he saw...not simply that the wrong person was being remembered, but the horrible portrait it painted. Alfred Nobel resolved that day to change the course of his life and do something positive for society. He left his entire fortune to be awarded to individuals who have done the most to benefit humanity, and the result was those five Nobel Prizes that are awarded with such fanfare each year...and it all started because of an obituary that made clear what any "Thanks for the memory, Alfred" would sound like.

Somewhere I recall reading of a newspaperman whose job it was to edit the obituary page. One day, things were right slow on the job - nobody died - so he searched around for something to do. As he sat staring at the keys on his typewriter, he began to think about what his OWN obituary might look like if suddenly it became necessary to publish one. As he thought about it, he realized that there would not be very much to say beyond place of birth, job, family, and so on. So he began to compose the kind of obituary for himself that he would LIKE to have written. In it he included all sorts of church activities and community service, involvement with young people, his community, support for the various educational institutions, help with the United Way - one worthwhile activity after another. When the obituary was finished, he was most impressed, but at the same time, most discouraged. Because he realized that what he had written was a big lie. It became a challenge to him, and for the rest of his life, that man made the effort to live up to that glowing obituary he had written. It worked. He DID become involved in his church and community more than ever before, and the result finally was that the fanciful obituary he had written on one slow day proved to become a roadmap for his life. What kind of obituary would you like to have written about you? Thanks for the memory, David...or Bill or Bob or Jean or Jane.

Now, here we are at this table. In a moment we will hear again those words heard so often that we perhaps do not listen to them carefully anymore: "Take, eat...do this in remembrance of me...This cup is the new covenant sealed in my blood...Whenever you drink it, do this in remembrance of me." What is it that the Lord wants us to remember? Perhaps the answer is in our lesson. The crowd has seen Jesus do remarkable things - the lame walk, the blind see, the hungry are fed (just now 5,000-plus with only five barley loaves and two small fish). Now they want even more: "What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our forefathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written: 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'"

Jesus responds, "I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world."

"Please, Jesus, give US this bread."

He answers, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty."

Jesus says remember me when you eat and drink. Why especially then? Because we need the reminder of the true source of all we need:
  • When our starving spirit needs nourishment, we have it in Jesus;
  • When our hungry heart needs sustenance, we have it in Jesus;
  • When our tortured mind needs mending, we have it in Jesus;
  • When our suffering soul needs solace, we have it in Jesus.


As we come to the table, dare we say, "Thanks for memory, Lord?" Why not? The remembering does us good. And we hear the words again, "I am the bread of life. Those who come to me will never go hungry, and those who believe in me will never be thirsty." Come to me, he says, I am here to provide what you need. And that is good news indeed.

Amen.




1. Andy Rooney, "Remembering Bob Hope," Tribune Media Services, Warren Times-Observer, 8/2/03, A-4

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