As we start a New Year, we often look to the past year recollecting the events and our blessings as well as the future, wondering what it will bring.
As human beings, we have the remarkable ability to travel through time. We are inherently conscious of future and past. We can create images of the possible and the probably, n ad then plan and prepare for their reality. And equally, we inherently cast our minds back, replaying scenes and experiences. We relive both the joy and the pain, drawing their lessons into our present.
While both abilities – perception of the future and recollection of the past – have their limitations, both bring immense blessing. But, it is perhaps most in our capacity to remember that we are connected with life – personal and external.
The gifts that remembering offers are diverse and as powerful as the magic in any fairy story. Without memory, we find ourselves in a state of non-being. We know who we are because of our stories – that collection of events, interactions, experiences and feelings that has moulded and formed us. Without memory, we have no identity. This the first gift.
Memories lead us to who we are, but they also lead us to grasp the larger, over-arching stories that we call truth. Our experience and understanding of the world is built on past events, relationships, information and happenings, all of which combine in the storeroom of our minds and hearts. As memory builds on memory, we learn to see and interpret our world. While these interpretations are inevitably limited, there is, for any reflective person, a growing toward truth, as we process and store the details of our lives. This is the second gift of remembering.
The third gift that memory offers it that of community – of life shared and lived in intimacy. When groups of people share memories, they are inextricably connected, bound to each other by their common history. This is why it always takes time to become part of any community, be it church, neighbourhood or sports club. As we learn and appreciate the community’s shared story, so are we able to participate in these memories and in the community to an increasing degree.
Through the centuries, the Lord’s Supper has been celebrated as a remembrance of Jesus, and his self-giving work of salvation. Like the mighty acts of God in the Passover and Exodus for the Hebrews, the cross and resurrection are the definitive faith memory for believers in Christ. In the Jesus story, God has revealed Godself and God’s people discover themselves and the truths on which faith and life can be built. Yet, in spite of the importance of these acts, people forget, and so God gives a meal to jog our memories on a regular basis – Passover in the Hebrew Bible: the Lord’s Supper in the New Testament. And so we are faced with an invitation – ” do this to remember me” – within which is hidden the promise of all the gifts that remembering brings: identity, truth and community. It’s an invitation well worth accepting.