Remembrance

 

What do you like to remember?

People you have known or places you have been to? Things you’ve done or maybe things that happened to you?

Our lives are full of memories.

Some things we work hard to keep in our memories, particularly if we are preparing for an exam! Some memories are crystal clear after many years but others seem to slowly fade away. And there are the very special memories of parents, relatives and other friends no longer with us.

Taking time to stop and remember seems to transport us back to the time and place of our remembrance and we begin to re-live the thoughts, feelings and actions involved perhaps long ago. Remembering then is not just recalling or recounting an event in our past but it also involves a measure of re-experience in the present of the power and effect of that past event. And there is a great deal of remembering in the Bible.

For Jewish people ‘remembering’ was and still is a central part of their worship and particularly at Passover when the events of the exodus from Egypt are recalled. Follow the account of the Children of Israel through the Old Testament and you can see that remembrance of this key event was crucial to them especially in times of need and when they had fallen away from worshipping God. They were continually being reminded to remember how God had led them out of Egypt and into the promised Land.

But you could ask, “how could they actually remember“, since very few made it through the 40 years in the wilderness and of course no-one survived much longer. And yet the ‘remembrance’ of these events has continued to the present day. How can this be?

Let’s look at this stage by stage.

Firstly you are called to remember a past event outside of your own direct experience and you learn how God saved his people and led them out of Egypt. Being asked to recall this event, time and time again, builds up a vivid picture of what happened and begins to make the events ‘real’ for you.

Secondly you see the event in terms of the actions involved: eating the Passover meal, following Moses across the Red Sea, wandering in the wilderness and finally crossing the Jordan river. You are now experiencing the events for yourself and you remember them.

Thirdly you begin to see and discover that these events are an ever present reality today as you too are led by God out of Egypt and to your own promised land.

It is not surprising that this concept of remembrance is used by Jesus at the last supper since it was the time to celebrate Passover. Luke’s gospel focuses on this theme of remembrance:

And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you.  Do this in remembrance of me.”

If we take part in any form of the Christian celebration of communion we are doing it in remembrance of Jesus. But how?

Firstly you can put together in your mind a picture of the overall events involved in this last supper: Jesus’ earlier entry into Jerusalem, his prayers in Gethsemane and arrest, his trial and crucifixion and the glorious resurrection.

Secondly you can concentrate on the actions that take place: Jesus takes some bread and gives thanks and breaks it and shares it out to the disciples. He also takes a cup, gives thanks and gives it to the disciples. As you think and remember these events they become very real for you and you feel part of them.

Thirdly you can feel the presence of the Lord offering you freely, here and now,  his body and blood, his goodness and truth, his love and wisdom.

Your remembrance of this event has now become a real and present experience of the Lord working in your life.

Do this in remembrance of me.”