Remembering is an important matter. And this month we do rather a lot of it. Remembering shows that we care. Just ask any man who has forgotten his wedding anniversary. Remembering someone`s name is more than good manners it shows we`re engaging and paying attention. We`re acknowledging another`s significance.
Whole industries are devoted to helping us remember. If tying a knot in your hanky isn`t sufficient then the makers of diaries, calendars and hand-held devices know that they have a ready market. And of course, some people make a small fortune in selling their memories. Just check the autobiography section in the local bookshop.
On the other hand, although forgetting may jokingly be excused as a `senior moment` we still know that we`re on serious territory. Because the inability to remember can sometimes be quite as painful as the memories that simply won`t go away.
And remembering of course is a notoriously selective thing. “Oh yes, I remember it well” went the words of the song. And those who moan to their children about the behaviour of their grandchildren by saying, `We never had that problem with you`, are clearly struggling with parental amnesia.
Sometimes we might think that it`s a kindness that the years manage to soften or make easier the remembering. But in some instances accurate remembering, no matter how painful, is a matter of honour and justice. For the truth is so often a casualty of our desire to save face. This is why the teaching of history is such a contentious subject for many who lead us. Remembering is an important matter.
I visited a home for the elderly, very many years ago. And as a young minister I was moved more deeply than I can say by the sight and sound of a small group of frail but faithful people doing their best to sing, “O God our help in ages past, our hope for years to come”.
The very familiarity of these words and of the Lord`s Prayer, and the twenty-third Psalm were stirring memories for them which allowed them to renew a sense of God`s abiding faithfulness to them. `Tis grace that brought me safe thus far and grace will lead me home` says the words of another hymn. And although we sometimes disparage what we call `hindsight` it`s often in the remembering, in the looking back that we can detect the signs of providence; of the God who remembers us. And this is the point.
Again, in so many places we are invited to remember God`s goodness… But this is because perhaps the greatest of his mercies is HIS memory. As someone once said, `Praying is holding onto God until you realise… you are being held”.
`I have written your name on the palms of my hands`, says the Lord through the Prophet Isaiah. And God`s remembering is a great help to us as today. Because as we honour so many brave people who gave their life in time of conflict, it helps us to realise that their significance does not depend on the quality or depth of our remembering but on the abiding truth that they will never be forgotten by God.
In recent years we have seen a resurgence of interest in what we call `tracing our family tree`. Some of this has been linked to a BBC Television programme with a title which intrigues me: It`s called; ”Who do you think you are”. And this seems to be based on the assumption that we gain some insight into our identity through those who have gone before us.
We can perhaps see the point they`re making. Our background, ancestry and events that took place before we were even born can indeed have an effect on the shape our life has taken. But beyond romantic fascination, a wistful nostalgia or the obligatory tears as the credits roll at the end of the programme they can`t really point to any practical outcome of this remembering.
In contrast, our worship today makes all the difference in the world. For the Christian, every Sunday is Remembrance Day. This is the day of Jesus Resurrection. We break bread and share wine as he commanded; “Do this in remembrance of me”. And this is the First Day of the Week. It`s not a day to collapse and recover from the previous six days but a day which sets the agenda for the week ahead. And the first thing we do is praise God. Remembering this is to get things the right way around.
You see, in worship we put down a marker; we remember that there is more to our lives than the labels others give us; or the identity we acquire through the things we own or achieve. So the answer to the question; “Who do you think you are?” is actually, “I am a baptised son or daughter of God. Much loved and called to his service”. On this day we re-member, we re-connect with the truth of who we are. The truth of `whose` we are. And we give our lives in praise reverence and service. We need to remember these things lest we lose our very soul. Remembering is an important matter.