Our gathering as congregations of Christians is largely about memory. We remember stories of peoples and cultures ancient and distant. We listen to their stories in which we hear wisdom and the voice of God coming through history, story and memory. They are ancestors in this spiritual journey, part of the movement that embraces God’s Reign of justice, peace and love. We remember the way Jesus interacted with people, rich and poor, powerful and outcast. We listen, we remember and remember who we are as God’s people. We regularly share in the symbolic meal of Communion, where we gather around an open table, welcomed by the Risen Christ in the name of God who is love. We remember his life given up for the sake of God’s Reign and how he stood against the powers of the world, the evil and injustice, and commit ourselves to this memory in our lives. We remember and in remembering we become!
On Monday there will be another day of remembering, called Remembrance Day. It is a day of entering into the stories of those who have been called into the various wars and conflicts around the world. We remember those whose lives were sacrificed, given for the sake of their family, friends and a freedom they believed in – enough to risk life. We remember the depth of struggle and sacrifice, the living hell, those who fought went through in trenches, in jungles, in deserts… I have recoiled from many stories I have heard over the years from those who have been willing to relive a memory or two. The horror, the hell and the sheer guts and desperation, the fear and despair, the exhilaration at the end, the mateship bonds formed under duress and stress all speak of the world I’ve not encountered. Some have been reticent to share their memories because the pain in reliving is too hard. Others bear the emotional and psychological effects of this hell on earth. Others will quietly share their stories with a tear and a laugh. They will gather with mates and attend memorial services of Remembrance. They will remember and hold before us something of the truth of war. They will recall the grief of lost mates, lives sacrificed far too young. They will recall the high costs of war and offer us a warning that there are other ways to resolve conflicts. There is a time to talk and listen, to negotiate and work together in non-violent ways to resolve our differences. There may be other times when war seems inevitable but we should never enter into this ‘inevitability’ until all else is exhausted. We will remember and in remembering honour their lives, their sacrifice and their stories. We will honour their warnings and we will resolve to seek new ways of seeking peace and freedom.
In our gospel reading this week (Luke 20:27-38) there is a line at the end that says: “Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.” When I hear this I understand that God is about life, about living life in all its fullness. God invites us to open our hearts and minds to the memories, light and bright, deep and dark and to allow the remembering of who we are to form us into people of hope, life, freedom, peace and joy – people of love and grace!
Rev Geoff Stevenson