We have gathered this morning to remember. To remember the power of love, of sacrifice, to recall memories of courage shown and peace pursued. We all know the power of remembering. And perhaps this is why in the modern world one of our greatest fears is loss of memories!!
Never mind the anxieties we face around political upheaval or environmental damage or of terrorism or as we recall today the horror of war between nations. Never mind these fears, in my experience these are at least matched if not surpassed by the fear of losing our memory. And with the increasing impact of illnesses such as dementia and alzheimer’s in our communities this fear looms large. On a morning like this when we embrace the power of memories it is perhaps important to face our fears and ask what the Christian faith might say about such matters. Should we fear the fact that our lives, and lives such as those lost in wars might be forgotten??
What is it that we fear when we acknowledge loss of memory. Perhaps it is that we believe our lives are autobiographical. What I mean is that we believe it is we ourselves who tell our story. We believe we are in control of what people know and understand about our lives by what we tell them. This being the case we understandably feel a deep fear when we can no longer tell our story. If our life is told simply through our own words, actions and memories then if our capacity to tell that story is lost we fear that we might cease to exist. And we use that kind of language about memory loss don’t we .. someone who has a condition that impacts their memory is often talked of as if they were ‘not the person they used to be’ … as though any of us ever are!!
I believe one of the gifts of religious faith and a church community is to remind us that our lives are not autobiographical .. our life is not lived in isolation and therefore others too tell our story? Can accept that others tells and retell our story too? Who is telling the story of those who lost their lives in the Great Wars for instance .. is it not us with our memories this morning? When we live in community our lives exist in the memories and stories of that community, which means our story is told in accounts and voices beyond our own retelling. Our story becomes bigger and broader and more significant with every voice that tells it .. some remembering certain things, others remembering different things … all joining to tell a story that is bigger than we can tell ourselves.
Therefore the bigger and broader our communities the deeper and broader our lives will be remembered. Indeed when our communities extend even beyond time and space .. as the community of faith that is the church .. our lives have meaning even beyond the time we have to tell our own story. Like the soldiers of the Great Wars our story continues after our own words memories have faded. We will remember them!!
Perhaps more importantly even than this message is the idea that we are remembered also by God. You might want to think about that over the coming weeks as we prepare for the celebration of Christmas .. that your life is held in the memory of God. Your life is remembered by God, and God’s memory is perfect and complete and retells your story in perfect love and devotion. As a loving family member retells the stories of someone whose memory has diminished, so God can remembers our story with emotion and familiarity and warmth if we allow God to share our lives.
The Christian faith teaches that our fear of losing memories can be soothed with the knowledge that its is not just us who tell our story. If we embrace Christian community others can tell it too. And if we embrace God our story is remembered more perfectly than we can ever tell it. We might wish to trust that the essence of that word re-member is to put back something back together, to restore each member in the same sense of a message of resurrection. If God remembers us then God can re-member us .. put our spent bodies and minds back together in some more perfect way after we die.
This morning we remember and retell the stories of our past in order that we might know peace.