Remembering is a power-filled human activity, a vital, life-restoring theological concept. As an individual or a community re-members, they literally reassemble pieces of history and aspects of lives that have been dismembered, with pieces and parts often widely scattered and hard to retrieve. Scripture abounds with instances of God's command to remember, with times of community remembrances, with narratives of God remembering how quickly we humans tend to forget. Our scriptures are written-down accounts of countless communities remembering by telling stories that later got recorded on parchment, still later printed on paper. Former neighbor and forever friend Sara told me she'd heard the gospel could be summed up in the single word "remember!"
Related to history, remembering and being present, I've been trying to practice mindfulness on a more regular basis; one of the instructors at the Hammer Museum mindfulness meditation sessions describes it as "showing up for your own life" – living in the moment with what is, whatever that is. Part of the irony is that humans tend not to be as fully present in the right now as they might be, when at other times trusting that the pain and uncertainty of this moment is all there every will be, despite their own histories that have shown them God's constant faithfulness and very presence.
This past week synagogue and church celebrated passover and easter concurrently. These great festivals of freedom and liberation carry a similar focus of remembering God's mighty acts of deliverance from death; seder participants recount the Exodus narrative of Israel's wayfaring from slavery into the gift of the promised land with symbolic fresh food that no longer depends upon empire – they sometimes call it eating history. Christians retell and re-enact their experience of death and resurrection with the Triduum, a three-day long liturgy that begins on Maundy ("mandate," or command) Thursday with Jesus' example of servanthood as he washes his disciples' feet, and then with another of Jesus' examples and commands as he takes, blesses, breaks, and distributes bread, takes and blesses and shares a cup filled with fruit of the vine. On Friday the second day we re-collect Jesus's arrest, passion, and death. The Easter vigil, Easter sunrise, or Easter day liturgy (some people attend all three services!) marks the last of the Three Days. Historically, Easter has been the baptismal day for the newly-catechized, with a full, dramatic, immersion into Jesus' death and resurrection in the flood waters that drown us to our first death, waters that then become the womb of our second birth.
God commanded Israel to remember and tell the story of their passage from bondage to freedom; when the church obeys Jesus' charge to break bread and pour out wine in his memory in the eschatological feast of the Eucharist, part of the liturgical action includes remembering and retelling the story of God's people Israel in order to make it part of our own history as individuals and as a community. In fact, we refer to that section of the written and spoken eucharistic prayer or canon as anamnesis—"remembering." So it's not only about Jesus for each of us, for all of us gathered in this local assembly, in this room today—it becomes about all of us throughout history. To paraphrase Kristin's words, as the people of God and as individuals baptized into the whole people of God in every place, every time, we trust beyond whatever moment currently engulfs us; we remember where we've been and where God is leading us. How even those hard days didn't last forever… we remember and re-appropriate the small deaths and the huge losses; we again trust God whose final answer always is resurrection from death. For the apostle Paul, the gospel is death and resurrection. For us, the gospel in a word? Remember! Somehow despite all our remembering, we never expect mixed-in good times, never even imagine resurrection to new life. But in spite of it, let's remember!