Last week (All Saints Day) we ended our time by honoring our Saints! When I think of those who’re particularly the saints in my life, they were/are those people (young/ old/ wise/ not-so-wise) who have somehow contributed to my faith journey. It’s all those whose lives/ witness/ writings/ example God has used to show something of who & what God is and so also who I am. Whoever it was who originally spoke of faith as the common cold – something caught from others, not taught was correct.
We begin this week by remembering all those associated with war death. We think of so many young men and women, people from all walks of life: mail carriers, teachers, doctors, housewives… Typically, we think of those in uniform. But tragically, those who suffer the most are no longer soldiers on battlefields but the innocent killed in their homes. The very real challenge for us as we gather at cenotaphs across the country is never to honor the awful destruction & suffering associated with war while still honoring the sacrifices of those who lost their lives. We honor them for their sacrifice, their patriotism & courage, but we hate war! We understand war to be the ultimate breakdown of our recognition of our common humanity and of all relationship.
We remember in order to do at least these 4 things:
- To honor the best of ourselves and our human spirit! We remember in order to honor our heroes for the finest and noblest of their past actions.
- We remember to learn from the worst of ourselves, that we may know what to avoid! It was Spanish philosopher George Santayana who famously said: Those who cannot (or will not) remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
We shudder to remember our Canadian past and what’s now being called the First Nation Genocide: our government’s official answer to what back then was called ‘The Indian-problem’ which was to ‘kill the Indian in the Indian’ and to do so by making them European. That led to the creation and enforcement of the Residential School system which has destroyed so much…! I think at last we are beginning to get it that it was not only a brutal system because of the atrocities associated with it, but because of the genocide it was designed to achieve! But can’t we just forget about that? We may never forget!
I think of my own homeland – South Africa – where for generations the segregation of race into higher and lower classes was officially based on the attempted theological justification of an evil system: APARTHEID! But do we still HAVE to remember…? Yes we do!
How about those millions executed during the German holocaust of WW2 simply for being Jewish, or for being gay, or for having some physical impairment? Now, almost 80 years later, do we still really need those awful memorials…? THEY’RE ESSENTIAL!
I’m sure we’d love to be able just to forget all those things – deny that they ever even happened.
But we can’t – …because they are still with us. Remember the Rwandan genocide of 1990s?
What about the current horror of political and religious ideologies which result in the 100s of 1,000s if not millions of killed innocent and displaced people? May we never lose sight of the horror to which we are capable.
- We remember to have hope for whatever’s ahead. Our remembrances are never to be anchors confining to the worst of ourselves so much as rudders of learning & insight to steer us onwards towards to all of what can be ahead…
- We remember in order, by faith, to make what was once known from God’s historical reality real once again for us today! It’s what scholars name as: ANAMNESIS! Time & again we see that commandment in scripture: Remember: …that you were slaves in Egypt & that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and outstretched arm… (Dt.5:15) …the wonders God has done, God’s miracles, and the judgments God pronounced… (1 Chron. 16:12) …that I have commanded you to be determined and confident! Do not be afraid or discouraged, for I, the Lord your God, am with you wherever you go… (Josh.1:9)
As we remember we, by faith, bring what happened then back into our reality NOW! That’s what Jesus had in mind when, in Luke 22, He instituted the sacrament of the Last Supper, saying: “Do this IN REMEMBRANCE of me! ANAMNESIS! Jesus wasn’t asking so much for memorials as for our faithful response. The ultimate freedom that we celebrate every day of our lives – the freedom to know and to live into our truest/best selves – was not secured for us on any battlefield, but by the profound brokenness embraced by God in Christ on Golgotha!
Something happened then, for us and for all of creation that has completely changed everything. We – our truest and best selves/our soul-selves – have all ultimately been set free by the Son of God, and (as St Paul says), if the Son sets you free then truly you are free indeed! And not just freedom for us – but for everyone & everything…
We celebrate that freedom by remembering it / owning it & living lives that demonstrate it! What this means for us on this Remembrance Day Sunday is SO profound, yet almost impossible – FINALLY – to articulate! But may that never stop our reaching for it!
And so, today, as we remember.
What does that mean for you,
- socially as part of our wider community?
- …and beyond, as part of all creation?
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