November is a time for Remembrance. Last Sunday was Remembrance Sunday
when we recalled the horrors of world wars and gave thanks for those whose
lives were sacrificed, so that tyranny and oppression would not rule in our
land. Some of us remembered those of our family, our friends, comrades and
mates who died because of the folly of mankind .
This time of the year is also a time of some personal remembrance for me
. Yesterday was the fifth anniversary of the death of my wife. Last week it
was my grand-daughter’s eleventh birthday. Soon it will be the anniversary
of my mother’s death, fifty one years ago, and ten days before her birthday.
We all have those sorts of remembrance.
And we all have memories of childhood. A few days ago I had to refer to
my memoirs when an old school friend asked if I remembered -----. I can
recall being pushed in a push chair through a narrow passageway at the side
of my grandfather’s house and being told to keep my elbows in. I can recall
my first girl-friend – we were both three years old, one day she let an iron
gate swing against my head and I carry the scar to this day. That was the
end of a fine romance! I can recall going to school for the first time and
have recently written to that school telling them what it was like in 1933 –
the children, I am told, were very amused.
I could go on at length and bore you stiff by telling you of many
memories. And I bet you do too sometimes!
Then as we grow older, we all find that it is fairly easy to remember the
good old days, but increasingly difficult to remember things like people’s
names. One day in the summer I called on a lady whom I had known for several
years, She answered the door and I said, “Hello Audrey, and how are you ?”
She replied, “All the better for seeing you, but I can’t remember your
name.” I thought that was delightfully honest.
Then you decide to fetch something from the next room or from upstairs,
and when you get there you can’t remember what it is you came for.
And then there’s the problem of planning. One day I was in a café, having
a cup of tea with an old friend who was then Archdeacon of Gloucester.
Another clergyman came up to our table and said, “Excuse me, Archdeacon, but
is it possible for you to come to such-and-such a meeting next week ?” “I’ve
no idea,” said the Archdeacon, “I can never remember what’s in my diary and
I haven’t got it one me – give me a ring this evening.”
Before I go to sleep at night I make a note on a bit of paper at my
bedside of the things I have planned to do the next day – sometimes it reads
– “Remember to look in diary”. Sometimes it contains one or two names which
I can remember now, but might have forgotten tomorrow. One day I might have
to write – “Remember to get up in the morning".
Now you may be wondering what all this has to do with a “Christian
Message” which you might have been expecting. Well, you may have noticed
that we have been thinking about remembrance in three ways. It can be about
remembering the past, it can be about remembering the present, but also
about remembering for the future.
In the several accounts of his last supper with his disciples, we are
told that Jesus, after the meal, told them to “Do this in remembrance of
He took bread and wine – in his day on earth these were the ordinary
basics of eating and drinking which everyone has to do to stay alive. You
don’t have to remember a complicated recipe or have a well-equipped kitchen.
There were just two things to remember, and when you do, they remind you of
Remembering IS about the past. We remember what sort of person Jesus was.
We remember what he taught about human behaviour – the Sermon on the Mount
is its summary. We remember what he did, how he behaved, how he tackled
problems of sickness, of evil, of misunderstanding, of deliberate malice and
misused authority. We remember his love, his compassion and his power to
draw people to follow him. We remember his death on the Cross and his
Resurrection. And remembering this, we can say with thankfulness, that “he
did it for me “.
But if we leave our remembering there, we are forgetting that remembrance
is also about the present. Jesus is not only a figure of the past who “DID”,
but a man and a God of the present who “DOES”. Jesus is not only someone who
gave advice and example two thousand years ago, but one who helps us to live
today according to God’s will. He gives us inspiration, he gives us
strength, he gives us the will to live life as it should be lived. Christ
rose from the dead – in the past – but he IS risen still today, influencing
people just as he did those disciples of old.
And Remembrance is about the future too.
St. Paul said that “If in THIS world only we have hope, then we are
We remember that Jesus came to offer us eternal life. That is why, as the
Holy Communion is ministered, after we are reminded of his words “do this in
remembrance of me” I like to use the words to each recipient, “The body and
blood of Christ keep you in eternal life”. For our remembrance of Him points
us to a future beyond our imagining.
Another writer in the New Testament said – “Jesus Christ, the same
yesterday, today, and for ever.”
© The Estate of William John Green, 2004