Memorial Day got me thinking about what memorials mean, and what happens when we remember—the whole memory thing.
I’m a sentimental person who loves to revisit memories. I can easily get lost in them to the detriment of getting things done. This remembering often slows down any inclination of mine for change, for doing a new thing. Maybe what I consider a personal weakness is a shared prob
God has given us the gift of memory, and I have to believe that gift is to be used faithfully. Memorial Day is far more than the Bay Bridge, barbecue or car sales. While encouraging grateful focus on those who have given their lives for us, doesn’t God expect more for this and all the other things we memorialize? Aren’t we more than observers of the past?
How easy it is to be seduced by the pleasant things we remember. I can just hear Barbra Streisand singing “Memories, like the corners of my mind; misty water-colored memories of the way we were.” Unfortunately, that is sweet stuff to us individually, nationally, and certainly in church: the way we always did it, the way we liked it, the memories of the old days before fill-in-the-blank changed things.
And the hard memories: on Memorial Day, I always think of my friend who did not die in Vietnam but came home with cracks in his soul. He seemed healed with the birth of his daughter, who he named after me. Then baby Johanna died of SIDS, and Jerry drove into the woods and took his own life. He was certainly a tragic casualty of war, worthy of memorializing. What does God want me to do with that?
Although memories may be a source of comfort, they are probably a call to change. Listen for it. That call often comes through prayer, raising a memory for healing or in thanksgiving. For me, memories of the losses in my life led me to a career in hospice and end-of-life issues. History is our teacher, and taken to God in prayer, God can give us pathways for learning and a new direction.
In Rev’d. Emily Griffin’s excellent sermon this past Sunday (on our website), she spoke of some of those pathways. “We can cast all our anxiety on him instead of sharing it so liberally with everyone else we know. We can practice self-discipline and try resisting both retaliation and despair. We can follow Jesus’ example and respond with compassion to the suffering around us …”
This may be a great time for you and me to be thoughtful in our remembering: as members of a church anticipating its annual meeting on Sunday, as citizens of a great nation struggling with new and anxiety-producing change, or as a child of God caught in a personal time warp. God knows our memories, those of fear and those of longing, and will point the way forward to new life. As my cousin Pastor Bev told her flock, we must “make our remembering sacred.” Nothing less.
Now on to Pentecost.