How many times a day do you think that you are called upon to remember something? You sit down at your desk to do your homework, and you remember what the expectations are that the syllabus articulates. You pick up in the middle of a work project with an impending deadline, and you remember what you have done so that you will know what you need to finish. You run into someone you know, whether by happenstance or expectation, and you remember that person’s name and enough other information about that person to strike up a conversation.
Remembering — we do it all the time. Some remembering is rather second nature. We remember where we put the car keys. Well, sometimes we do! We remember what day it is, how to get to class or work, and that it is a good idea to eat three healthy meals a day.
Other acts of remembering are more existential. We remember who we are and what we are up to on this ride through life. We remember our plans, hopes, dreams. We remember our missteps and our failures. We remember significant chapters in our personal backstory that inform and shape us today.
Still other acts of remembering require a specific, meditative intentionality. We collectively remember events from history, lest we forget and and repeat the same ugly atrocities again. We remember what we never knew — re-examining both familial and cultural myths, peeling back the layers to uncover that which the myth has distorted or rewritten with a deceptively creative pen. We remember what we have intentionally forgotten from our own stories, perhaps out of self-protection and for the sake of survival, but by remembering, we regain the authority to “re-story” our lives. We remember those we have loved and lost.
Remembering — we do it all time, and by remembering we live into a richer depth of our humanity.
This year at Candlelight, our Sunday night worship at 10 p.m., we are engaging in an intentional journey of remembering. We are looking again and anew at God’s stories of old, recorded in the Christian scriptures, and finding God’s truth for our lives as it is woven through this holy storytelling.
We are remembering who God has been and what God has done so that we can remember who we are and what God is doing in our own lives.
This past Sunday, we gathered under Merlin with stars hanging from its old, gnarled branches, tea lights in the grass, and a fire burning brightly on Resurrection Meadow. We lit our candles against the dark night sky, and we remembered God’s promise to Abram and Sarai that their descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the heavens. We remembered that God spoke this promise into a confusing and dark time for Abram and Sarai: they were old. She was barren. There were no children. It seemed impossible. All hope seemed lost.
And yet God said, look to the heavens at what will be, and they remembered, and so did we. They remembered that God is God and we are not, and we remembered, too. They remembered that God can be trusted, even when all seems lost, and we claimed anew that promise for ourselves.
In her book, “The Spiritual Practice of Remembering,” Margaret Bendroth says that “remembering is an act with spiritual meaning, pushing us against the unknown.”
To remember, as people of faith, pushes us against all of the unknowns of our lives that threaten to overwhelm and overtake us. To remember that God is God pushes against the unknowns of this present age. To remember that God is God pushes against our personal uncertainties and inadequacies. To remember that God is God is to claim with certainty and a holy hope that I can trust God, even when all seems lost.
So, wherever you find yourself today, I invite you to join with the Candlelight community as we joined with Abram and Sarai in the mystical collapse of time and space, and look to the heavens. See the stars — even when they hide behind the bright light of day. See the stars and remember that God was, is, and forever will be God.
May this holy remembering bless you on your journey,
Grace you with goodness,
And fill you with peace.
Sept. 21, 2016
Rev. James A. Wetzstein and Rev. Charlene M. Rachuy Cox serve as university pastors at Valpo and take turns writing weekly reflections.