What is this? One of thee most moving sites our group experienced in Israel on our November pilgrimage was the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum. Set appropriately, on the Mount of Remembrance in Jerusalem, it has nine chilling galleries of photographs, works of art, multi-media presentations, and personal items found in the camps and ghettos. There is the Hall of Remembrance where the ashes of the dead are laid to rest and an eternal flame burns in commemoration. The Hall of Names includes over 3 millions names of Holocaust victims. The Children’s memorial is dedicated to the 1.5 million children that died under Nazi Germany. I was wowed by the technology utilized, no expense was spared. For good reason, as the purpose of the museum is to make sure that future generations do not forget. Coming away from our two hour experience, the names ring in your ear, the faces emblazoned in your memory, your heart is broken, you can’t help but weep. Some things as human beings, we forget at our own peril. For Christians, we are called to remember the darkness like the Holocaust and the goodness like Easter.
What does this mean? Yet, we have such a difficult time remembering what is worth remembering. Inundated with so much information, swamped with social media, plied with facts and figures, subject to 24-hour cable news, we are drowning in knowledge and communication. Plus, if you are like me, you tend to retain some inane statistics or trivial facts. I still remember when I was a sophomore pitcher in high school, I was 10-0 and I had an ERA of 0.63. Wow, was I good! That is a long time ago, and as my best friend Dave always reminds me, “nobody cares”. Remembering is a central task for Christians and the church. As I am defining it, memory is our storehouse, personal archive of experiences, images, and knowledge accumulated over a lifetime. To remember in one sense is to recall facts, events, and even emotions. But, in the sense I am referring to is to bear in mind, remain focused on a significant reality or perspective. To remember the Holocaust means, as humanity, we must never repeat that inhumanity. So to remember in this sense means to realize and respond to a relationship (your mother), event (your baptism), or a future reality (Christ is coming again). Biblically, to remember means to live based on, to honor, to follow God and God’s way in Christ Jesus.
What is the takeaway? Scripture is loaded with remembering, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom”, “Remember me, according to your great mercy”, “God will remember their sins no more”, “Do this in remembrance of me” and “Remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy”. To remember is the church family’s vocation. That is why Sunday worship looks like so much repetition. We need regular rituals like crossing ourselves, creeds we internalize, weekly communion, and hear again the absolution. Why? Because, we sinners forget all about the goodness of God, our dependence of the Great Giver and Forgiver, and the bounty of grace we receive in Christ. I find one of the realities with youth ministry is that unless their faith is constantly reinforced it will simply erode away. Most young people turn away, not because they reject Jesus, but their faith is not being fortified in fellowship, study, and forgiveness. I am amazed how sturdy a believer’s faith is when they commit to lifelong faith practices. There was a great saint of our church who was suffering in an advance stage so Dementia. I visited her one time. She unlocked her door and found another resident sleeping in her bed, like the Three Bears. After shooing her out the door, we sat together. She could not remember my name or her name, for that matter. However, she recited the Apostles Creed, Lord’s Prayer, and Twenty-third Psalm with me, perfectly. We shared communion as a way of remembering that Jesus will never forget us, our names and faces are emblazoned on His heart forever.