Posted by: Dan | October 6, 2005

Remembrance

Gordon T. Smith, author of A Holy Meal: The Lord's Supper in the Life of the Church, suggests that there are seven motifs that give definition to the Lord's Supper — Remembrance, Communion, Forgiveness, Covenant, Nourishment, Anticipation, and Thanksgiving.

In speaking of remembrance Smith argues that celebrating the Lord's Supper as a memorial causes us to anchor our minds and hearts in a past event. Over against cultural voices that urge an ahistorical lifestyle, Smith argues that we must be able to remember otherwise our love becomes untruthful and our lives become meaningless. Therefore, it is the memory of Jesus' death and resurrection that takes priority over all the other memories that swirl around us.

However, remembrance is not merely an intellectual activity. This is especially evident in the Old Testament. The primary power of remembrance is that it causes the past to be made present. Remembrance is not nostalgic or cheaply sentimental, it is not an escape from the present into the past, but it is living within a past-shaped present. Not only is the past made present but the one we remember also becomes present — not that Christ is made present but we are awakened to the fact that Christ is already present in our midst.

Yet there is another side to remembrance in the Old Testament that Smith does not pick-up on. Not only is remembrance something that the people of God must focus upon but there are also times when the people of God must cause God to remember. This is particularly the case for those who are experience exile — for Christ is not always present in our midst. Exile, after all, is the experience of godforsakenness. Thus Exodus 2, the lament psalms, and several passages within the prophetic books, all speak of those who have been abandoned now crying out for God to remember the covenant he made with his people. As Exodus 2 says, “And the sons of Israel sighed because of the bondage and they cried out; and their cry for help because of their bondage rose up to God. So God remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God saw the sons of Israel and God knew them.”

Now, I am quite convinced that much of the Church in North American is experiencing something akin to exile (I don't think this is the case because the Church has lost socio-political power; rather, I think that the fragmentation, disunity, and spiritual emptiness of many churches points to exile). In such a situation the Lord's Supper as a memorial can serve a dual purpose. It will cause the people of God to remember their true identity, and — when celebrated as a cry to heaven — it can also cause God to remember the new covenant that was inaugurated by Christ. In the Eucharist we remember who we are and remind God of who he is. Thus, there can be times, especially in exile, that celebrating the Lord's Supper does make Christ present once again.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: