Last night we had a quiz night in aid of the Poppy Appeal. It was great to see so many people there, and a huge thanks to John and Sue for organising it. Here is an edited version of my half-time teamtalk:
What do Guy Fawkes Night, Armistice Day and a service of Holy Communion have in common? The answer is that one way or another they are all to do with remembering. Most of us grew up with the rhyme, “Remember, remember, 5th November”; on Armistice Day we pledge, ” We will remember them”; in a service of Holy Communion we share bread and wine in remembrance of Jesus Christ.
We so often see remembering as the opposite of not forgetting, as if it were simply a question of dredging up information from our memory, such as at a quiz night. But properly understood, the act of remembering is far more significant that that.
On Guy Fawkes night we are commemorating the foiling of a plot which, if it had succeeded, might well have radically altered the history of this nation. So even though the events themselves took place over 400 years ago, our act of remembering helps us make sense of the present, and why our nation is as it is today.
The link between the past and present is even more apparent when it comes to Armistice Day. None of us can fail to realise that without the sacrifices of those who came before us we would not enjoying the liberty we so often take for granted in the West. But Armistice Day is even more than simply remembering the importance of the past for the present. We are also saying that we will not forget those who still bear the scars of past conflicts nor those who even now are laying down our lives to protect our daily lives.
So remembering bridges the gap between the past and the present, and also expands our vision of what is currently going on around us. That same kind of understanding of remembering is also to be found when Christians celebrate Holy Communion. When we share bread and wine we are not only remembering Jesus’ sacrifice for us 2000 years ago. We are also remembering that He is alive and with us today, and that, thanks to what He has done, those who believe in His name enjoy the freedom of a relationship with God their Heavenly Father.
But when we gather in worship, for a service of Holy Communion or indeed any other service, we are also affirming another truth, that God remembers us. I do not know what Armistice Day might mean to you, whether you yourself have been directly affected by warfare or have loved ones who fought in past wars. But the central claim of the Christian faith is that God remembers us. He has not forgotten about any single one of us, and more than that He is the same yesterday, today and forever, able to meet with whoever calls on His name, no matter what your past, no matter how things are for you in the present.
A couple of verses from Scripture, from Isaiah 49:15-16:
Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands
And if we want to know what it means to be engraved on the palms of the hands of God, we only need to look at Jesus and remember the wounds He bore for us.