I have been struck this week by two conversations I have had about the way we remember. The first was about the emphasis of Remembrance Day. While the focus is understandably on the many lives that have been lost in conflict through the years, it is important to remember those lived through conflict and stand beside us on Remembrance Sunday. For their memories remain with them vividly however many years have passed. Some are able to speak of their experiences, what they witnessed, what they know; others are not.
The other conversation was also about remembering the living in a different context; those who have been members of our church family– often faithful members for many years – who for reasons of frailty, disability, illness or residential care are unable to be present in our worship and church life. It is sometimes the case that as the years pass and a new incumbent begins ministry these folk are remembered only by the few who were their friends.
It has been suggested that at the beginning of a service we light a candle for all those who have been part of our church family but are now no longer worshipping with us. Perhaps during our Remembrance Day services we do the same – to remember those who have lived through conflict and still carry those memories today; whose names are not recorded or read out but for whom such remembrance carries its own significance.
Last week I was also in conversation with members of our wider community to begin plans for Holocaust Memorial Day 2017. The theme for the day is “How can life go on?” This is not meant to be a negative statement of despair but a positive question seeking an answer, a question to direct our thoughts towards rebuilding lives and communities and cultures so that our future is different – more tolerant and hopeful with less segregation and suspicion. It is about remembering the living as well as the dead, but remembering in a way that honours all who suffered, and encourage those who come after us not to forget. This is the way we build a new and different future. How we learn to love and go on loving; to live with hope and courage and understanding; celebrating diversity.
We may well be living through times and events now which in the future will be remembered. The political scene in the UK in the wake of the referendum and Brexit; the Presidential campaign in the USA; the conflict in Syria, the continuing plight of refugees and war-torn communities. How we remember the past affects how we live now; and how we live now will affect how others remember in the future.
God told Moses “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” God is always now – I Am.
In this season of remembrance, may we not forget those who are still part of Today. May we bring to mind those whose memories of the past are vividly present; and those who are unable to make new memories; and take up the challenge of living now in a way that honours all.