"Re-membering" Faith

The Communion of Saints Tapestry by John Nava

"Do this in remembrance of me."     --Luke 22:19

Last summer, the house I grew up in went on the market and I went to an open house. Things had changed, of course. Some of the changes were intentional, but mostly the house and lovely grounds were simply showing their age.  Small trees were large trees, the basketball court was like an archaeological discovery in a jungle overgrowth.  The apple orchard was gone.

As I wandered through the house and grounds, ghosts of memories emerged like a movie flashback. My father was on the riding lawn mower, my mother graded papers on the dining room table.  Aunts and uncles, grandparents and cousins were back to laugh and play and gather round the picnic table with my brother and me.  My friends through the years came and went.  It was Christmas morning and Thanksgiving dinner and decades of birthday parties all happening in a cacophany of sight and sound--a movie only I could see.

Too many of those people exist now only in memory, but those memories took on special shape and particular intensity there in the old places, retracing the steps those dear ones had walked, laughed, and loved with me.  My father has been gone over 30 years; but I could smell the cut grass, hear the motor of one of the first riding lawn mowers ever made, and see his wry grin as he traveled on his mobile throne--the king of his lands.

Memory is like that.  The people we loved and the things we did all come into clearer focus when we smell the cologne, hold the letter, or re-enact the traditions that we shared.  What our brains might dismember, our bodies re-member when we go beyond just thinking to physically enter the experience.

This week, many of us will make such journeys not only back to our own childhoods, but back thousands of years to re-member the origins of our faith.  Whether we are Jews sitting at a seder meal telling the stories of Abraham or Christians re-enacting the Last Supper of Jesus, moving through the stations of the Cross, or rising before dawn for an Easter sunrise service, we are all taking that walk around our ancestral home.

As we participate in those festivals, we do not travel alone.  Of course there are those living who join us for a meal or a service, but if you really pause to look, you'll find there are others.  Christians call them the "communion of saints," meaning all Christians who have come before--those who also took the bread and cup, extinguished the candles on Good Friday, and rang in the dawn on Easter morning. They always exist in the collective memory, but when we return to the spaces and perform the same rituals, they are re-membered. They come alive for a special moment to remind us that we are taking part in something much larger than ourselves.

Look closely; feel deeply. When you pour the cup for Elijah and open the door at your seder, he will come. When you show up at the tomb of Jesus early on Sunday morning, he will meet you there.  When you sit down for a holiday meal, there are always many more guests than you realize, even if you think you are dining alone. Pour them a cup, and teach your children to do the same.  It is by faith that we see.

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