Remember, remember the 5th of November
Article for the November 2019 edition of the magazine of the Parish of Felixstowe
Remember, remember the fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot
I see no reason why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot
A rhyme from the deep memory of our childhood which conjures up dark nights, sparklers, bonfires and jacket potatoes wrapped in tin foil. Fortunately, most of us do not know the whole rhyme by heart as reciting it would, understandably, count as a hate crime today. If you are curious you can read all of it here, but it is not very pleasant.
Remembering is a tricky thing. We can remember good things to encourage us but we can also hold on to memories of bad things to reinforce prejudice. We can conjure up memories of ‘lost causes’ to inspire future resistance (Remember the Alamo!) or remembering may only reopen old wounds and deepen trauma for those involved in conflicts – military veterans very rarely talk about the combat they have seen.
And in November we have a whole season of remembering. Remembering the heroes of the faith, remembering our own dead, remembering the Armistice and two wars that transformed the world, and remembering those who continue to die violently in a world that has not yet yielded itself to the gentle rule of the Prince of Peace.
Remembering is not a task to be undertaken lightly. It is a quagmire of conflicting passions that suck us into despair or hope, hatred or forgiveness and calls us to pay serious attention to grief which so often fills us up with emptiness. It is understandable that some choose to not remember.
Yet, Christians across the world, day by day and Sunday by Sunday, gather to remember in broken bread and shared wine. If remembering is so fraught with difficulty, why is it at the centre of our faith?
Remembering in the communion service is not only about a single past event, but a present reality and a future hope as well. At the eucharist we remember the work of Christ for us on the cross, we recognise God’s presence with us now to comfort and encourage us, and we look forward to the hope of the heavenly banquet when all is restored, grief is wiped away from our eyes and we are healed of the hurt that grief brings.
Breaking bread and sharing wine is not about memorialising the past but an active sharing of the gospel of peace and call to a future glory. We don’t simply remember what God has done for us, we use the symbols of bread and wine to encourage us to live for others that all of us may live for ever.
The Body of Christ is not simply bread and wine, the Body of Christ is present in you and I as we take the memory of the loving acts of God to a lonely, sad, grieving world and offer them the food of God, which is the forgiveness of sins, reconciliation with each other and the peace that does indeed pass understanding
[This blog ‘Remember, remember the 5th of November’ is copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2019]