Remember. Fun times, happy occasions, the details of those we love. We are called to remember. Memory- for me, for most modern Americans- is an individual concept. Experiences in which we participated. We make memories, document and edit them in our photos, featuring our self(ies) for future reference. We worry about loss of memory.
The biblical concept of memory is quite different. When I peruse the roughly 225 times “remember” is used in scripture, I am again surprised that God is the primary rememberer. God remembered Noah, Abraham, and Rachel. God remembers covenants, from the rainbow in the clouds to all the promises to Israel. I don’t really know what it means for God to remember; it stretches my concept of God and of memory, beyond my understanding of either.
Israel is called to remember. Being immigrants, and slavery, and the journey of becoming free. A weekly sabbath, for all to rest and not be chained to our work. Freedom from the notion that the world depends on us getting things done.
But Gentiles are also called to remember. What are we supposed to remember? In the lectionary reading of Ephesians, ending with 2:10 yesterday and beginning with 2:12 today. What does 2:11 say?
So then, remember that at one time you Gentiles by birth, called “the uncircumcision” by those who are called “the circumcision”—a physical circumcision made in the flesh by human hands— remember that you were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. Eph. 2:11-12 (NRSV)
Remember that you had no Messiah. You were Aliens. Strangers. Outside the covenant. With no hope. Without God. A rather disgusting, unclean, unholy group. Why (how?) are we supposed to remember this? Why do Christians need to remember that they are Gentiles? Why, and how, can I?
It is easy to start to think that we own this thing. Once an insider, we quickly forget being an outsider. That God broke down barriers of mutual suspicion and hatred to include us, as a group. Ephesians is not about individuals, about me remembering a time in my personal life before I met the Lord. (Which is also hard to do, since one of my first memories is asking Jesus to come into my heart when I was three or four) The unexpected miracle of the peace of the Messiah is to include those who were previously excluded.
Look back, remember, look forward. I need community to help me with this. Because I don’t have the memory of how particular scriptures were used for anti-Jewish agendas, so I miss the offense, and unwittingly repeat it. I never personally felt like an outsider to God’s promises, or was excluded from the community of faith because of my ethnicity, gender, or orientation. So it takes a different kind of remembering to go there, so I can experience the peace of enemies being formed into a new person.
I love being an individual. But today I will try and remember as part of a group. Whom God has invited and included. Part of a larger body, which is no small miracle. I remember my place in a pattern of God expanding our understanding of belonging.
May God continue to remember us. May we remember our place and participation in the bigger picture. May we know the peace and unity of being together built into a place where God lives through the Spirit. (Eph 2:22)