I recently had a conversation with a good friend of mine about Remembrance Day. It revolved around a simple question.
“What does it really mean to remember?”
When he was young, my friend was encouraged to remember the sacrifices of the brave men and women who had served our country. But at a young age, he questioned how one could remember something they never witnessed or experienced themselves.
Needless to say, he was confused.
As Christians, this too can be a conundrum. The very same confusion may arise surrounding the practice of Communion. Christ himself says of the practice, “Do this in remembrance of me.” So once again, the question is begged.
“What does it mean to remember?”
“I always tried to picture myself there,” my friend admitted. As we approach God in communion, should we attempt to remember the very night Christ died? Remember what he looked like? Remember the weather? Though Scripture may give us some idea of specific details like these, the simple answer is no. You and I cannot enter our mind and recall the events leading to Christ’s death on the cross for one simple reason: we were not there!
This does not mean that picturing ourselves there cannot be a valuable reflective practice, however, we must conclude that this narrow view of remembrance does not capture the full sense of remembrance to which both Remembrance Day and Communion prompt us. No, to remember can also mean to “remain aware of.” Perhaps another Biblical example would be helpful to think through this meaning.
In Joshua 4, after the Israelites crossed over the Jordan River, God commanded them to commemorate His miraculous parting of the waters by erecting a memorial of stones. Verses 6 and 7 say, “In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ you should tell them, ‘The waters of the Jordan were cut off in front of the ark of the Lord’s covenant. When it crossed the Jordan, the Jordan’s waters were cut off.’ Therefore, these stones will always be a memorial for the Israelites.” To remember as it is explained here, is to cultivate an ever present awareness of something that has been done for you, that ultimately undergirds your entire outlook on life.
Therefore - though our ultimate allegiance to God takes higher priority - let us as Christians approach Remembrance Day in a similar fashion. Let us truly appreciate our country and honor the sacrifices of so many who have gone to war. Let Remembrance Day serve as a ‘stone monument,’ erected for us to remember - not in the sense of returning to a memory of our own minds but rather to cultivate an ever present awareness that shapes the outlook of our life. Let us be grateful for the men and women who have served us, grateful for our country, and ultimately grateful for a sovereign God who has seen fit to allow us to live in a prosperous and peaceful nation.