For the Not-Forgetting-Ness

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“I received from the Lord
what I also handed on to you,
that on the night he was handed over to suffering and death,
our Lord Jesus Christ took bread;
and when he had given thanks,
he broke it, and gave it to his disciples, and said,
‘Take, eat: This is my Body, which is given for you.
Do this for the remembrance of me.’”

There’s a story I seem to recall from years ago,
sitting in my grandparents’ living room. *

Grampa was in his usual recliner.
Grandma was in her usual chair.
And beside her chair
Grandma always, always kept
a ball of yarn and a set of crochet hooks.

As long as I could remember,
evenings at Grandma and Grampa’s
meant that dinner would be cleaned away,
Grampa would settle into his chair
to watch the news and Jeopardy;
aunts, uncles, and cousins
would read, talk, and play;
fireflies would flicker outside;
and Grandma would crochet.

That woman was a crocheting machine.
She could whip out a doily
like nobody’s business.


Until one day–a day that had seemed perfectly normal–
we all sat there and read, and played,
and talked the evening sun down from the sky.

And Grandma laid her hooks and her yarn in her lap,
looked up at all of us and simply said,
“I don’t know how to do this.
I can’t remember.”

A lifetime of repetitive motion.
A lifetime of muscle memory.
A lifetime of love and skill.
And just like that,
it was gone.

That was the beginning
of a long, hard road.

The idea of losing your memory,
of not being able to remember,
of forgetting what matters most to you . . .
that’s a terrifying prospect to us all.

And yet, isn’t it true
that we do it all the time?

I don’t mean we all
forget how to crochet
or whatever your favorite hobby may be.

And I’m also not talking about
misplacing your keys on a busy day
or forgetting an appointment
because you neglected to write it down.

What I mean is
we forget what matters most
all the time.

How many times in your life
have you heard something
good and right and true
for the thousandth time,
but it might as well be the first?

Maybe something gets said in a sermon at church;
or maybe you’re reminded of something on a show you watch;
or maybe you read it in a book you picked up.

It’s that moment when you think,
“Oh. Yeah. That.
I needed that.
I forgot that I believe that.
That is important to me.”

For whatever reason,
it seems we frequently suffer
from spiritual amnesia.
“Prone to wander, Lord I feel it,”
goes the old hymn,
“prone to leave the God I love.”
Our predominant mode
as human beings
is forgetfulness,
and we need all the reminders
we can get.

Tonight, dear friends,
is about remembering.
Tonight is about holding fast.
Tonight is about not forgetting
the things that matter most.

Tonight, we join with Jesus and the disciples—
we are right there with them in that room—
as they go through the Passover feast:
the feast in which they and Jews across the world
partook every year and still do to this day
so as not to forget what God had done for them
generations and generations before.

“This day shall be a day of remembrance for you,”
says the Lord through the mouth of Moses.
“You shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance.”

And so it was,
and so they did.

Tonight, we also hear the Apostle Paul,
handing down to us
what was handed down to him
so we will not forget:
that on the night he was handed over to suffering and death,
our Lord Jesus Christ took bread;
and when he had given thanks,
he broke it, and gave it to his disciples, and said,
“Take, eat: This is my Body, which is given for you.
Do this for the remembrance of me.”

There’s something funny
about that word “remembrance.”
In the Greek of the New Testament,
the word Jesus uses
and the word Paul hands down to us
is different, special.

There are plenty of Greek words that refer to memory,
but the word used here is anamnesis.

Anamnesis doesn’t just mean “to remember”
the way you and I think of remembering.

To “remember” is positive, proactive, easy.

I remember your name.
I remember my phone number.
I remember that every year on Maundy Thursday
employees of the dental practice
right behind us on 24th and Central
stay up all night smoking Boston butts
to give away to friends and patients on Easter,
and they smell ridiculously delicious
while we’re over here fasting and praying.

That’s remembering.
Remembering is easy.

But anamnesis is different, harder, more important.

Break it down: anamnesis.
“An” means “not.”
And “amnesis?”
Well, you know what that means;
you’ve heard of amnesia before.

To have amnesia means to forget.
To have amnesia means
you no longer recall
what you used to hold most dear.

So when Jesus says
take this bread, which is my Body,
take this wine, which is my Blood,
he is literally saying,
“and do it for the not-forgetting-ness of me.”

Jesus knows we’re prone to wander.
Jesus knows our predominant mode is forgetfulness.
Jesus knows we suffer from spiritual amnesia every day.

“Don’t forget,” he says,
“Don’t forget what I have done for you.
Don’t forget who I am to you.
Don’t forget who you are to me.
The world has a way of fooling you.
Life has a way of confusing you.
Keep coming back to the table.
Don’t forget. Don’t forget. Don’t forget.
Do this for the not-forgetting-ness of me.”

So tonight, we’ll join with
all the disciples who have gone before us,
and we’ll do what Christians have done
for thousands of years.

First, we will wash one another’s feet
just as Jesus did for his friends on this night.
And like I say every year,
rest assured that that part of the service
is completely optional.
All may. Some should. None must.

After that, we’ll come to the table.
As time folds in on itself
and this night joins hands
with that night all those years ago,
we’ll come into the company of Jesus,
and we’ll hear him say those words:
“Take, eat. This is my Body.
Drink this all of you. This is my Blood.
Do this for the remembrance of me.”

And for the thousandth-thousandth time
we’ll remember all over again
that which matters most
and what we hold most dear:
that our Lord has given everything for us,
down to his very self,
and he has called us his friends.

We remember.
We remember.
We remember.


* Memory is a tricky thing. At this point, I can’t even remember if I was there when this happened, or if this is a story I heard from an aunt or an uncle and envisioned so clearly that it stuck like an actual memory. Either way, I believe it to be true.