Remembrance (Charlie McNeil)

Shannon and I were on the main street of Vermilion.  We’d had coffee in a really neat bistro.  Coming out of the bistro we noticed a sandwich sign.

The sign wished everyone a happy Remembrance Day!

Both Shannon and I felt that was a rather odd way of relating to Remembrance Day!  Happy and remembrance of war, conflict, death, injury seems incongruent.  Although, as with life in all its challenges, there is happiness in the midst of all that contradicts happiness!  Perhaps happiness and love can weigh in against things like conflict and war to help those involved overcome as they move through the valley of the shadow of death.

In contemplating remembrance I wondered what the word remembrance calls for – especially when we consider the word and action(s) it represents around the time of November 11?

There is another reference and experience in being called to remembrance.  This comes in the celebration of the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.  Jesus is remembered as calling upon His people to embrace the Sacrament in remembrance of Him!

As I pondered the meaning of the word remembrance it struck me that it would be helpful to check out the Greek word which the English word remembrance represents.  So I went on line and did some digging into the Biblical Greek language.

I looked at a variety of sources and one that really caught my attention talked about remembrance in terms of process and journey.  The Greek word for remembrance can be unpacked as indicating that we are to get … up, participate in completing a process, turn the mind towards whatever it is we are remembering.  Apparently most properly, remembrance means to recollect by going through a process – i.e. to journey where the remembrance leads (extends) to. (Bible Hub)

This sense of journey struck me as important.  Clearly its not a journey we do in one day or for an hour or so on a day designated for remembrance.  The journey is one which is concurrent with our lives.  Where we go. What we do.  How we get there. By what ways and means we live life, practice faith, and interact one with another.

I am not a pacifist by any stretch of the imagination.  I am not one who can easily turn the other cheek.  I have never been called to serve in the Canadian Armed forces, either in times of war or times of peace making and peace keeping.  I do not know how I would relate under fire, and am thankful that I probably will never be tested in that way!

The journey of remembrance is one that is very different here in Canada than say in Syria, Burkina Faso, eastern Ukraine, and even a place like Hong Kong.  People who have borne the burden of violence, hatred, persecution, and death have journeyed a life time in what was really a few months or years.

I wonder if people who are refugees (those seeking refuge) are consciously more thankful for a country like Canada than native born and raised Canadians?  I wonder if people who were denied the gift of voting in free and fair elections, and whose friends and neighbours were killed trying to do so in their homelands relish with wonder and awe walking into a polling station and voting with fear of reprisal?  I wonder if people from war ravished areas of the world can hardly believe walking into a doctor’s office, a hospital, or a drug store – all of which are fully functioning?  I wonder if people who were starved physically and spiritually see the abundance hereabouts and literally give thanks to God?!

I walked into a grocery store the other day and literally had my eyes opened!  Usually I wander around he grocery store and fill the cart from the list I’ve been given.  The other day, for some odd reason, I was floored by the incredible abundance laid out before the shoppers!  And in one aisle only!

That can be a metaphor for the incredible abundance that this society generally enjoys. Or some in our society enjoy better put!  I realize I have journeyed the path of the privileged in more ways than I can imagine or express.  Whatever the specifics of our journeys we are to learn from them, to remember them, and be put to work making a better, more fruitful, more just world for everyone!

Whether it is the Communion Table or the Remembrance Day service we are to take what we’ve been given, appreciate it, and learn from it!  We are to live something of the spirit of the table and of the service. Our lives are to be different because of the remembering that reshapes the journey.

In both peace and in war and in the many other places of life Christians are to be reflecting something of Christ Jesus into the world.  We are to witness to something of Jesus so that the love, grace, and forgiveness of God is like a leaven for the loaf of life!

I hope that God granted us all a significant Remembrance Day and that the journey is made better because of it!

Charlie McNeil
For Knox and Ganton Presbyterian Churches