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The Power of Remembering

The Power of Remembering

For the past two weeks, and especially in these past few days, the attention of the world has been focused on the coast of France, and the war experience of D-Day--June 6, 1944. We have been reminded of the thousands of men who came ashore on those beaches at Normandy, so many of whom died in combat for the sake of freedom. "These men saved our world," proclaimed President Clinton. Our world today was indeed shaped by the battles of World War II, both in Europe and the South Pacific.
As one man who fought at Omaha Beach reflected back on the events, he worried out loud that no one really remembers the horrors of that war anymore. "No one remembers Pearl Harbor; no one remembers Normandy. And if people don't remember, it will all have been for nothing." The man wanted people to remember D-Day, not because it was a glorious battle that he would love to go fight again, but because it was such an awful experience that should never be repeated. The tragedy of history is that people do forget. The "war to end all wars," WWI, was barely twenty years removed before WWII erupted. So in our time, people who lived through the Great Depression, or the Holocaust, or either of the World Wars, long for us to remember, not for the sake of having ceremonies but for the sake of knowing who we are and what got us to this point in history, and how not to repeat the mistakes of the past.
The Jewish scholar, Abraham Heschel, once said that the entire Old Testament could be summed up in one word: Remember. Remember what God has done; remember how your ancestors were graciously treated by God; remember how your ancestors repeatedly turned away from God to idols and sinned against God and one another. Learn from those memories. Learn from those mistakes and triumphs. Discover who God is in the present by remembering how he has acted in the past.
The same word, remember, obviously applies to the good news of the son of God becoming flesh and dwelling among us. We celebrate the Lord's Supper each week, not for the sake of ceremony, but to remember both who he was and who we are. As we have this occasion in our nation's history to remember a day that shaped our world for the last fifty years, may we as Christians remember that day almost 2000 years ago that indeed "saved the world" and shapes our lives for eternity.
John O. York

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