This is a suitcase that belonged to my grandfather. In it are books that sat on the bookshelf in his den for decades. They aren’t particularly important books, but they have sentimental value. While it has been almost five years since he passed and we packed up and sold the family house, inside this suitcase are the smells of the home that I loved so much. When I open it I am flooded with memories. I only let myself do it once or twice a year…because I want to trap the past inside.
Last night I thought of the suitcase after seeing a picture of my Grandfather. I reminded myself that it was time to open it up again (I don’t think I have since moving to Monroe). So I sat it in the middle of the floor and I cracked the old latches. I held the books up to my nose and I pretty much put my head in the suitcase and took in the various odors that make up so many childhood memories. Then I shut it, and it will stay that way for months.
Memory is important to us as humans. It catches us up in so many things. In worship, we are exercising Christian memory. Just as I occasionally open up this suitcase to remind myself of my family, worship opens up the story of salvation to the congregation. But what separates Christian memory from my suitcase sessions is that in the church we have an active memory. Our memory is participation, insisting upon a present and future as well as a past. In the mysteries of the divine we have an interactive relationship with our God and what he has done for us.
This is why worship isn’t passive or just something that is about us. Individualism doesn’t solely reign in worship. Our individual stories are taken together as we come before Christ as his bride, as the body and congregation. This is an active life that we have with God, and by his gracious physical gifts to us we participate in this love with him. That is why the sacraments and means of grace are important.
Worship re-stories us into the reality that the kingdom of God is real, amongst us but also projecting us towards the future where God will dwell with us. It breaks us free from the world and creates a heart fully in love with God. The scriptures become part of who we are, not just a handy information book. This is rememberizing….
As much as I love this suitcase, it won’t cause new memories to happen. But the worship of the church is participating with the old as well as causing the new. Simply reminding ourselves of things doesn’t give proper service to who our God is. ….