As time goes on, I feel the loss of my grandfather more acutely. First came the loss of his voice, then his face, which when coupled together brought a loss of his presence. And that is what the memory of a person is, the recollection of their presence.
The loss of memory is accompanied by the loss of the evocative, the absence of presence, that immediate sense that another person is within your space, occupying at least some of your attention. And once gone, there is no amount of invocation short of actual presence that can renew it. WE NEED proximity in order to “know” someone. We’ll often speak of “getting to know someone” and we’ll do that by sharing a meal, coffee or some other communal activity. But the unifying elements are presence, contact and interaction. We don’t get to know that person by reading a printout or a biographical sketch. Rather, we get to know them through engaging them and taking part in their lives. As an aside, this is a functional difference between being present for preaching and listening to a recording.
And if forgetting is the loss of presence, then the inverse is also true; the practice of presence is the means we employ to stave off that loss of that we experience through forgetting that can be caused by our absence from their presence.
Remembering Through The Ordinary Means
Through prayer and worship we renew our relationship with the trinity; we take part in the renewal of the covenant that takes place in the supper; we hear the gospel, our sins are laid bare before us and our pardon is declared on account of Christ’s work. From the call to worship to benediction, the point is to form us to live doxologically; to be truly human. Because a flourishing life is a life that pursues the greatest good and purpose of our existence…the glory of God. We flourish by participating in his worship and pursuing his glory among his people. Because as we attend to Word and Sacrament we are formed into disciples that maintain shape out of the mold, extending the doxology out the door of the Church and into the wilds of creation among those who see no sense in our words or deeds, who pass off our eschatological hope as foolish and our teleology as wasteful and empty.
This is how I remember who I am, who I am to be, and what I must pursue. I am convinced that one of the most potent remedies that we possess for the weak of faith, of those tormented by their sins, doubt and ignorance is the convocation of God’s people on the sabbath, to hear the invocation and declaration of his will for our lives in the call to worship and the reading of the law; the knowledge that my sins are neither hidden from God nor held against me, but that I am forgiven in Christ. But it doesn’t stop there; God then goes even further and feeds me through Word and Sacrament. Every Lord’s day I am broken down and put back together, each time becoming more like Christ, more human. Thus, it is only through prayer and worship that I approach my humanity with any measure of authenticity. To be authentically human is to be Christian.