FROM THE LOCUM MINISTER
Without doubt, November is the month of memory. It begins with the commemoration of all the saints in earth and heaven, not least those whom we have loved and lost awhile. Then comes the fifth - 'remember, remember the fifth of November, gunpowder, treason and plot'. Then on Remembrance Sunday our November memories enfold those who might have been the light and lamp of their times but for the savagery and slaughter of war. On such a Sunday the human memory moves into top gear.
I put it to you that the precious gift of memory is one of God's greatest gifts to us. Time may rob us of loved ones, of much-cherished places, of personal happiness, but with memory we can have them for ever. Such memories can give comfort and solace in difficult days. As James Barrie put it, 'God gave us memory that we might have roses in December.'
Memory, of course, locks us into the past. You and I are shaped and conditioned by the past, by what happened in the past. Moreover, it is at our peril that we dismiss the past as being of no consequence. To ignore the past, and the lessons of the past, is to run the risk of re-living its mistakes. - which is why Eli Wiesel, a Jew who survived Hitler's
concentration camps, wrote book after book about the Holocaust. Wiesel believed that we must never be allowed to forget the sheer ghastly horror of it all and the monstrous depths to which humankind can sink. To quote from one of his writings - 'to forget is to become the executioner's accomplice.' Eli Wiesel forces us to remember things which we forget at our peril.
If there is a time to remember the past, there is also a time to forget the past. Northern Ireland is surely a case in point.where the past has been allowed to haunt the present with malevolent power, where. for 300 years, the hoary old battles of yesteryear have been re-lived and re-fought and re-gurgitated in the present experience of the two communities,Catholic and Protestant. Even though a peace has settled over Northern Ireland it will not experience full reconciliation until it is completely liberated from the tyranny of the past. It still needs a healing of those damnable
long memories which still have the power to torment its very soul.
What I am saying is that we should practise the art of forgetting the things that ought to be forgotten - those petty hurts, those misunderstandings between us and other people, those bruises and wounds that act like a poison in our system. We should not be found clinging to what should be turned loose. There is a time when amnesia is truly blessed!!
A time to forget, yes, but surely also a time to remember. After all, memory lies at the very nerve-centre of the Christian faith. In fact much of what the Bible demands of us can be summed up in a single word - remember. In ancient Israel, for example we find a community of faith welded together and energized by a collective memory - a people who came to know God, His mercy, His judgment, His forbearance, His anger, His compassion, His love by reflecting, not on the mysteries of nature, but on their own turbulent history.
And so my pastoral word to you in this month of memory is - remember what God has done in and through and with your life - remember what He has done in Christ, going to indescribable lengths to ransome, heal, restore, forgive his wayward children - remember the broken body, the outpoured blood - remember what it cost Him to bring us back within the embrace of that love, so amazing, so divine. Remember too those moments in our lives when Christ came to us in countless disguises through people who, in one way or another, strengthened us, comforted us, healed us. And because we remember, we can also hope, for hope stands up to its knees in the past, and keeps its eyes on the future. Because we remember, we have this high and holy hope - that what God has done, He will continue to do, that what He has begun in us, He will, in unimaginable ways, bring to fullness and completion.