Tuesday, November 14, 2006

On Not Getting Anything Out of the Liturgy, 2

A word that is essential to getting what happens in the liturgy is remember.

When Jesus celebrated Communion with the disciples in the upper room, he said, "do this in remembrance of me." When Jesus told them to remember he was hyperlinking the action in the upper room to a rich vein of the biblical story.

One of Israel's sacred duties was to remember God's mighty acts of salvation. Remembering, was not primarily a mental act where one calls a past event to mind. Remembering was about ritually re-enacting a past event. When YHWH told Israel to celebrate the Passover, he also commanded them to do it again and again as a memorial/remembrance to the Lord. Remembering was a key dimension to Israel's worship.

Remembering was kind of like a Civil War re-enactment. If you have ever been to a re-enactment you will note that the participants dressed up like it is 1862 or thereabouts and play- act a battle. Remembering is about re-enacting the memories passed on by those who were actually there. No one is alive today who was at any of those battles. But many remember the battles by re-enacting them.

This concept carries right through to the New Testament. Jesus did not simply tell the disciples to be sure and remember his redemption -- remember as in call to mind that is. He told them to remember by ritually re-enacting his redemption through the Lord's Supper.

Because God is the one who is telling us to remember, there is a dimension to remembering that is not part of human acts of remembrance -- even when humans re-enact things. The same Holy Spirit who was with Jesus is with us. Through his (the Holy Spirit's) presence and power we actually participate in the acts we are remembering. So when we remember the Lord in Communion we are, in a mysterious way, in the upper room. The Holy Spirit makes Christ himself present in our act of remembrance.

Coming to worship to remember is different than coming to learn something or coming to experience God through singing. It is about re-enacting God's great acts of redemption as they are summed up in the life, death, resurrection and ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ. By re-enacting these things we enter into them and by the power of the Holy Spirit are united with them.

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