Thought for the Month - Holy Trinity, Prestwood

DH-1 A thought for the month by our Rector, Deiniol.

November has become a season of remembering. I suppose it is because we have All Souls Day and All Saints Day, followed by Remembrance Sunday, and then the church’s year comes to end at Christ the King, the Sunday before Advent Sunday.
There is lots to be said about the act of remembering, of calling to mind. It’s a very ambivalent thing to do. “Remembrance” draws us to people, specifically those people who lost their lives through the effects of war. Often we class the people we remember in this way as heroes or victims. They lose their complexity as people as we reduce them to types. But of course very often these are people we didn’t know ourselves – and so the act of remembering is about creating something new in us because we choose to keep their memory alive. We can only honour those of whom we know nothing by creating a type for them to fit in to. Is it about them or about us? Over the course of the armistice commemoration a lot of people researched those individual lives behind the names on the war memorials—a powerful way to make those types more real, more individual, and perhaps to help us realise afresh that it is real lives like ours that can so easily be destroyed.
Remembering is a necessary and valuable part of grief. Calling to mind those who have died is often bittersweet. All kinds of emotions can be a part of it. Our relationships in life are complex, and our relationships with the dead can be no less complex, not least because the opportunity to change things has passed. We can’t always be reconciled to each other in life. Sometimes the pain is too deep. Sometimes the opportunity is not there. Sometimes the risk is too great. But when we call to mind those who have died we sometimes find the opportunity, in remembering, to reframe our relationships. Sometimes it can be easier to give God a way into a relationship when we remember it than when we live it. Healing and closure take many forms, but in calling things to mind perhaps we can allow God to take a greater burden of the pain, and a greater part of the healing.
Remembering can also be destructive. How often have we looked from the outside of a situation, and thought “Why bear this grudge?” We can see it in our political life, and in the conflicts between peoples that ravage our world. Often, peace has only become possible when people stop remembering—when they choose to let the past go and turn instead to the future. There are many examples, from the Troubles in Northern Ireland, to responses to the Holocaust where a conscious attempt to leave the past behind has been made in order to build a better future. Does that always mean forgetting? Or a new way of calling to mind?
We believe that Jesus died for our sins. There are all kinds of ways to understand that idea, but none of them involve a simple “forgetting” of the bad things of life. Time and again I am drawn back to the central point that knowing us entirely, completely God chose to sacrifice himself for us, and thus draw us back to him. He didn’t forget, he remembered everything. And in remembering he found love.

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We are in the Oxford diocese and the Wendover Deanery.

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