Try to remember

gospel textThree times in essentially a week people recalled something that had been rather memorable for them but which I curiously, and frustratingly, could not recall.

Jeff, a friend from college, remembered me visiting his home in Washington, D.C., not long after the birth of his, now, 15-year-old son. He and his wife were telling me about the baptism and Jeff says I proceeded to explain how I might have conducted the baptism and how I’d have held the child for the assembly to see. I don’t recall going to their house, holding the newborn son, nor the conversation about baptism, although I also don’t dispute any of what Jeff remembers.

At a family reunion a couple days later my cousin David recalled hitting a deer on Highway 10 near Auburndale, which heavily damaged his truck. David called me and I went to get him and he stayed with me that weekend until a body shop could work on his vehicle. “You made me go have dinner with your friends in Wausau,” he said, seeming to suggest that eating with “my friends” was nearly as traumatic as the accident. I don’t remember anything of that weekend: going to get him, staying with me, forcing him to have dinner with friends in Wausau; I don’t even know who those Wausau friends might have been. Again, I don’t dispute any of what David recalls.

A seminary classmate from Kentucky came to spend a few days up north and as we drove Carl remembered that a group of us had spent a week at a cabin near Tomahawk during the summer before our ordination year. He remembered exactly who was in the group, a few amusing moments, quirks of a couple friends that became quite apparent during a week together and a couple other details I don’t need to detail here. I do remember us spending that week up north, I think on Lake Nokomis, but I’d forgotten a few of the participants and I really can’t recall anything else, which is not to say I dispute any of what Carl remembers. (Curiously, I do remember many details of a weeklong adventure at a cabin on a lake in Kentucky the previous summer which was much less enjoyable, but why I might retain those unfavorable memories is grist for another column.)

This isn’t really a column about memory loss, since we all forget things from time to time and there are many other things I do remember, for inexplicable reasons, such as that week on a warm, muddy, snake-infested lake in Kentucky. But then there are other moments, people and experiences that I would like to recall but don’t. Thankfully, there are occasions and conversations and photos that help fill in the blanks, or remind me of blanks I didn’t even know were there.

We obviously give a lot of credence to the gospels, they are fundamental to our tradition and what we believe. And while they are significant statements of faith, each of them geared toward a particular community or circumstance, they also are rooted in a communal awareness that we sometimes forget, individually and communally. It’s not a stretch to imagine a few people sitting around remembering something Jesus had said or done and someone in that group, let’s call him Tom, doesn’t recollect any of it. This happens with greater and greater frequency, people not disputing what others recall but their own memories becoming more and more faded, until someone concludes that the collective memory needs to be written down. And in the composition, the authors we know as Mark, Luke, Matthew and John emphasized a few different angles and sometimes included unique and significant details, and then the challenge of the gospel became what Jesus always intended for it to be — not remembering the details of the Good News, but attempting to live it. TL

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