Memory makes us. If we couldn’t recall the who, what, where, and when of our everyday lives, we wouldn’t be able to function. We mull over ideas in the present with our short-term memory, while we store past events and learned meanings in our long-term memory. But memories can fade.
A little while ago I wrote about how so many of our memories are embodied in the things and objects we surround ourselves with. Sometimes they are souvenirs or mementoes from holiday destinations, sometimes they are presents or creations of our children, sometimes it is a family heirloom. These things can evoke strong memories in the same way a photograph can. Photos are great, but there is something about touching things; the shape, the texture, the weight and warmth or coldness of objects that provide access to deep memories. There is a power in such experiences that takes us beyond remembering to “feeling it in our bones”.
But memories can also be powerfully associated with place. Visiting places from earlier in our lives can retrieve memories that have not been recalled for many years. Such memories can come back vividly and in detail. Just walking into the old Sunday School hall, the scent of it, can stir memories you didn’t know you had. Memories of past events that have not been recalled for a considerable period of time return powerfully and can move us emotionally.
On Saturday 21st April the Toolamba Uniting Church buildings were sold at auction. This church has been a sacred place. Since its construction in 1923 it has been a place of worship, prayer and transformation. It breathes with the prayers of many generations. Here new lives have been welcomed in baptism, love has been celebrated in marriage, and those we loved farewelled at their death.
Many people attended the auction and took the opportunity to walk through the buildings once more. I over heard several people say, “I was married here.” “I was baptised here.” “I met my husband here.” So while we said farewell to these much loved buildings. We will carry our memories with us and look forward to seeing it reborn as a future home.
While we are sad, we are also joyful. The funds from the sale of the church will allow us to invest in the future of the combined Toolamba/Tatura congregation. The vision of our forebears will go on; faith will continue to be nurtured, the gospel proclaimed and we will build a community in which people find faith, hope, meaning, grace and love.
After the auction was over we invited those present (including the new owners) to join with us as we sang there one final time. The acoustics in the empty chapel were wonderful as we sang some of the great hymns of our faith. There was more than one tear as more memories were conjured up by the words, music and voices.
Remembering is a central aspect of biblical faith. Biblical faith rests upon God’s self-revelation through actions. God makes himself known to us through what he does, most of all, in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Thus, we know God most clearly when we remember the good things he does for us.
At every celebration of the Lord’s Supper we hear again the words of Jesus, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this to remember me.” When we remember Jesus, we see God with clear vision. When we remember Jesus, we are refreshed in his grace. When we remember Jesus, we know, once again, that nothing in all creation can separate us from God’s love.
This is the gospel. And it’s good news.
Brian Spencer, Minister