Communal Memory

©2010 Todd Rossnagel

It is easy to forget what we are about. We get busy living our lives, satisfying our wants, fulfilling our dreams that we begin to believe that our gathering, our being the church, is about us. Today, Scott McKnight reminds us that we are not the first Christian community to have trouble remembering.

McKnight tells us about the church in Jerusalem, let by James the brother of Jesus. They too easily forgot their reason for being and began to “kowtow to the rich by giving them prominent seats,” and “humiliate the poor by asking them to find a spot on the floor.” (122) McKnight tells us that the people needed to remember, they needed to recall their “memory love.”

Communal memory helps us stay centered on our identity as people of God. This is the reason why in worship it is important to continue to retell our story of faith, in word and deed. We gather to praise God and to remember the “mighty acts in Jesus Christ.” As we retell the story it becomes more deeply ingrained in our communal memory. When we begin to walk another way and ignoring those who need it most we lean on that communal memory – memory love – to remind us that God has “chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him?” (James 2:5)

As we continue this journey of Lent we must dig deep into our communal memory. The walk to Jerusalem is still difficult, paying attention to the forgotten takes transformed vision, sacrificial love takes courage! Our story reminds us again and again that we are empowered by God’s Spirit, that we are not alone, that we must pay attention to the reason for our existence, and live into it day after day.

The goal of our communal ministry is not just to remember but to re-member. To bring back into being the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. As McKnight tells us to “convert our memories into a ministry of loving our neighbor as ourselves.” (125) We do this by becoming the ministry of Jesus where we work, live, and play. We do this by letting the proclaimed story of Jesus in word and Jesus own presence in Eucharist, make us the body of Christ for the life of the world.


This post originally appeared at the 40 Days Together blog, where clergy from the Louisiana Annual Conference share Lenten Reflections on Scott McKnight’s book 40 Days Living the Jesus Creed.

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