By Joe Harvey
Remembering can be powerful! Yet it all depends on how we go about it. We can remember that something happened: “Yes, I did pay that bill.” That kind of remembering is functionally useful. It answers a question or settles an uneasy feeling. That is not what Jesus had in mind when he told his disciples to “remember me” during the Lord’s Supper, however. Surely, he was calling them to a different kind of remembering—one that involves reflection and reactivation.
Reflection is simple enough. It means revisiting the past and regathering the meaningfulness of that remembered moment. Jesus’ disciples repeated the essential activities of this Lord’s Supper for years to come. Each time, they reflected upon the fact that Jesus used the bread and cup to experientially signify his love and sacrifice for them. They recalled that it was a “final hours” experience—something very important that Jesus could not leave undone. That it was representative of an agreement, a covenant God established through Jesus. They recalled that it was personal; it was for them.
Reflective remembering creates an emotional connection—such as remembering the birth of a child or death of a friend. It combines facts with feelings and assigns significance. Through reflective remembrance, each of us can today step back into the past and try to live there for just a bit. We can explore the context, imagine the feelings that must have been present, and contemplate the significance of the moment.
Still, it is not enough to remember reflectively. The real power of remembering is its ability to bring the past into the present. What would your participation in Communion be like if you prayerfully pursued it as a way to revisit and recapture the words and deeds of Jesus in the past, bring them into the present, and use them to reshape your priorities and plans for the future? Remembering means reactivating.
Remembering as reactivation means we must ask how Jesus’ words and actions affect our lives today. How will we, as individuals, think of ourselves and our world differently? What will change in what we do or say because of what we remember Jesus did and said? How does the past come to life in our present so that it reshapes our future? Perhaps Jesus intended something quite like that when he said, “Do this in remembrance of me.”
Joe Harvey is an adjunct professor at Johnson University and the road manager for singer and songwriter Mandy Harvey. Joe and his wife, Valerie, live in St. Cloud, Florida.