‘Listen to this, Dad,’ said my son Ian as he read from the quality-bound English Standard Version we had given him that day as a 48th birthday present.
‘Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead’ (2 Timothy 2:8).
I had just been thinking of the vital importance of memory after reading of a woman in a neighbouring town. When 39-year-old Tracey Deiment’s eyes had flickered open in hospital a month after her heart had inexplicably stopped for almost an hour in September 2009, she found a total stranger weeping and holding her hand. Even when he said, ‘It’s me, Garry, your husband,’ she felt none the wiser. Yet she recalled every word of the Bon Jovi band’s song Living On A Prayer playing nearby. She failed to recognise their two young sons, and indeed anything of life before her illness.
She has since learned to love them all again, but ‘we cannot share memories like other married couple, which is hard,’ Gareth, her childhood sweetheart, said tearfully.
Without her memory she had lost her identity. But after two full years ‘I suddenly said: “I know who I am.”’
In his old age the godly Glasgow professor, known as Rabbi Duncan because of his fluency in Hebrew, suffered dementia. Although he could not recall his own name, when anyone spoke of Jesus his face would break into a smile and he’d say, ‘Oh, I know who he is.’ Now, here’s something to consider seriously. When Moses asked God at the burning bush, ‘Who am I?’ he was told that the answer was, ‘I will be with you’ and, in answer to the question ‘what is God’s name?’ Moses was to tell the sceptical Hebrew slaves, ‘I AM WHO I AM’ (Exodus 3:11-14). That’s who Moses is: ‘I AM is with me.’
So, to ‘remember Jesus Christ’ must never become a mere cerebral matter. It is of vital importance to the believer’s identity: ‘to me to live is Christ.’
‘Do this in remembrance of me’
For this reason, Jesus has told his followers to break bread and share the covenant cup.
‘The Lord Jesus … took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me’ – bring me to remembrance. ‘Also he took the cup … saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this … in remembrance of me’ (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).
The road sign ‘Tiddliwink’ in Wiltshire is not the village; it’s just a pointer. And the maple leaf is just a symbol of Canada. Those places must still be entered to be experienced. The covenant meal is in fact a sacrament, a means of grace to bring him – alive – into our experience as at supper in that home in Emmaus (Luke 24:30-31, 35).