What Am I Doing?
My integrative project explores some of the ways in which music creates space for us to remember rightly. It consists of two parts. The first part is an essay that looks at the biblical priority of remembrance through the lens of several Old Testament narratives and the New Testament sacrament of the Eucharist. It goes on to explore how music-making can blaze a trail for right remembrance in our own lives. The second part of the project is an evening worship event where 9-12 original songs focusing on Jesus’ death and resurrection will be experienced. The event is slated for February 21, 2014. It is my hope and prayer that this project will demonstrate God-honouring remembrance in action and foster deeper communion with God and one another for all who participate. If you want to know a bit more about what I’ve been learning, a brief overview follows.
“Memories are also a form of doing, not just a form of knowing.”
How Did it Begin?
I first became fascinated by the idea of right remembrance two years ago while reading Romans 8:22-25. In verse 24, St. Paul asks the question, “Who hopes for what they already have?” The answer is obvious: no one does. Hope needs the future. As Christians our most precious Hope, Jesus, points us toward a future that is sure. This Kingdom future, in all of its already/not yet tension, enlivens my hope and makes meaning of my present waiting and longing.
In his book, The End of Memory: Remembering Rightly in a Violent World, Miroslav Volf argues that if remembrance is something we do there must be better and worse ways of doing it. For us as Christians the aim of right remembrance is peace, forgiveness, and reconciliation. All three require a generous measure of imagination – a heaping helping of hope. While St. Paul taught me that hope needs the future, theologian Miroslav Volf taught me that hope needs history, for just as I cannot fully hope for what I already have, I also cannot fully hope for what (or Whom) I do not know. All of this begs the question, “How can I remember rightly?”
Communion: Remembrance in Action
There is no example of right remembrance more profound and mysterious than that of the Eucharist. In the Gospel of Luke 22:19 we read that Jesus “…took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then He broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this to remember me.'” This communion meal has been shared in the Christian Church ever since. The meal goes hand in hand with Jesus’ loving command, “remember me.” Clearly Jesus knows how forgetful I am. He knows the rebellious nature of my heart, that the Psalmist’s prophecy, “He who shared my bread has turned against me” applies not only to Judas, but to me. He knows how desperately I need to remember who He is and what He is like. He knows that the loss of memory results in the loss of identity, the loss of identity results in the loss of purpose, and the loss of purpose results in the loss of life.
Through communion Jesus willingly takes up our death into Himself and we gratefully take up His life into ourselves. He puts the fragmented pieces of our lives back together. As we remember Him, He re-members us to Himself and Himself to the Church. I do not know how this happens nor do I need to know. Jesus simply tells me to participate with the Christian community in remembering Him rightly. Through right remembrance I find myself within God’s story. What can I do in response but to worship, to die to myself, and to live in hope of the resurrection?
Music & Being Present
Hope for the future and remembrance of the past can only be experienced in the present. Music allows us to experience what theologian and composer Jeremy Begbie calls the “continual present.” As we participate in music-making together we become keenly aware of time itself. Music plays with our memory and our expectations, yet it can only be experienced moment by moment. Because of this, music is uniquely equipped to help us “live peaceably with time.” When we experience time as part of God’s good creation we are freed to remember and hope in a way that invigorates rather than paralyzes us in the present.
There are many beautiful promises in scripture. One of them is that as we remember Christ, He remembers us! When Jesus was crucified, one of the criminals beside Him cried out, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus’ response is startling: “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Only moments from death’s door this man now stood on the threshold of eternal life with God Himself. I am so thankful that we worship a God who hears, a God who remembers. May we do the same.