“Hey Rodger! Welcome back!“ It had been 7 years since Rodger graced the coffee house with his presence. Appearing fit and fiddle Rodger’s first stop upon re-entering the world beyond the cold concrete cube of a jail cell was to Network.
He just stood there dazed for a few seconds staring bug eyed at me before finally speaking, “I can’t believe you remember me, man.” Rodger (like so many of us) assumed he wasn’t worth the re-membering.
Contained within this parable is a powerful message. It was seriously significant for Rodger to be re-membered – to return to our community and find himself a member of us once again. In the remembering he was reminded of who he was – of who he is.
Memory encapsulates our heavens like in that transformative moment with Rodger, as well as our hells, such as traumatic nightmares from war or abuse cutting deep neural grooves in our subconscious.
The movie, Arrival, speaks to the dynamic and transcendent nature of memory. The film starts out with the following lines,
“Memory is a strange thing. It doesn’t work like I thought it did. We are so bound by time, by its order. But now I’m not so sure I believe in beginnings and endings. There are days that define your story beyond your life.”
I'm captivated with the beautiful evolutionary journey Dr. Louise (Amy Adams) travels as she gradually learns to see beyond the standard linear nature of time.
These flash backs or flash forwards are disorienting kairos moments. Kairos moments are those encounters, which open us up to higher dimensions of consciousness leaving us forever transformed like Moses and the burning bush or Paul’s encounter on the road to Damascus.
Kairos moments don’t have to appear quite like a sci-fi drama to significantly re-orient us.
Our memories can be kairos in nature. They contain a power sometimes more significant than the actual event. As we grow older our memories are all we’ve got. They take center stage of our being.
The reality of memory must shape the role of the minister.
Henri Nouwen describes the minister as a “Living memory of God.”
When we speak about the minister as a living reminder of God, we are not speaking about a technical specialty which can be mastered through the acquisition of specific tools, techniques, and skills, but about a way of being which embraces the totality of life: working and resting, eating and drinking, praying and playing, acting and waiting. Before any professional skill, we need a spirituality, a way of living in the spirit by which all we are and all we do becomes a form of reminding. (The Living Reminder)
Remembering is central to the biblical tradition especially within the role of the prophets proclaiming that God’s love for humanity never be forgotten. Abraham Joshua Heschel says, "Much of what the Bible demands can be comprised in one word, 'Remember.'"
As we walk with others encouraging them to remember God’s loving gaze we realize that sometimes there’s no “re” to it. Many have seemingly never discovered their original membership in the first place. The minister becomes that living memory – the walking kairos encounter.
Contrary to popular belief, the idea of being present to people in all of their needs all of the time wasn’t Jesus’ priority. His primary mission in life was to remain intimately connected to his Father. Only through a continual intimate encounter with God did it become clear to him what his task was in his relationship with people.
Those intimate encounters through prayerful attention to the divine don’t just happen when I close my eyes and name it prayer. My centering practice humbly re-minds me of just how short my attention span is and how quickly I become disembodied from my memory.
I re-member with the body of Christ when I return to my body.
When I pause to reflect on the fact that I am alive, my heart is beating, blood is flowing, air flows through my lungs I once again become a living memory of all the good care that has come my way.
On occasion, my silent attention through prayer becomes a doorway that I swing open and hear the Voice speak, “Hey Ryan! Welcome back!” And I find myself, like Rodger, re-membered to my place of belonging as one fully participating in this divine dance called life.