Meditating on Maundy Memories
What is the Biblical concept of remembrance?
Well, let’s warm up: Growing up, what do you remember doing with your family for Easter traditions?
For some, Easter Egg hunts are almost certainly a part of the picture. Perhaps you remember the annual gifting of some pastel-ey Easter basket filled with chocolates and bright colors. A morning brunch? A spiral ham dinner?
But, how different was the Holy Week, or Resurrection Sunday for you, from the other days of your life? What sort of disturbance of pause have you… or do you… practice to remember the Entry into Jerusalem? To reflect on the betrayal? To mourn on the Day of Crucifixion? To be moved in your bowels and passions about the Good News of the Resurrection?
On Holy or Maundy Thursday, the church calendar is marked to observe and to remember the Last Supper Jesus made with his disciples. And somewhat ironically, it was on this day that Jesus and the disciples themselves observed the Passover, which in and of itself is the practice of remembering God’s work of deliverance and salvation from slavery in Egypt- “”This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD,” “You shall tell your child on that day, saying “It is because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt.” (Ex 12:14, 13:8).
Remembering, however, is not simply acknowledging or mentally touching random facts of the past. Remembrance is not practiced simply for the sake of “remembering,’ say, in the way we remember a fact from the archives of our brains so as to answer a question on a test. In this example, a memory is summoned, spilt on the paper, and then swept back into deep storage.
The remembrance practiced in the Passover, is not the trite exercise of wheeling and dealing facts from history. Remembering has a purpose, a goal. The Purpose of remembering the past is present day transformation.
rkz means “to remember, to reflect on, commemorate, invoke, praise, give evidence, and to bring a memorial offering.” Even from this semantic range, we can see that “to remember” is a deliberate and time consuming task. Reflecting on something involves patience, the discipline of ruminating and pondering an event. In fact, the word and it’s root have crucial roles in the OT. Such consoling reflection was intended to actually solicit emotions of regret or relief, or of appreciation and commitment. Thus, we see the first purpose of “remembering:”
1) Investing time in remembrance is not wasted. The goal of remembrance is building and maturing of our soul.
Furthermore, rather than just being a mental action, “remembering” often induces a person to action. For example, in Isa 17:10, to “forget” God as savior is actually to forsake Him for other gods. To remember the Torah means to obey it. To remember the Sabbath is to observe it. The tassels on an Israelites garments were to remind them of God’s commandments that they might do them. Thus…
2) Remembering is not just an action in the mind. The goal of remembrance is obedience.
In their Upper Room Supper, Jesus led his disciples in the slow and deliberate Seder. The parsley dipped in salt water remind of the new life given after the centuries of tears shed in anguish and slavery. The pasty mix of nuts and fruit represent the straw-less mortar used to construct bricks in Egypt. The horseradish or lettuce used to symbolize the bitterness of oppression. And the Zeroa… the roasted lamb bone- representing the Paschal lamb slain for sacrifice that brought deliverance.
Little did the disciples know that as they reflected on God’s great work of salvation in the past, standing before them was the perfect lamb, who’s superior sacrifice would be the deserving subject of remembrance for all of history.
The Passover Seder is a very deliberate practice. How much more so should our deliberate slowing and remembrance be of the greatest sacrifice ever paid, and the abundant life now given?
Last week, my roommate walked through the door on Sunday afternoon, plopping his books and his rawhide leather bag onto our ripped pleather couch. I asked him what he had taught the high schoolers at church that morning (he is a youth director), and he responded “about the Sabbath. And man, was it tough to get my point across.”
“Really?” I said.
“Really.” He replied. “But, I hope they understood that my concern about the Sabbath is not about practicing legalism. I hope they understood my main point…”
“And…what was that?”
“My concern for them was not that they don’t practice a Sabbath every Sunday. My deepest concern is that they’ve lost any notion of the Sabbath altogether.”
Perhaps you resist the invitation to practice disciplines such as Lent, or to take the deliberate steps to fast, to put a break in the pace of life, and to do something to remember the cross and the empty tomb, because you fear these “Christian traditions” are nothing but legalism. Or perhaps you don’t consider them because they seem like so much work, for so little or so mysterious a benefit.
And many have followed this reasoning to lose the discipline of remembering altogether.
Perhaps this Maundy Thursday, you might take the time to remember the sacrifice of our savior. To ruminate. To meditate. To let the images of blood, or thorns, or treason, and the sound of the agonizing cry of “it is finished!” echo in the reaches of your mind. May you find transformation, and assistance in obedience, through the power of remembrance.
 Willem A. VanGemeren, New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology & Exegesis, 2349.