What Do You Remember?

Note: I gave this communion meditation at church this morning. Thought you might appreciate it.

Have you ever wondered why you remember what you do? How does that work?

Socials scientists and the people who study these things have a number of theories and have identified several factors that influence memory. One of those is surprise. When something unexpected happens, we tend to remember it. Surprise gets our attention because it lifts us out of our routines, takes us out of the ordinary. Let me give you an example.

Many, many Christmases ago, when my brother, Marc, and I were probably 3 and 4, we were very eager to open our Christmas presents. My parents knew this and suspected that we might get up before everyone else to get a head start on the gift opening, so they posted my grandfather as a guard in the living room. We got up out of bed, Marc and I, at one point and Gramps chased us back to bed, presents safe, mission accomplished.

But then we got up again. And Gramps was sleeping on the sofa. And we got into the living room. And Gramps didn’t wake up.

So we started to open presents. Only, we couldn’t read the nametags so we didn’t know which presents were ours. So we just unwrapped all of them.

Every. Single. One.

And my grandfather slept through the whole thing.

Now, why is that memorable?

In part, because it’s unexpected. We all have holiday traditions and, though they might vary somewhat, they probably go like this: get up, have breakfast, open gifts, play, eat lunch, go to grandmas house, watch football, play a game–you get the idea. On that particular Christmas, though, Marc and I broke the pattern. We did something surprising, something unexpected, and that’s what makes it memorable.

You’re probably thinking of some holiday yourself–a Christmas, Thanksgiving, birthday–where something didn’t go as planned, either good or bad, and you remember it.

Now, before you get lost in that thought, listen to this: Jesus, at the last supper with his disciples, did something surprising as well.

For hundreds of years, God’s people had celebrated the Passover. They shared a meal together as a way to remember how God led them out of slavery in Egypt. When Jesus celebrated Passover with his disciples that last time, he took the bread that would represent his broken body and said, “This is my body. Do this in remembrance of me.” He did the same with the cup, a cup that represented God’s promise of redemption. “Do this in remembrance of me.” Jesus was identifying himself as both the Passover sacrifice and the fulfillment of God’s saving promise. No one else could or would have done that.

He broke the pattern, did something unexpected, something surprising at that last Passover. Because he was going to do something even more surprising than that: break the pattern of sin and death that had enslaved us all and give us new life and new hope.

One Reply to “What Do You Remember?”

  1. Thanks for posting this, Michael. I often write communion meditations in my journal (just in case anyone ever asks me to give one 🙂 and I wrote one about “remembering” just a few weeks ago myself. Thanks for your view on the idea of remembering.

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