Around the county we have once again gathered by the memorials and declared we will remember. ‘Lest we forget’ is the challenge of the Poppy appeal. But what does it ask of us not to forget? And why do we need so much reminding anyway? And aren’t many of the nastiest conflicts around the world precisely because people can’t or won’t forget and are trapped in cycles of revenge and toxic hatred? Memory alone is not saving. It may just as easily overwhelm and break us. I used to visit a man who was once a prisoner of war. He saw things and endured violence that he could never forget. It was like a shadow across his life. ‘Fifty years and I’ve never left this place,’ wept a survivor on her return to Auschwitz.
But the opposite of remembering is not forgetting. To remember is much more than having a good memory. The opposite of remembering is not forgetting – it is dis-membering. It is to sever, to separate, to break apart. So to re-member something is to re-connect it and bring it back into the relationships from which it had become cut off and separated.
The good news at the heart of Christian faith is that God, through Jesus, re-members us and our world. There is somewhere, cost what it may, where this is all held together in love. Jesus brings fractured things together. Healing can begin. There on the cross his arms are reaching wide around a broken world, holding it whole again.
By the Revd David Runcorn, Associate Diocesan Director of Ordinands and Warden of Readers.