Summary: We want to get on with life, and we should move forward with joy, but we must remember too to look back in thankfulness! Moving forward in faith while looking back in gratit...
I remember hearing of a rural vicar in England whose bicycle went missing. The man relied exclusively on his bicycle to get around his little parish, and he knew things like bicycles didn’t just disappear into thin air, so he put two and two together and figured out that someone in the parish - most likely one of the young larakins in his flock that he’d had words to - had stolen it.
He came up with a plan. He’d preach on the 10 commandments on Sunday, and when he got to ’Thou shalt not steal’, he’d pause and look carefully around the congregation, to see if he couldn’t pick out a red face and so identify the culprit.
The plan seemed to be going well. He prepared his sermon, Sunday came, and he started working his way through the commandments, planning to reach his crescendo at the 8th commandment - ’Thou shalt not steal’. The only problem was that when he reached the 7th commandment - ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery’ - he remembered where he left his bike!
Having a good memory is a great asset. I’ve got a terrible one. ’One too many hits in the head’ is my excuse, but it’s an excuse that it wears a bit thin after a while.
Of course it’s not remembering as such that’s important, but remembering the things that need to be remembered, like wedding anniversaries or you’re partner’s birthday
You can try the line, "Honey, how do you expect me to remember your birthday when you never look any older?” but … it doesn‘t work. The best chance you’ve got is if you have the experience that Ange and I had a few weeks ago where we BOTH forgot our anniversary (till late in the day at least) which is a reflection of the fact that we’ve both taken hits to the head. It’s one of the many advantages that comes out of being a family of fighters.
The truth is, of course, that there are even more important things to remember than birthdays and anniversaries. Because I have a strong association with our local RSL club, I am often in dialogue with persons who take very seriously the concept of ‘lest we forget’. For the truth is that we do forget.
We forget that the life of freedom and prosperity we enjoy as a community today is very much a legacy from those who went before us, through the blood and suffering of two world wars. We forget what we owe those who have gone before us, just as we forget them.
This is indeed part of the pain of funerals I believe - that a funeral is the beginning of a process of forgetting somebody! I know we say at the funeral, “we will never forget Aunty Heather and all she did for us”, but who are we trying to kid? The truth is that we begin the process of forgetting even on the way home from the funeral.
Now I know it’s not that brutal, and I know that there are certain people we will never forget and maybe we never forget anybody completely, but even so the reality is that when we lose a loved one, that person starts becoming less a part of our ongoing lives from the day we bury them. Yes, years later we will still raise a glass to them and relive fond memories, but the truth is that over time, we do forget, and there’s something really awful about that. We want to remember … but we can’t!
It that what it was like for these leprous persons we read about in Luke 17 - that they really wanted to remember but somehow couldn’t? Jesus’ comments don’t give us any insight into the reasons for their forgetfulness. And in truth, it is hard for of us to really get inside the heads of these guys because it is hard for any of us to imagine what it must have been like to be living with leprosy in those days.
Jesus was in no-man’s land, we’re told, when He met these people - in some undefined place in the region between pagan Samaria and good-old Galilee - a place that may not have been on anybody’s map - a place where lepers lived!
“As he entered a village,” we’re told, “ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!" And we understand why they kept their distance - because they were ‘unclean’.
Now I don’t now if you’ve ever met anyone you would consider ‘unclean’. I’ve worked with plenty of people whose body odour was such, or where the stench of alcohol was so strong, that they genuinely were unclean, but I’ve never met a leper.