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For Such A Time As This: Remembering
Free Community Church
20 November 2022
As we close this sermon series “For such a time as this,” and enter into the season of Advent next week – I want to invite you to reflect – what does the act of remembering mean to you?
When Jesus ate his last meal with the disciples in the upper room – he told them to remember.
“And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you’” Luke 22:19-20
In today’s lectionary passage from the Gospel according to Luke 23:42 – one of the men crucified next to Jesus said to him – “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom!”
Is remembering just an act of recalling something we have experienced, or replaying some information in our head?
What does the act of remembering mean to you?
If we merely just remembered something – but didn’t follow through with action, then that act of remembering is futile, pointless, useless.
It is just like remembering that you need to pick up something – sugar, milk, fruits – from the supermarket – and then you didn’t do it. Isn’t it just as good as forgetting?
Jesus reply to the man’s request – “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom!” wasn’t “oh yeah, I will remember, but “Truly I tell you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”…
Jesus didn’t just remember – he promises the man that he will be with Jesus in Paradise.
Remembering requires us not only to recall something, but also follow through with action.
Yet, at the same time, just going through the motions, doing the actions without knowing why we do things – without “remembering” – also misses the point.
We partake in communion and we remember. Our communion liturgies are retelling the story at the table – so we remember. We remember Jesus – his life, his teachings, his love, his death, his sacrifice, his resurrection.
Today is transgender day of remembrance. It is an annual observance on November 20 that honors the memory of the transgender people whose lives were lost in acts of anti-transgender violence. TDOR was started in 1999 by transgender advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith as a vigil to honor the memory of Rita Hester, a transgender woman who was killed in 1998.
Since then, it has become an observance that commemorates all the transgender people lost to violence since Rita Hester’s death.
We remember not only the good things, but also the not-so-good things. We remember not only our wins, but also our losses. Do we think that God is only around when good things happen? If we only remember the good, then how do we make sense when bad things happen?
I have been asked before – why do we commemorate Transgender Day of Remembrance at FCC? Isn’t it a bit morbid to read the names of people who have died in the past year as part of a service?
I will quote TDOR founder Gwendolyn Ann Smith
“Transgender Day of Remembrance seeks to highlight the losses we face due to anti-transgender bigotry and violence. I am no stranger to the need to fight for our rights, and the right to simply exist is first and foremost. With so many seeking to erase transgender people — sometimes in the most brutal ways possible — it is vitally important that those we lose are remembered, and that we continue to fight for justice.”
We remember because we will not forget the struggles transgender people face.
In previous years, we observed it as one of our special services. We created space to for transgender people to share about their lives, the struggles they face, so that we can learn and become better allies – and continue to fight for justice.
Between October 1, 2021 and September 30, 2022, there have been 389 reports of deaths within trans communities across the world. These say nothing of the many cases that go unreported.
The work has just started. We may not have a special service – that doesn’t mean we are not committed to the work to stand with our transgender siblings. Our transgender siblings are still facing a lot of challenges. In recent years, religious conservatives have turned to targeting transgender issues as the next boogieman to fight after progress is made on other fronts for LGB folks – decriminalization of 377A here in Singapore, same-sex marriage in many parts of the world.
We need to remember – so we stand in solidarity with our transgender siblings to build a world where they can thrive in.
There is another moment of remembering this week – Earlier this week on Wednesday was the 5th anniversary of Rev Yap’s passing. Some of you who have joined us in the recent years may not have met Rev Yap, and may have only heard of his impact on this community. I shared a little about Rev Yap during our anniversary service this year.
We remember not just because we are grateful to him and Mrs Yap, and their whole family for their love – poured out in so many ways to this community. Because if there is anything I know about Rev Yap it is this – he didn’t want us to be grateful – he wanted us to be committed to the work. The work of love, the work of justice, the work of living out our faith so it is not just about our own lives, but for those who are on the margins, for those change in the world.
Like Amos, Rev Yap constantly reminded us that worship goes beyond lifting up our voices in singing, but in our commitment and participation in God’s continuing work of justice in the world, echoed in the verse from his favourite prophet Amos 5:24 “let justice roll down like water and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”
Remembering isn’t just sentimentality. It isn’t nostalgia. It is also an act of faith.
Last week Pauline spoke about “Hope amidst Catastrophe.” See -> Discern -> Testify.
“First, we need to see beyond the surface and trust God’s heart, then develop the discernment to know the One we follow, and finally testify to who God is and what God has done.”
This is the process of remembering.
Years ago, (and really years ago, almost 30 years!), I wrote a GP essay for my A level prelims based on the question “A people without a memory is a people without a future. Discuss.”
We remember the past – so that we have hope.
We have hope, remembering how we made it through the difficult times, and how we have been blessed with good times as well. We remember the stories of those who have come before us so that we learn from them. We learn to trust, we learn to have faith.
This process of remembering is our way of being reminded of how God has been abiding with us all this while.
We go back to the Bible to remember – reading how our ancestors in faith have testified to who God is and what God has done, and we learn to trust even when we do not see or experience these stories for ourselves.
The Psalm in this week’s lectionary is Psalm 46 –
God is our refuge and strength,
a very present[a] help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble with its tumult. Selah
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of the city;[b] it shall not be moved;
God will help it when the morning dawns.
6 The nations are in an uproar; the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice; the earth melts.
7 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.[c] Selah
8 Come, behold the works of the Lord;
see what desolations he has brought on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
10 “Be still, and know that I am God!
I am exalted among the nations;
I am exalted in the earth.”
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.[d] Selah
While we are most familiar with Verse 10 – Be still and know I am God, we haven’t dived into the rest of this Psalm.
This Psalm is a reminder – in the midst of catastrophe, in the midst of war, in the midst of struggle – God is our refuge and strength. It is a psalm inviting us to “be still” and trust, have faith.
This Psalm is a testimony of our ancestors in faith, who have sung this generation after generation.
Next year is FCC’s 20th anniversary. We have announced that we are looking for people to share their stories and their reflections about FCC.
Last Sunday, we had a short discussion with a few folks as we gear up to get this project going. And it started, like many other projects, getting a life of its own. The original plan in my head, was to tell our stories in a book, collecting together different pieces of our history so all of us can get to know our past, and see how far we have come, and how God has been with us all this while.
I was catching up with Gwee Li Sui – one of our friends who preach here regularly – and he suggested selling this book at book stores – eg Kinokuniya.
This will allow us to have an impact – share our story so that people will know our story, and hopefully, like how we read Psalm 46 and find comfort in it, people who read our story will find faith knowing radical God’s love is.
<M>Years down the road, what will you remember of FCC?
Years down the road how do you want FCC to be remembered?
Eugene, who has stepped up to help lead the project had many ideas – on top of asking you to contribute reflections on what you remember of FCC.
One idea he shared with me is the last chapter of the book. It is 2023 and beyond. For many of you, you may have just joined us in the recent 2 years. You may feel inadequate in contributing to this project. But this chapter is one that is not looking backwards, but asking – in 20 years time, what will you remember of FCC?
This vision casting is an exercise in imagination. But it also helps us have clarity around who we are, and what we are called to be and do to make this vision(s) become reality.
Now, I must say this – it isn’t just about you imagining the future, and expecting other people to go make it happen. It requires your participation. It is not just showing your ideas, but showing up as well.
It is not just remembering, but also following through with action.
I will remember
I am an anchor of love
I am a beacon of hope for You
It is an FCC anthem.
What does being an anchor of love, and a beacon of hope mean to you?
When your time here in this life is done, and you meet God face to face – what do you want to be remembered for? We can all be anchors of love and beacons of hope.