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lest we forget – reuben munn

I’m writing this around the time of Anzac Day, an important day on our national calendar for remembering those in New Zealand and Australia who have been killed in war, particularly the Gallipoli campaign. Through dawn services, tributes and personal reflections on this day, we honour the fallen, we keep their memory alive, and we learn to embody the spirit of courage and sacrifice they showed.

This theme of remembering also intersects with a book I’m currently reading called Preaching as Reminding: Stirring Memory in an Age of Forgetfulness, by Jeffrey Arthurs. The idea of the book is that a central task of preaching is to stir memory—memory of who God is and what he has done, in order that these memories may come alive for us in the present and shape our lives in the future. Arthurs describes preachers as ‘The Lord’s Remembrancers.’ The title is taken from the role of the Queen’s (or King’s) remembrancer, the oldest judicial position in continual existence in Great Britain (still around today). The remembrancer’s job is to put the Lord Treasurer and the Barons of the Court in remembrance of pending business, taxes paid and unpaid, and other things that pertained to the benefit of the crown. In a similar way, preachers are the Lord’s remembrancers in the sense that “we remind God’s subjects of their covenant with the king of heaven.”

The role of remembracing is more than just recalling past events for our hearers. Think of what is happening when we remember our fallen soldiers on Anzac Day. By remembering their past actions, we are allowing those memories to shape us as a nation, to define who we are and who we want to be. These memories bind us together and form our identity. In the same way, when we remind our hearers of God’s mighty acts in redemptive history, we are allowing them to participate in those events afresh in the present. This is not about empty repetition, but a drawing on biblical memory in order to foster thankfulness, humility and wisdom in our lives. Our task is to draw people into the stories of what God has done long ago in Scripture so that they might find their place in that story and see how that story continues to be outworked in their own lives today.

Remembracing also binds us to one another. In stirring memory, the body of Christ is ‘re-membered’ so that the fragmented pieces of the church are put back together again. The stories of Scripture are our shared possession. Dwelling on God’s redemptive work in Scripture shapes our collective identity as the people of God and reunites us with one another through shared memory. Remembering binds us to one another as well as to God.

Maybe thinking about ourselves as ‘the Lord’s Remembrancers’ can give us a bigger vision for our role as preachers?  

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