Every day, in multiple ways, we are torn apart by our sin and by the sin of others. And then there is simply the cumulative effect of living in a fallen world. It leads to our lives being fragmented and fractured.
A day or so ago, I had the privilege of being the deliverer of some much needed financial relief to a couple who have been friends of ours for years. Several of their friends were aware of the difficulties that have arisen for these good people and immediately stepped into the gap with great joy. It is not easy being on the other side of generosity, to have to receive. But, in this case, the wife did as I handed her the check and we conversed for a minute. And then she leaned forward, eyes communicating both gratitude and sweetness, hugged me and gave me a kiss on the cheek. I felt a deep connection with this dear friend. Life had been warring on their hearts in one way and on mine in another, and something about this moment pushed back against the effects of the fall that tends to dismember us.
Do you recall how in 1 Corinthians 11 as the Apostle Paul is instructing believers on the importance of communion he reminds people of what Jesus did and said in the upper room years earlier? The end of what Jesus says as he breaks bread and takes the cup is essentially, “remember me.” I have always thought about those words more from the perspective of not forgetting, that by eating the bread and drinking the cup, we are calling to mind the cost involved in our salvation. Certainly, that is accurate. But perhaps there is another way to think about Jesus’ words that make them come alive again.
Where else do we hear these words—"remember me”—in the pages and stories of the New Testament? It is the thief on the cross, next to Jesus. We like to call him the “good thief” to identify him since there were two criminals hanging next to the Lord. I like the juxtaposition of those two words, almost an oxymoron—good thief. But I like it because we are, as human beings, more than what we see, more than one or two bad behaviors that can easily define us. We come to discover that there was something deeper in this criminal who was now paying for his crimes against humanity. He is the good thief. Somewhere during those hours of his prolonged suffering, something besides cynicism began to emerge. That is worth pondering itself, the difference between these two men who are both getting what they deserve. I wonder if they represent the two options always before us when we are suffering. We can get hard and blame others, or we can get angry and blame others only to discover that perhaps we deserve what we get and then deeper in us is the desire to be clean and saved from ourselves. Just a thought. But I digress.
The good thief was paying for his sins in a very dismembering fashion. His sins had already “dismembered” him from his community, probably his family, and now, the crucifixion was literally dismembering his body. In crucifixion, the arms are torn from the shoulder socket requiring one to use the nail in the feet in order to relieve the pain and allow one to also breathe. During this burdensome ordeal, he turns toward Jesus and asks him to “remember me.” What if this is more than simply the notion of being called to mind when Jesus gets back to His Father? What if part of what it means to be "re-membered” is to be brought back into harmony with God and others, into the community of the forgiven, into oneness?
Jesus broke the bread that represented his broken, dismembered body. It was broken, of course, not because of His sin but ours. Then he took the cup that represented his spilt blood. He endured dismemberment physically, and “spiritually” from his Father, so that we might be re-membered into the oneness of God’s family, brought into the oneness/intimacy of the Godhead. But it doesn’t stop there, though that is mighty important, certainly central to our faith. We now go out into the fractured world to invite others into the re-membering process. As we offer generosity or encouraging words, forgiveness or compassion, we are remembering Jesus and what he was about. And we are re-membering broken people as we bring the kingdom of God to earth. Is this part of what it means to be “ministers of reconciliation?” The world tears us apart. Our sin consistently creates divorce in our relationships. But God brings us back into membership in his family, his kingdom through mercy and grace, compassion and forgiveness. And we have the privilege to do the same.
I think when my friend hugged and kissed my cheek and when my wife offered deep words of encouragement and respect while I worked in the yard, I felt re-membered when every other force in my world joins hands to dismember me. Wow, imagine if our church communities could catch a vision of being a “Re-membering Community” for each other and to the world. I think Jesus would smile as we then come to the table to eat the bread and drink the wine.
Until the day when the re-membering process is complete, grace and peace to you.