People used to talk a lot about revisionist history. I don't know. Maybe they still talk about that, and I just don't hear them because I am locked away in the ivory towers of academia. Incidentally, this is sarcasm because I only wish I could wander among those towers.
At any rate, the current thought is that we tell our histories the way we want to remember them. This is not a matter of changing the story, but of stressing the parts of the story that we think are most important. We can't tell everything, and by choosing those parts of the story, we leave out other parts, changing the way the story looks and sounds.
Another thing about telling histories, the parts that don't get told frequently get forgotten.
I took a class in public memory a few semesters ago. The idea is that entities in power, whether they are kings, elected public officials, or advertisers, use the way we remember things as a way of strengthening authority. It sounds manipulative, and I suppose it is. However, I'm not interested in getting bogged down in discussions of American or any other kind of history.
At the same time I took the class, I read the first five books of the Bible. I had never noticed it before, but the writers stress telling stories and the way we to tell stories and and the importance of remembering stories.
The rainbow is all about remembering, and God tells Noah that the rainbow is a sign of the everlasting covenant between Him and all living creatures that never again will he destroy the earth with a flood.
Keeping the Sabbath is an exercise in remembering that God is holy, the he is the creator and we are the created.
The Hebrews wore tassels so that they would remember all the commands of the Lord and not chase after other Gods.
God tells Moses to remind the people to tell and retell the story of Egypt and slavery and how God rescued them so that they will remember. That is the reason for the Passover Feast. Remembering.
I read this in amazement, thinking once again that there is nothing new under the sun and that God knew all about public memory before academics started discussing it.
This idea of remembering intrigues me because I think we all have a little bit of amnesia. We tend to forget things, especially things that aren't in front of us all the time. That's one of the reasons I keep a journal. I want to remember the things I've prayed for or I may not realize God has answered. I want to remember the times I've heard God's voice because otherwise I'll doubt what I heard. I want to remember the times I have felt God's love because sometimes I don't sense his presence at all.
On the night of the Last Supper, which he and his disciples would have called the Passover Feast, Jesus breaks bread and gives a piece of each of the men gathered around the table. He tells them, "This is my body, broken for you. Do this in remembrance of me." He passes around a cup of red wine and continues, "This is my blood. As long as you drink, do this in remembrance of me."
Why does he say this? Because if they don't continue the practice, they will forget certain parts. Christians around the world embraced this practice. Why? So they would remember.
That's why every year we celebrate Passion Week, with Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and then Easter. Historically, these days were a way of telling the story of Jesus. So we wouldn't forget.
We tell the parts of the story that we think are most important. The writers of the Gospels spend more space writing about the last week of Jesus life than the other thirty-three years. Paul tells the Corinthians, "I want to remind you of the gospel, which I preached to you. . . . For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve."
This is the week leading up to the cross. And so we remember.
We remember because this is the part of the story the Gospel writers and Paul thought were most important, and we continue that tradition.
We remember because this part of the story has transformative power in our lives.
We remember because if we don't remember, we will forget.