Vacations often consist of going along with plans made by Pani-Matka’s family. These plans usually involve staying in places with history and nostalgia for the family members. I do not share this entire history or nostalgic memory. This made me think about the ministry of supporting the memories of others. It’s a tricky business. Here’s why.
I’ve also had the experience of supporting the memories of others in a completely different setting, only to discover that the memories did not have sufficient power to direct and color the new attempt to revive them. People could not give up the memory to permit the present to be a new experience.
Given a long enough time, however, you can enter the experience as an historical participant even though the origin and the setting had nothing to do with you. You can, so to speak, make another person’s memory important to you. This requires more than simply the resolve to go along. You have to resolve to be there fully.
This is a work of love and hence, a ministry. It is also a work of self-denial. No, rather call it a work of self-investment. The experience may be wonderful even if it is not your own design or desire, and to the degree that you invest in it, you reap rewards. An element of self-denial is the entry price, but that element diminishes the more you practice identifying with the others.
Apply this to church. It fits.
Most of us begin by entering the experience of others. If we are baptized as children, others testify on our behalf to our entry into the experience. But we must grow into it. We have heard of the Cross and Resurrection of Christ. We have not known it “up close and personal,” as ABC Sports used to proclaim. But we know that it holds great meaning for people who surround us and who have gone before us. So we invest in it, we try to understand why it is important to others whom we honor and love, and eventually it begins to take on meaning for us. The experience of others precedes us and prepares us, but eventually we have to claim it as our own or it remains just that: someone else’s experience. And that is not faith.