to be human is to be forgetful.
We’ve got various brands of it; some of us (those of us who suffer depression) forget good, happy, sunny things very easily and see more clearly and pointedly those things that are wrong and dark and evil, some of us easily and often forget clouds and rain with an ease of focus (habituated, of course) on the good, happy, positive things of life. Some of us forget where we’ve come from, or forget our first love, or forget to fill the gas tank.
Worship that is the same every Sunday (in churches like the Lutherans, Roman Catholics, and Episcopalians) is built on the premise that people are forgetful by nature. We say the same creed and say the same prayers and retell the story of God every single Sunday (and often, several times at masses or Eucharists throughout the week) because we know how easy it is to forget the foundation our faith is built on–God’s love for and interaction with humanity.
This week, I’ve been in Minnesota, burying my paternal grandfather with the company of my grandma, siblings, parents, cousins, uncles and aunts. Over the course of the Sunday night wake, the Monday morning visiting hours and funeral, and the Tuesday morning interment at Fort Snelling National Cemetery, we spent a lot of time with our new friend, Shirley the funeral director, from the Cremation Society of Minnesota.
As we were parting ways on Tuesday, Shirley told us, with tears in her eyes, that in her many years and hundreds of funerals, she’d never seen a family so tight-knit, appropriate, timely, and full of love. My uncle responded, pointing to the wooden box still sitting on the casket frame, “it all started with him.” Grandpa’s witness of love and hard work is far from gone; it is alive and well in his children and grandchildren. Many times over the last weeks, Grandpa’s monologues or actions were explained with, “it was a very German thing to do,” or “Thomeys like to have a plan.” Constantly reminded of our heritage and roots, we are able to stand tall and confident, sure of our foundation in Alsacian blood and the culture that Chuck and Kay Thomey cultivated for their family.
The last month, I’ve been fortunate to hear family stories over and over again, to be amongst people who intuitively understand the need to know what time the next meal will be, the importance of debating various surface-road routes to popular destinations, and the itchy need to arrive 15 minutes early to everything. Whether you have a tight-knit biological, ancestral, or adopted family, you surely belong as part of God’s family.
And that’s the point of all the stories–whether about the German/Alsacian Thomeys, or about Midwesterners, or Southerners, or the clan which claims you–they’re imperfect snapshots and impressions of our one true family, God’s family. How much more are we (humanity) bound together and defined by the God who fills the world with his presence?