Whether you’ve been joining our conversations through the podcast, the blog, or the building we meet in, we probably sound like a broken record player. It feels like every other word we say is “remember” or something about remembering. I haven’t heard “remember” this much since the Coco soundtrack! However, we agree with the ancient Hebrew writers: the business of remembering is important work to healing and maturing in God as a community, so bear with us.
Many groups of humanity have only endured, overcome and thrived against oppression with the power of hope rooted in the collective memory of group who experienced freedom against all odds in the past. In Sunday’s passage, Deut. 20.1-4, God describes the mindset the Israelites should have before going into a war. Instead of amassing arms, identifying their toughest warriors, or strategizing their attack, God calls on the people to remember that they were once enslaved in Egypt, but now a liberated people. Hope fulfilled in their ancestors past was their greatest strength. Recalling how they had faced adversity before, yet were able to overcome in God’s comfort and power, produced what Brit called “hope earned.” A hope that stood against all odds; a hope that resisted an oppressive reality; a hope that lives on in the memory of following generations.
We have seen a similar hope in black people and communities in the U.S. where the memory of their ancestors' hopeful resistance provided the strength for them to face the next challenge in their community and dare to believe that they will survive and even flourish after it. For some communities, the hope is not always realized or experienced as fully hoped. For example, for over five hundred years my Puerto Rican ancestors have hoped for liberation and independence. While far from that, generation after generation of boricua has embodied a hopeful resistance which pushed back cultural erasure, circumvented racist legislation, and ceaselessly puts the spotlight on its colonizer’s abuse -- as seen in the current #renuncia protests. This earned hope of Boricuas everywhere fuels us all to continue to embody “Que Viva Puerto Rico!”
In these cases, however, only one particular “together” is being considered. How do we make hope a reality for multiple communities striving to embody life together, who also face challenges and embody hopes unique to their community? In a cultural atmosphere that wants to render disparate communities divided forever because of appearance or background, how do we find a way to unite and make hope a reality for us all? This is a tough question, but a real question; a question that can't be answered fully here. However, IMO it will begin to happen when we take the time to learn each others story of despair and hope to the point where our neighbor’s stories become our stories as well, their work of actualizing hope remembered becomes our work. This was the collaborative work of Jew and Gentile Christians at Jesus' table. This was the work of Civil Rights groups in the 60s to embody the beloved community. This is our work now -- to hope and remember together.