On Saturday I was privileged to speak at Riverview Estates’ “Founder’s Day.” My message makes up today’s blog post.
Memory is a powerful thing. It ties us to a reality greater than the world immediately around us. It connects our personal journey to the journeys of other people — past, present, and future. It reminds us we came from somewhere, and through it that “somewhere” calls to us, “Don’t forget our stories.” Memory is such a powerful force that when Jesus prepared his disciples for the work they would do after his death and resurrection he gave them the refrain, “Do this in remembrance of me.” Memory is a gift from God.
Sadly, as with all gifts from God, Memory can be twisted from it’s Godly design and replaced with something toxic. When memory becomes solely about things done in the past it loses it beneficial impact. When this happens, we feel the ache of nostalgia – a longing for what was, to the neglect both present and future. Memory becomes a dream which we use as a defense against unwelcome reality.
This certainly isn’t the point of memory in Scripture. When Jesus handed his disciples bread and wine and said, “Remember” it etched in them not only a thought of a time in the past – it also a gave them a reminder in the present and a hope for the future. This memory was so strong among our early brothers and sisters that there has never been a time when the Church has not celebrated the Lord’s supper in some form – and when we celebrate it the past, present, and future work of God are meant to be remembered by Jesus’ people. In a way, memory defines us – and when all aspects of it are allowed to burn in our hearts we move forward in our pursuit of Jesus.
This brings us to a day like Founder’s Day here at Riverview. As a lover of history, I’m always wary of the intoxicating effects of nostalgia – living in the dream of past greatness. For those who don’t know me, I’m a teeny bit cynical – and I’ve seen far too many churches celebrate nostalgia with anniversary galas long after the Church itself had died inside. Is that what Founder’s Day is? It is merely the intoxicating scent of past greatness being stirred up year after year after year?
I don’t think so.
We do remember our past this day, as well we should. Mary Leverich’s gift of $65,000 helped establish a home, and without that generosity this community called Riverview Estates would not today exist. But see, there’s that word “today.” If that gift had been given in 1951 and that was all that occurred, Riverview would not be worth celebrating. Praise God more happened. The home expanded, it’s offerings grew, the original vision as a home for Baptists was expanded to include Christians of all stripes. What exists now is not the vision the founders had for the Baptist Home – but the Riverview we currently celebrate exists because we remember that gift and let that memory drive us to continued faithfulness to the Lord who occasioned it. Our memory, celebrated today, also drives us forward into the future – helping Riverview do more than survive. Rather, this community looks ahead to ways it can surge into new life and mission so that residents can continue to have in this place what they have had for decades – a home. Happy Founder’s day, everyone. To God be the glory. Amen.