African Heritage/Black History Month is ending and Lent is beginning. History requires remembering and remembering is more than cerebral recall and reflection.
The opposite of remembering is actually dismembering – killing a thing by isolating its parts. So true remembering pulls everything together: facts and feelings; remorse and pride; thoughts and actions; soul, mind and body – and not just yours, for it’s best done in community (corporate remembrance of our Lord’s death is called communion). And it’s timeless. Past failures and triumphs carry us through present sorrow and joy and unto future hope. Remembering is an embodying, life-giving experience.
We asked Gavin McCombie of First Baptist Church Dartmouth about Black History Month he immediately thought of Nelson Mandela’s funeral. It was a full-bodied event. There was regret. Non-blacks, especially, had to consider the landscape of racial injustice in which Mandela suffered, survived and soared. There was loss and concern. How much would South Africa (and the world) miss his wisdom and integrity? But there was also joy.
It was the celebrations of Mandela’s tribal people and the clash of funeral “cultures” that struck Gavin. At one point, the speech of a foreign statesman was drowned out by the dancing and ululating of native people rejoicing over their native son. His legacy outweighed their loss.
You always experience this robust remembering at African heritage activities. There’s no side stepping around past and present injustices and no denial of their consequences, but heroines and heroes (from politicians to performers) and enduring character and culture are celebrated as well – celebrated not just because they happened, but because they can happen again and are now more likely to.
Indeed, remembering brings both the track and the grandstand into clearer focus. We realize we’re surrounded – surrounded by witnesses whose former Olympian feats of freedom help us be faster, higher, stronger. And as they watch us, we watch Jesus.
African Heritage and all overcomers and contributors – the world’s Mandela’s, Preston’s, Oliver’s and Clayton’s (a few former African United Baptist achievers) – remind us of our Lord Jesus Christ. And who has endured, forgiven and blessed more than him?
He is now seated higher than all but is also sharing our lane, running (skating?) with us and for us. His speed, strength, records and medals are ours and there’s more to be won. So he tells us to pull ourselves together, to sacrifice, to run, to dance – to re-member well.