John 13:1–17, 31b–35 (NRSV)
I think we remember tactile things better—as in touches and tastes. It was Maundy Thursday—an evening for eating the Passover Seder together, for foot-washing, for marking foreheads with soot. As each person stood before me, I traced a cross on their foreheads with old palm branches burned and mixed with holy oil. As I looked each person in the eye, I said “Remember, (name), that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” It was stunning to do this because I realized that some among this number would die and be buried before the next Maundy Thursday service. One year that number included my beloved mother-in-law, Gertrude.
That is why memory is so important. It ties us to the past, binds us together in the present, and prepares us for the future in whatever form it will take. How could we live without the hope that memory instills?
For all the saints who from their labors rest, we give you thanks today, gracious Lord. Blessed be the memory, witness, and example of such an amazing cloud of witnesses! Thank you for the gift of living well—and dying well. In Jesus’ name. Amen.