Try To Remember


These are my thoughts for the past week as well as for this Sunday, May 9, 2010, the 6th Sunday of Easter and Mother’s Day. The Scriptures for this Sunday are Acts 16: 9 – 15, Revelation 21: 1 – 10, 22 – 22: 5, and John 14: 23 -29.

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The title of this piece comes about because of a little news blurb this past week. It was noted that the musical, “The Fantasticks” was something like fifty years old last week and was the longest running musical on Broadway before it closed a few years ago. It also noted that those who backed this musical when it first started received something on the order of a 2,000% return on their initial investment. But as I was reading this little tidbit of information, I was trying to remember the music that was associated with the show.

And then as I tried to remember the songs, a jolt of neurons hit my brain. The song in question is and was “Try to Remember”!

That’s the thing about our memory. We can remember things if we have the right motive or the proper aid. But we also need to have something in our minds that will bring it back to us. As I did some searching about the musical and the songs, it was noted that the late Jerry Orbach was the singer in the musical. Most people only know him as one of the detectives on the television show “Law & Order” and know little about his early acting and musical career.

Along those same lines, I was chatting with a help-desk tech the other day as we were trying to resolve a particular computer issue. It was necessary for me to reboot the computer and as it was doing so, that insidious little piece of Windows music played. I mentioned that I used to have a clip of “Elvis has left the building” that played when I would shut down my computer.

I asked the techie if she knew who Elvis was and she replied that she did. But when I asked her if she knew what band Paul McCartney was in before “Wings”, she couldn’t tell me. That is the way it goes sometimes. What constitutes part of life for some of us is only ancient history for others and it is quickly forgotten after it is studied, if it is studied at all. I wonder how many mothers and grandmothers there are today who are fearful their children and grandchildren will see pictures of them on the Ed Sullivan Show screaming and shouting when the Beatles or Elvis first played?

But my reminiscing about the music of my youth also reminded me of another song and what transpired forty years ago last week. Forty years ago, on May 4, 1970, four students where shot by Ohio National Guardsman. The incident and I think the protests across the nation concerning what President Nixon had ordered done in Viet Nam prompted Neil Young to write “Ohio”. I remember being a part of a protest at my school (Truman State) but I don’t know if we knew that four students had been shot. I also know that very few people today remember that two students were killed at Jackson State University in Mississippi that same day.

In light of what is transpiring in this country, both socially, politically, and environmentally, perhaps we should be doing a little more remembering. We, collectively, stood by and allowed our his country to begin an ill-conceived war in Iraq; it was a war conceived in lies and more lies and it continues today. The war in Afghanistan is now considered a separate theater of operations by the Army so that it can transfer troops from Iraq to Afghanistan and call each a separate tour. It promises to be a war that shall go on for a very long time.

I remember studying in my history classes about the “Forty Years War” and the “Hundred Years War” and wondering how a war could last for one, two, and even three generations. Now, as I read the reports from Iraq and Afghanistan and I see how we propose to fight terrorism, I no longer have to wonder. I am watching history develop its own story line in my own lifetime and I am watching my generation, who protested the war in Viet Nam and walked the streets in support of civil rights and free speech stand quietly on the sidelines, not in protest but in quiet acquiescence.

We have, in this country, a selective memory. We will send our troops overseas to fight in a war, bring them home for a short period of time, and then send them out again. Oh, yes, we will celebrate their return; as the song goes, “the men will cheer and the boys will shout and the ladies, they will all turn out, when Johnny comes marching home”.

But we have chosen to forget the darker side of “When Johnny Comes Marching Home”; the side goes something like this:

Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye

With your drums and guns and guns and drums, hurroo, hurroo

With your drums and guns and guns and drums, hurroo, hurroo

With your drums and guns and guns and drums,

The enemy nearly slew ye

Oh my darling dear, Ye look so queer

Johnny I hardly knew ye

Where are your eyes that were so mild, hurroo, hurroo

Where are your eyes that were so mild, hurroo, hurroo

Where are your eyes that were so mild,

When my heart you so beguiled

Why did ye run from me and the child

Oh Johnny, I hardly knew ye

Where are your legs that used to run, hurroo, hurroo

Where are your legs that used to run, hurroo, hurroo

Where are your legs that used to run,

When you went for to carry a gun

Indeed your dancing days are done

Oh Johnny, I hardly knew ye

Ye haven’t an arm, ye haven’t a leg, hurroo, hurroo

Ye haven’t an arm, ye haven’t a leg, hurroo, hurroo

Ye haven’t an arm, yhe haven’t a leg,

Ye’re an armless, boneless, chickenless egg

Ye’ll have to put with a bowl out to beg

Oh Johnny I hardly knew ye

They’re rolling out the guns again, hurroo, hurroo

They’re rolling out the guns again, hurroo, hurroo

They’re rolling out the guns again,

But they never will take our sons again

No they never will take our sons again

Johnny I’m swearing to ye

(From http://www.instantknowledgenews.com/johnny.htm)

We would rather not know the consequences of our actions because then we would have to face up to the reality of life. And we prefer life where “reality” is a show on television, not what we have to face in life.

Now, what does all of this have to do with Mother’s Day? Well, from my point of view, there are two things. First, one year when I was in school, I gave my mother a pendant that said “War is not healthy for children and other living things” as a Mother’s Day gift. It came from an organization called “Another Mother for Peace” that had formed back in 1967 in opposition to the Viet Nam war. I thought it would have “disappeared” but I discovered that it is still around and it is still very active in the causes of eliminating war as a means of solving disputes between peoples, nations, and ideologies.

My mother wasn’t exactly thrilled with this gift but she knew that it came from her son and she told me that she loved me as her son and would always do so. A parent need not always approve or support their child’s actions and beliefs but they need to love them as a child and as a person. John writes in his Gospel that Jesus said those who love Him will keep His word will be loved by the Father. Those who do not love Jesus do not keep His words.

We have, in this country today, changed the meaning of that love to where it is almost hatred. We no longer love the other people on this planet but would rather ignore them when they come home wounded from war or throw them in jail for coming into this country illegally to find work. The issue cannot be about throwing people in jail because they are here illegally but rather resolving the issues about why these people seek work in this country. We are so caught up in our own self-interests we would rather ignore the real economic problems of this world than try to solve them.

And we do not remember that those who came to the shores of this country some 400 years ago could easily be considered illegal immigrants and we choose to ignore the fact that we essentially stole this continent from its inhabitants.

We have forgotten that Christians were first known by the love they expressed for others in their community and outside as well. In the eyes of many, Christianity is sexist, racist, and exclusionary. The actions of so many today, operating in hate and angry have made Christianity evil rather than good. And we have forgotten that women were a powerful force in the early church. Go back and read the account of Paul’s travels in the selection from Acts as well as his opening remarks in his early letters and contrast that to the operations of the church today. Somewhere along the line, we have forgotten what we were and who we were; perhaps it would be well for us to remember.

And to borrow a phrase from the beginnings of the 1970s environmental movement, perhaps we should listen to Mother Earth more closely. We seem to think that we can do whatever we want to this planet but the tragedy and catastrophe that is taking place in the Gulf should be a reminder of what happens when we do not care for this planet properly. We seem to think that the only answer to our energy problems is to drill more holes in the earth’s crust and we have decided that safety is only one part of the equation and that it is to be factored against the cost of production. We have made the production of energy more important than the well-being of the workers. We seek to tap the same old energy sources and run the risk of damaging, beyond repair, the climate of this planet upon which we live.

We take the words that John the Seer wrote in Revelation and make them the end of the earth, not the beginning of a new life (because we fail to remember that the scenario of an apocalypse is a 19th century creation, not the vision of a 1st century mystic). The Seer cared for the people of this earth and he saw a new world, founded on the love that God had for his people and expressed through the mission and work of His Son.

On this day, when we remember our own mothers with flowers and phone calls, let us also remember the love that a parent has for a child. And then let us remember that Our Father in Heaven so loved us that He sent His Son to save us from our sins. His Son’s death on the Cross will not be in vain if we remember why we call this the season of Easter and perhaps it will help us to remember where we have been and what we have so that we can begin anew and complete the task begun two thousand years ago.

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