Do you still have ashes on your forehead? It’s okay to wash them off. Yesterday was Ash Wednesday; Lent is upon is. If you missed hearing about how City Church does Lent, head over and read Leo’s introduction to our Lent series here. Yesterday many gathered all over the world to remember they are but dust, and to dust they shall return.
Remembering can be funny, and it’s not to be confused with nostalgia. Nostalgia is like the time when my husband and I had just bought a home in a southern town and a man walked past and welcomed us to the neighborhood saying, “It’s just like the 1950s here!” My husband and I looked at each other wide-eyed. Was housing in the 1950s supposed to be a good thing? Some of our other new neighbors had been part of the Great Migration out of the South. They couldn’t have been our neighbors in the 1950s.
James K.A. Smith, a Christian philosopher argues, “Instead of drawing on the past like a well to nourish our imagination going forward, nostalgia mourns a mythical ‘golden age’ while conveniently forgetting the injustices in the history.” Nostalgia can be selective. Lent is not nostalgia: “a biblical imagination remembers forward . . . The biblical command to remember is written in the future tense.” Christians are a future oriented people who use memory to propel us to seek the good of our neighbors.
Our histories are a mixed bag of fond memories and broken realities, but honest remembering moves us out of self-absorption and instead makes life about someone else. The mission of City Church seeks to bring beauty into broken places—to seek the good of our city not as heroes, but as those who remember our own need. In our longing for Jesus to bring shalom, we serve others.
This Lent series focuses on practices for individuals to know God, but these are not to be practiced only at the individual level. We remember better together. Take some time this Lent to care for someone in need, to break bread with others, to mourn with those who mourn, to rejoice with those who rejoice, because honest, hopeful memory requires others. Smith continues, “He is risen!’ is the joyous shout of a people who remember he was buried.”