Re-membering: the second Christological framework for pastoral supervision

The word re-member indicates the deeper significance of memory, place, and bodies. To re-member is to weave back together. Gifford identifies the interconnecting threads of re-membering by noting the various strands of Australian Aboriginal songlines—the Dreaming stories, practical information (migratory, food-gathering, waterholes), secret and sacred sites—‘all those strands, which we analytically tease out and separate into discrete categories, are woven into one cable, the lifeline of articulate memory that sustains all things’.32 I propose the kind of re-membering for pastoral supervision that is the lifeline that sustains all things: Gifford’s zone of remembering. Across the Pacific Ocean, the First Peoples of North America bore witness to the power of re-membering at Standing Rock. The testimony of Grande and McCarty is powerfully prophetic:

Beyond the spectacle, however, Standing Rock provided the opportunity for a hard reset, a literal re-grounding and 're-membering' of Indigenous relations and relationality as the grist of the past and hope for the future. The Lakota teachings of mitakuye oyasin (we are all related) not only withstood but prevailed against the violences of neoliberal capitalism and settler colonialism. It is the antidote.33

Lives of ancient people were sustained by re-membering place and memories: from Australia’s First Peoples and their songlines (the oldest, continuing culture in the world) to the Hebrew people of God and their Mosaic code. Contemporary people, by comparison, are displaced and distracted. Technological advances have rendered those of us gifted with good memories somewhat irrelevant (a trivia night at the pub or a fundraiser a rare exception). Virtual assistants (such as Siri and Alexa) can answer most of our questions, retrieve the information we require from vast sources quickly, and remind us where to turn or whom to call. What part of the globe we inhabit seems to matter less, particularly for the privileged.

If re-membering place, bodies, and memory appears obsolete, then something hidden and precious has been lost from our lives: being re-membered. I do not merely mean forgetting a name or a face. What happens when our distracted and displaced culture forgets our common home, forgets peoples’ dignity and honour and the land, water, air, plants, and animals that sustain life? The primary emphasis of a re-membering Jesus is not the active verb (people can—and should—remember Jesus) but as a gerund: Jesus is an agent who remembers us. The two aspects are, naturally, woven together. In the Lukan narrative of the passion, the cross, and the resurrection, however, the clear emphasis is on Jesus as the One who remembers—in the garden the night before his death, on the cross moments before he dies, and then in another garden in the early moments of his resurrection. Luke’s Christology is characteristically shaped by the remembering Jesus: the Jesus who remembers.

Postscript: un-remembered by Jesus from the cross—the first wrongdoer (Luke 23:39-43)

The conversation between Jesus and the two wrongdoers crucified with him is peculiar to Luke. Some commentators believe it constitutes the core of Luke’s crucifixion narrative. Luke is the only gospel recording the response of repentance by one of those crucified with him. One of those condemned to die with Jesus responds with repentance and receives the promise of salvation; the other rejects the possibility of grace and calls down judgement and condemnation on himself.

Speaking at a conference of bishops and theological educators in 2016 in Uganda, I was challenged by the conference patron, Bishop Duncan, that I had too little to say about the unrepentant and the unreconciled person: the un-remembered according to Miroslav Volf.34 For example, in Jesus’ parable of Luke Chapter 15, it is the elder brother who remains unrepentant and unreconciled. From the cross, it is the first wrongdoer who does not encounter God’s mercy in the remembering Jesus. The first wrongdoer, according to Luke’s gospel, dies tragically: he does not contemplate his death, he refuses to critique his own life and actions, and remains thoroughly unconverted. Socrates warned of the dangers of the unexamined life. Here, writ large in Luke’s story of the cross, is the fatal nature of one such life. What does Luke tell us about this unrepentant, unreconciled, and un-remembered figure? First, this figure cannot, or will not, see and recognise Christ the mediator, the remembering Jesus. Instead he sees only a potential saviour, a convenient miracle worker saying,‘Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’ (Lk. 23:39). Why can’t he see and recognise the merciful rule of King Jesus? This wrongdoer’s heart is full of derision and contempt; according to Luke, ‘one of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him’. The original language here gives deeper insight into the unreconciled: eblasphemei: to speak in a disrespectful way that demeans, denigrates, maligns. In relation to humans, this expresses itself in slander, revile, defaming the other; disrespect and lack of honour, as we discovered in the parable of the prodigal. In relation to God, this expresses itself as blasphemy, lack of worship, lack of faith. In the heart of one who refuses to contemplate, critique, or convert, it becomes the self-interest that kills. This kind of self-reliance, selfjustification, self-promotion, self-centredness is the bondage of the will, according to Luther. This is a zone of forgetfulness, outside the memory of God, un-remembered by Jesus.

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