The 2002 Princeton Lectures on
Youth, Church, and Culture

Compass Points: Navigating Vocation


The fundamental question of adolescence—”Who am I?”—is increasingly answered by our society with “You are what you buy.” As youth navigate the choppy waters of identity formation, they long for true meaning and direction but often settle for defining themselves as consumers. The church offers youth a compass for their journey that is pointed by the cross. Christian vocation gives young people validity, purpose, and direction. As youth take up their crosses and follow Christ, they learn to rely on built-­‐in GPS (global positioning system) to set their course. The good news we can share with young people is that God is calling them to a unique identity and task. They need only listen and respond. The 2002 Princeton Lectures on Youth, Church, and Culture explore how the church can help youth discern their life’s calling and their vocation as teenagers.

Deborah van Deusen Hunsinger sees a paradox in Christian vocation. Vocation is an astonishing gift from God and yet also a human task and responsibility. She raises the question of how we in the church can teach youth to trust fully that God will speak to them, and yet also urge them to map out their life plans as best they can. Hunsinger argues that the teaching of the church about the nature of the God who calls them can provide youth with much-­‐needed guidance in the face of dizzying choices. Young people need to know that the God who created them has given particular gifts unique to each creature; the Christ who redeems them saves them from aimlessness and sin; the Holy Spirit who sustains them creates the community where they may be fully seen as who they are and where they can be called forth. The church community also has an obligation, says Hunsinger, to help youth identify and call forth their gifts.

Joyce Ann Mercer urges the church to take seriously the vocation of young people and of the adults who minister with them. After examining Christian theological understandings of vocation throughout history, Mercer links the vocation of youth to identity, community, and solidarity. She also lifts up youth ministry as a legitimate lifelong vocation rather than a steppingstone to “real” ministry. She claims that youth ministers are people who share with all Christians the one call to ministry, that God’s Spirit gives certain gifts to people with a vocation for youth ministry, and that the vocation of youth ministry draws its meaning, character, and work from the one call to ministry and from God’s calling of youth.

Miroslav Volf addresses a crucial question for Christians in today’s world: If memory is part and parcel of the way we relate to one another in situations of conflict, then how does one who loves remember injuries and injustices? Volf discusses the importance of memory with a particular emphasis on the role it plays in the contemporary world. He points out that while memories give us identity and can promote justice, they can also become roots of bitterness and obstacles to reconciliation. Volf goes on to explore what it takes to remember in redeeming rather than in destructive ways. He considers how the proper remembrance of the exodus from Egypt and the resurrection of Jesus Christ inform the task of redemptive remembering.

Michael Warren challenges us to consider what youth ministry in a church of radical discipleship might look like. How, he asks, can the church help youth move from being conspicuous consumers to having a commitment to the poor and to gospel simplicity? Warren contrasts the gestures of consumerism with the gestures of the gospel, and he lifts up examples of ministries that are teaching young people not simply what they ought to believe but what concrete skills are needed for living out the gospel. Warren also discusses the power of social influences on youth and on their ability to be influences in their own right. When the church is a community living out gospel alternatives to consumer culture, he argues, it offers youth a powerful vision of life’s purposes and possibilities.

May these lectures remind you of your own true vocation and equip you to accompany young people as they listen for God’s call.

Faithfully Yours,
Amy Scott Vaughn
Director of Leadership Development
Institute for Youth Ministry

2002 Lectures

Deborah Hunsinger
  • Vocation: An Inexpressible Gift
  • Vocation: A Joyous Task
Joyce Ann Mercer
  • Call Forwarding: Putting Vocation in the Present Tense with Youth
  • Are We Going on a Vocation Now? Ministry with Youth as a Lifelong Vocation
Miroslav Volf
  • Love’s Memory: The Role of Memory in Contempory Culture
  • Love’s Memory: Redemptive Remembering
Michael Warren
  • Youth Ministry in an Inconvenient Church
  • Cultural Resistance in Youth: Problems and Possibilities
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Love's Memory:
Redemptive Remembering

Miroslav Volf is the Henry B. Wright Professor of Systematic Theology at Yale University Divinity School. Prior to his appointment at Yale, he taught at Fuller Theological Seminary and at the Evangelical-Theological Faculty in Osijek, Croatia. He is the author of many books, including After Our Likeness: The Church As an Image of the Triune God; Work in the Spirit: Toward a Theology of Work; and Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation for which he was awarded the 2002 Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Religion.

Love's Memory: Redemptive Remembering

In my first lecture I outlined four ways in which the question of memory has become particularly important for us in contemporary societies. I talked first about faltering stories, the tendency in contemporary culture toward quick forgetting, and the corresponding need to hold on to memories. Second, I discussed the importance of memory for constituting our identity; we generally describe who we are by telling stories about ourselves. Also, the presence of memory gives a sense of richness to our identity and experience, while the absence of memory results in a contrasting dullness or one-dimensionality of life. Third, I spoke about the relationship between memory, joy, and pain. Remembered joy is repeated joy, and remembered pain is repeated pain. Finally, I explored the relationship between memory, justice, and acknowledgment. Especially in the discussions of the Holocaust and totalitarian regimes, the pursuit of memory has been seen as integral to the protection of peoples or individuals. These are some important reasons why in contemporary culture we hear a drumbeat, "Remember! Remember!"

At the end of my first lecture, I briefly mentioned the ambiguity of memories. While memories give us identity and can promote justice, they can also become roots of bitterness and obstacles to reconciliation. My goal for this lecture is to describe helpful and reconciling ways in which we can go about remembering.

I will suggest four "rules" of remembering: 1. Remember truthfully. 2. Remember in a way that heals your identity. 3. Remember so as to learn from the past. 4. Remember in a redeeming way. In the final portion of my lecture, I will describe in more detail how one might go about remembering in a redeeming way, by considering two crucial events that the Bible commands its readers to remember: 1. the exodus of the people of Israel from Egypt, and 2. the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I will suggest some ways in which the proper remembrance of these great, saving events has implications for how we go about remembering our hurtful experiences, both at the personal and social level.

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1. Memory and Truthfulness

It may seem that the rule "Remember truthfully" is so obvious as to be redundant. It seems as if the word "remember" contains within itself an obligation to truthfulness. If I ask my friend, "Do you remember Anna's phone number?" and he replies, "Of course I remember Anna's phone number; it's 203-555-1234." If I call her, and lo-and-behold, Jill responds, and no Anna lives there, I would say to my friend, "You have remembered wrong!" At a very basic level, truthfulness is almost implied in the idea of remembering.

In addition, there is a moral obligation to remember. For instance, consider the following situation: I was skiing at Mammoth Mountain in California with my friend Alexander. One evening, when Alexander was present, I said to my friends, "Today we went up chair 26 to the top of the mountain, and we skied down Drop Out." Alexander looked at me and said, "No, no, no, remember, we turned left and skied down Wipe Out, right?" Or Alexander could have said, "Come on, you're pulling the legs of these people. We never skied Drop Out or Wipe Out, you're only making up this story to give the impression that you can ski double black diamonds!" You see, the truth is important; if I tell a story, I have an obligation to render it right, to remember it right. This obligation is heightened if my story reflects well or badly on a person's character. Suppose I told this story: "From the top of the chairlift, we started skiing toward Drop Out; Alexander was a bit shaky when he looked at this almost sheer vertical drop, but I just went straight down, no problem." But Alexander replies, "Wait a second, you chickened out! You wanted to go and ski all the way around the back of the mountain; I was the one who started going down!" If Alexander were correct, I would have done an injustice to him (and a rather unpleasant injustice to myself) if I did not remember things quite right. Remembering right or truthfully is essential when we tell stories of personal experiences; this rule is especially important in cases that involve transgression of one party against another.

There are people, of course, who would say that there are no such things as truthful memories. They argue that truth is merely a dominant opinion within a particular culture or a dominant group. There is no such thing as objective truth; therefore, memories (and all other statements or stories) are simply perspectives of various people. Of course, in situations of conflict or injury, perspectives play an extraordinarily important role. We all see things from our particular angles; we tell stories from our particular angles. But that does not mean that any memory is as good as any other or that "truth" page 73 is no more than the dominant opinion. Our perspectives and interests notwithstanding, one can speak meaningfully of more or less truthful memories. Our goal should be to remember as truthfully as possible, no matter what our perspectives and interests are. In fact, in situations of conflict and injury, the truthful telling of the story matters profoundly. For example, think of the times you have seen or been involved in an argument (between a husband and wife, boyfriend and girlfriend, parent and child, or whomever). One party almost inevitably accuses the other of being willfully blind to the facts of the matter, of misquoting or misrepresenting the other. This blindness and misrepresentation are perceived as injurious, over and above the original transgression. If we care about other people and our relationship with them, we will feel obligated genuinely to seek the truth. Think of a portrait: a portrait can be more or less true to the character of the person represented. As Paul Ricoeur has argued, just as portraits should be true to the character, our stories must reflect truthfully on the persons involved. So the rule "Remember truthfully" is indispensable.

2. Memory and Identity

You might think that this first rule would suffice. After all, if everyone remembers truthfully, everyone will agree on what has transpired. However, the rule "Remember truthfully" is inadequate, because it does not address the use of memory. We almost always do things with our memories: we call people whose phone numbers we remember; we share confidential information with people who have been trustworthy in the past; we avoid contact with people whom we remember to be dishonorable or unpleasant. We do not usually memorize information for its own sake.

The use of memory is also important because what we do with our memories places constraints on what we are willing to remember. Here's a wonderful aphorism from Friedrich Nietzsche's "Beyond Good and Evil": "'I have done this,' says my memory. 'I cannot have done this,' says my pride, and remains inexorable. Eventually, memory yields." 1 We suppress unpleasant truths, unpleasant memories. Freudian psychoanalysis is predicated on this propensity of ours to suppress what is unpleasant. The apostle Paul spoke also about this propensity in Romans 1:18, where he described "people who suppress truth with ungodliness."

Tzvetan Todorov, a French writer of Bulgarian origin, in his essay "The Abuses of Memory" distinguishes between "exemplary" use of memory and "literal" use of memory. First, let me say a few words about the literal use of memory (or, as I prefer to designate it, the "identity-healing" use of memory).

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Identity-healing memory is concerned only with the individual or group in question. We seek to understand events in the context of our own personal or group narrative. We ask questions such as: What caused this event to happen? How did it impact me? How does this experience fit into my life as a whole? Trauma literature operates with such identity-healing memory. One who has experienced a traumatic event—an event of such magnitude that its memory is beyond one's control—finds healing by recalling the event, integrating the event into one's own story, and finding a way to live with that event.

3. Memory and Learning

Though the identity-healing use of memory is important, I will focus primarily on the exemplary use of memory. In contrast to the identity-healing use of memory, the "exemplary" use is concerned not so much with a plausible reconstruction of one's own narrative as with applying the lessons learned to new situations. I remember an event in my own life and ask: What general principles can be learned from this experience? How may these principles be applied to situations in the future? In Todorov's words, "I open this memory to analogy and to generalization, I make of it an exemplum and I extract a lesson from it; the past thus becomes a principle of action for the present." 2 Todorov summarizes the difference between literal (or identity-healing) and exemplary use of memory: "Literal use, which renders the event impossible to go beyond, comes back [down] in the last analysis to submitting the present to the past. Exemplary use, by contrast, allows one to use the past in light of the present, to make use of lessons of injustice undergone in the past to fight injustices taking their course today, to leave the self in order to approach the other." 3 We regularly "use the past in light of the present" in everyday life. We remember that it is not safe to walk in downtown Baltimore late at night, so we take a cab to our hotel; or we remember the same fact, and determine to work to make downtown neighborhoods safer or to get rid of the sensationalist ways of reporting about crime that make us feel that our neighborhoods are less safe than they in fact are. In the political and social arena, exemplary use of memory is also prudent: as the well-known saying of Santayana puts it, "Those who do not know their history are doomed to repeat it." Or we apply the lesson learned from our own history to a new situation that involves others: On account of injustice we have suffered, we decide to fight injustice done now to others.

Just like the previous two rules we have discussed—"Remember truthfully!" and "Remember in a way that heals you"—the rule "Remember so as to learn from the past" is good as far as it goes. But it does not go far page 75 enough. The exemplary use of memory by itself is beset by two problems.

First, how does one correctly identify a situation in which to apply a memory? It is never easy to say with a sufficient degree of accuracy, "This [present situation] is like that [past situation]." For example, we are all called to remember the Holocaust of European Jews during the Second World War. The injunction to remember the Holocaust is directly linked with the injunction "Never again!"—we remember so as to ensure that this kind of event will never be repeated. And yet, as we were repeating the phrase "Never again!" over past decades, genocides were taking place, some even more horrible than the Holocaust. Samantha Power's book A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide is a fascinating account of a century of American indifference to genocide. (The indifference is not just American, of course; Power's book is implicitly an indictment against most of the world.)

The problem is not just a lack of will to get involved. Even with a genuine commitment in place for "that" never to happen again, one still has to identify what "that" is in a different situation. How does one assess who are the Nazis and who are the Jews? During the Second World War there was a clear distinction between those two groups. But in many situations today it is not at all clear who is a "Jew" and who is a "Nazi." Of course, in some situations the distinction is quite clear. If a woman walks down the street and gets raped, it is clear who is a "Jew" and who is a "Nazi." But the longer people interact, either on a personal or social level, the less clear the distinction between "Jew" and "Nazi" becomes. For example, in the former Yugoslavia, or in Israel and Palestine, or in Northern Ireland, the situation is not quite clear. Of course, in some people's view, the reality is absolutely clear; but there is considerable room for doubt because of the sheer complexity of the historical, political, social, economic, and cultural factors in each situation. The lack of clarity makes it difficult to apply the lessons of memory.

The second major problem with the exemplary use of memory is that we do not know exactly what a particular past situation exemplifies. Todorov assumes that "injustice undergone in the past" teaches us "to fight injustices taking their course today." That seems right, but it is not clear that injustice undergone in the past teaches us to struggle justly against injustice today. I might well conclude that in a dog-eat-dog world it is power, rather than justice, that holds sway. If I can have power with justice, certainly that will be better than power without justice, but it is power to keep the other in check that matters, not justice. If I adopt this perspective, I will probably learn the following lesson from past injustices: "If you don't get them, they'll get you; therefore I ought to strike preemptively." And so we are almost back where page 76 we started. To advocate the exemplary use of memory seems to restate the original problem as a solution. Most significant abuses of memory rest precisely on treating memory as an example, but doing so in a wrong way. For the problem is not that people fail to draw lessons from memory but that they do so in a way that flames the fires of conflict rather than contributing to peace.

So, the rules "remember truthfully," "remember in a way that heals your identity," and "learn from the past" are all essential, but they do not suffice. I think that we need to place the action of remembering in a larger ethical and theological framework. But what should the framework be? In the remainder of this lecture, I will explore some resources from the biblical traditions for delineating helpful uses of memory. In particular, I will focus on ways we are encouraged to remember the two central events of redemptive history—Israel's exodus from Egypt and Christ's death on the cross.

4. Israel's Exodus

Memory is of central importance in the Bible, especially in the Old Testament. In his classic book Zakhor: Jewish History and Jewish Memory, Yosef Yerushalmi writes:

Only in Israel, and nowhere else, is the injunction to remember felt as a religious imperative to an entire people. Its reverberations are everywhere, but they reach crescendo in the Deuteronomic history and in the Prophets. "Remember the days of old, consider the years of ages past" (Deuteronomy 32:7). "Remember these things, O Jacob, for you, O Israel, are my servant; I have fashioned you, you are my servant; O Israel, never forget me" (Isaiah 44:21). "Remember what Amalek did to you" (Deuteronomy 25:17). And, with hammering insistence: "Remember that you were a slave in Egypt" (Deuteronomy 5:15; 15:15; 16:12; 24:18). 4

The whole of Israel's life is defined by memory, especially the memory of liberation from slavery in Egypt. But we need to note more than just the importance of memory. Two things about the way in which Israel went about remembering are significant for our purposes. First, Yerushalmi notes an important difference between history and memory. History is primarily a matter of intellection and its vehicle is historiography; memory is primarily a matter of identification and its vehicles are commemorative rituals and liturgies. What memory draws from the past is not "a series of facts to be contemplated at a distance, but a series of situations into which one could page 77 somehow be existentially drawn." 5 There is hardly a better example of Jewish memory than the Passover Seder, a ritual meal designed to commemorate Israel's deliverance from slavery in Egypt. The purpose of this ritual meal is not simply to transmit information about the past. Rather, it is intended to transmit a vital past through time. "The entire Seder is a symbolic enactment of a historical scenario whose three great acts structure the Haggadah that is read aloud: slavery—deliverance—ultimate redemption." 6 This memory of the past is so present in the celebration that one is not merely recollecting something that has happened then, but one is drawn into that event today. In the words of the Talmud: "In each and every generation, each person can regard himself as though he has emerged from Egypt." 7 Memory makes present the past event of redemption; it is not mere recollection "which still preserves a sense of distance, but reactualization." 8 Put differently, liberation from slavery in Egypt is your experience. It is not only something that happened then, to them; it is also something that is happening now, to you.

As we will see later, the same is true of our celebration of the Lord's Supper. We are not simply remembering what happened to Christ 2000 years ago. We are celebrating what has in a very real sense happened to us in Christ. When we celebrate the Lord's Supper, we were there. The celebration of the Lord's Supper is so significant because it is our event; Christ's death applied to us by faith.

My second point regarding the way in which Israel went about remembering is that the Israelites did not simply remember their own suffering, enslavement, and liberation; they remembered that God had heard their cries, that God had delivered them. This notion of God's involvement is a crucial structuring element in Israel's memory. God heard the cries and God liberated; therefore, God has a claim on Israel. Israel owes its deliverance and therefore its existence to God and so must obey God's commandments. Israel's memory, therefore, reinforces Israel's obedience to God and, inversely, Israel's obedience to God takes the form of right remembering.

For my purposes, the most significant examples of the interrelation between obedience and memory are the commandments that link Israel's former slavery in Egypt with Israel's present treatment of slaves and aliens. In Deuteronomy 15:12-15, we read:

If a fellow Hebrew, a man or a woman, sells himself to you and serves you six years, in the seventh year you must let him go free. And when you release him, do not send him away empty-handed. Supply him liberally from your flock, your treasure or your wine press. Give him as the Lord your God has blessed you. And then, page 78 remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you. This is why I give you this command today.

Treatment of aliens, and not just of Israelite slaves, is motivated in a similar way by appeal to divine redemption from Egypt:

Do not deprive the alien or the fatherless of justice, or take the cloak from the widow as a pledge. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you from there. This is why I give you this command. (Deuteronomy 24:17-18)

Memory here undergirds the commands, and the commands in return dictate how one ought to remember.

We see here a certain form of exemplary memory at work. Israel is supposed to learn something from its own oppression and deliverance. Significantly, however, the act of remembrance of suffering and deliverance is not left to do its work on its own. Why not? Why was Israel not simply commanded to remember slavery and deliverance, and left alone to draw conclusions from this remembrance about actions today? I think that underlying the specific commands is the implicit conviction that memory does not deliver lessons by itself. If the ethical import is not attached to the act of remembrance, memory will be used in whatever ways we find suitable to our own interests. And we will misuse memory and draw from it the wrong lessons, especially in situations of conflict. That is why the Old Testament gives specific instructions about the use of memory, and the point of these instructions is to interrupt the cycle of victimization and violence, not to perpetuate it. The command to treat slaves and aliens favorably rests on God's deliverance in the past, and the memory of past suffering and of God's deliverance serves to underwrite the command to be just and generous toward the weak in the present.

The lessons of memory seem different, however, for Israel's enemies. The memory of Amalek's treatment of Israel is paradigmatic:

Remember what the Amalekites did to you along the way when you came out of Egypt. When you were weary and worn out, they met you on your journey and cut off all who were lagging behind; they had no fear of God. When the Lord your God gives you rest from all the enemies around you in the land he is giving you to possess as an inheritance, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven. Do not forget! (Deuteronomy 25:17-19)
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This lesson of memory with regard to Amalek is obviously different than the lesson with regard to aliens and slaves. The memory of Amalek should teach the punishment of the violent, not merciful protection of the weak. And yet the two lessons are not as far apart as it may seem. Just as God has freed Israelites who were slaves and aliens in Egypt, so the Israelites should attend to slaves and aliens in their midst. Just as God has said a violent "no" to the Egyptians, so the Israelites are also to say a violent "no" to those who maliciously hinder their liberation.

In sum, there is a dual memory: what Israel has experienced—suffering, enmity, and liberation—and what God has done. From this dual memory, two lessons are drawn: 1. A lesson of solidarity: You must be for those who are weak, as you were weak. 2. A lesson of struggle against injustice: you must be against those who oppress.

Christ's Death and Resurrection

What lessons of memory can be drawn from the New Testament? For Christians, the foundational event that we remember is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Two things ought to be said about the way in which we celebrate the death and resurrection of Christ.

First, Christ's passion did not happen only to Christ. Rather, in death and in resurrection, Christ functions as representative of all humanity. All humanity is implicated in his story; in an important sense, the story of Christ has happened to all humanity. Second, Christ's passion is not simply a past event, nor even a past event with future or present importance, but past, present, and future intersect in it in a peculiar way. Christ's death and resurrection is obviously a past event, and yet when we remember Christ's death and resurrection, we in a sense remember the future. That may be strange to say, because we generally speak of remembering the past and expecting or anticipating the future. But that's exactly how we have to think about it. Johann Baptist Metz called it "anticipatory memory." We remember in Christ what will happen to all humanity. The Israelites did the same with the memory of the Passover, remembering slavery, deliverance, and ultimate redemption. When we remember the death of Christ, we remember the future—that which Christ, on the basis of his death and resurrection, will do.

What implications does Christ's passion have for our ways of remembering evil suffered and perpetrated, and how might these then relate to the lessons that we have learned from the Old Testament? I will consider the issues of suffering and of reconciliation: concerning suffering, the New page 80 Testament lesson is continuous with the Old; concerning reconciliation, there is an important difference.

Because Christ died in solidarity with all people who suffer, our remembrance of Christ's suffering should induce us to keep in mind all those who suffer. It is hard to have a body that is lacerated and tortured in the center of our corporate worship and of our individual Christian lives without being prodded to remember those who suffer. But when we remember Christ, we do not simply remember that he suffered—we remember that he suffered and that he was raised by God. Christ's death is never remembered by itself; it is remembered as the death and resurrection of that suffering servant who "was pierced for our transgressions" and "carried our sorrows" and by whose "wounds we are healed" (Isaiah 53:5, 4, 6). We remember deliverance in Christ.

Therefore, the remembrance of suffering is not turned in upon itself and self-enclosed; rather, it is a hopeful remembering, a remembering open to a transformed future. As Christ was raised, so also those who suffer will be raised with him. They are not locked in their past, unable to free themselves from it. Rather, they are on the path through death to resurrection along with Christ, and what happened to him will also happen to them.

Johann Baptist Metz has described such memory as "dangerous memory”—dangerous for all those interested in maintaining the oppressive status quo. The memory of freedom, of liberation, of relief from suffering, ought to be dangerous for the wicked who oppress the weak, because it ought to motivate us to change the situation.

This pattern of suffering—deliverance is similar to what we saw in the memory of the Exodus. Israel suffered, and God delivered them. People suffer, and Christ's death in solidarity with them lifts them to resurrection and liberation. But there are two problems with seeing Christ's passion solely as an act of deliverance for sufferers. First, it does not take into account the full scope of Christ's work on the cross. Christ did not die only in solidarity with those who suffer; he also died as a substitute for offenders, for those who cause suffering, for sinners, for his enemies and ours. Christ's act of liberation does not concern simply those who suffer; actually, it is a universal event, including both the offender and the perpetrator. So, any memory of suffering or liberation has to be included in this large picture of Christ's death for all humanity. Second, memory is put to its most deadly uses precisely by those who have suffered in the past. A rather caustic Romanian aphorist, Emil Cioran, said: "Torturers are often recruited from martyrs not quite beheaded." We see this pattern in families; abused children become page 81 abusive parents. In the process, of course, new victims are created, and the cycle of violence continues.

For these two reasons, the axis of suffering—deliverance is insufficient; we need also to organize our memory along the axis enmity—reconciliation. The apostle Paul writes in Romans:

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die, but God demonstrated his love for us in this. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him? For if when we were God's enemies we were reconciled to him through the death of his son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life? (Romans 5:6-10)

So Christ did not die simply in solidarity with those who suffer; Christ died also for his enemies, and for our enemies, to reconcile them to God and to one another. And so, when we celebrate the Lord's Supper, when we remember Christ's death, we remember his act of reconciliation between God and humanity, but we also remember the reconciliation between human beings that has taken place in Christ. The memory of Christ's passion cannot be simply a memory of his or our resurrection from death into new life. It must also be the anticipatory memory of his creation of a reconciled community from deadly enemies. As Alexander Schmemann puts it in his book, The Eucharist, "We identify each other as living in Christ and being united with each other in him." 9 In the eucharistic feast, we enact the memory of each other as those who are reconciled to God and to each other in Christ. This is truly a hopeful remembering, anticipating both deliverance from oppression and reconciliation between the oppressed and the oppressors.

How does it anticipate that glorious future? The death and resurrection of Christ suggests three things:

1. No matter what has transpired between you and another, you belong together. You are reconciled and you form one community. You don't have, and will never have, the luxury of walking away from someone and going your own way, either as the injurer or the injured. You belong together.

2.We will be healed—not only our individual wounds but also our relationships will be healed. When we remember Christ's death and resurrection, we remember that our relationships will be healed.

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3. All the injuries we have caused to each other, which make our relationship now almost impossible, are, for all their seriousness, events on the journey toward reconciliation. As a matter of fact, they are events between the past reconciliation and the future reconciliation. Theirs is not ultimate but penultimate reality, because they are situated in the larger story of our lives as reconciled people.

When you and I remember our hurts—hurts that others have caused to us—we ought to remember them as those who will be both healed and ultimately reconciled in Christ's presence forever.


1. Friedrich Nietzsche, "Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of Future," in Basic Writings of Nietzsche, trans. and ed. Walter Kaufmann (New York: Modern Library, 1968), p. 68.
2. Tzvetan Todorov, "The Abuses of Memory," Common Knowledge 5 (1996), p. 14.
3. Ibid.
4. Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi, Zakhor: Jewish History and Jewish Memory (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1982), pp. 9-10.
5. Ibid., p. 44.
6. Ibid.
7. Ibid., p. 45.
8. Ibid., p. 44.
9. Alexander Schmemann, The Eucharist: Sacrament of the Kingdom, trans. Paul Kachur (Crestwood, N.Y.: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1989), p. 130.