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The Sacred Work of Remembrance – Br. Keith Nelson

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Br. Keith Nelson

Genesis 6:5-8; 7:1-5,10 
Psalm 29
Mark 8: 14-21

All of the world’s major Story traditions contain epic cycles of creation, the flourishing of life, decline, death, and renewal. Myths – stories that resound with the ring of Truth, whether or not they are based on factual events – mirror the processes of nature and the work of time. These stories enlarge what is small but also condense what is vast. This process allows the storyteller and the story-listener to make meaning of the cycle – which would otherwise remain too large to handle. The portion that is visible to us at any one moment – birth, growth, suffering, or death – would overwhelm us with its magnitude.  Stories sift, sort, and distill until symbols cohere from the chaos: the waters of a great flood; a boat designed by God; a bit of yeast; a single loaf of bread. 

When decline and death become the predominant experience of a culture or group, these stories become vital life-lines to a sacred past. “We have been here before,” the people can confidently say. “Let us remember; let our remembering bear us forward.” Some of the Psalms are almost entirely sustained acts of remembrance. Foundational memories recorded elsewhere in the Torah are set to psalmody not to be redundant, but to place them in the mouths of each praying generation. Including ours. 

 For the people of Israel, there is a power, a force, a God outside of nature and time. “The LORD sits enthroned abovethe flood,” the Psalmist sings. The Holy One is transcendent. 

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