Lying sleepless in bed these last few nights, listening to the house creak and pop like an old man’s knees, I remembered other bitterly cold weather events. I remembered my Dad and brothers getting up before dawn to milk cows and do chores—their hands cracked from the cold and glasses encased in ice. I remembered spending the night at a gas station in northeast Iowa—trapped between college and home by a mighty blizzard. I remembered living in Anchorage during a week of -45 degree weather; the old timers just shrugged—when it gets below -40, it all feels the same. I remembered the ice dams that formed in our eaves in Connecticut in weather like this—ice dams that caused massive damage to our home when they melted. I remembered—and prayed for—the courageous people who scoured our streets to bring comfort to the homeless poor.
It is intriguing to me that one memorable event conjures other similar events, as though the file marked “Crazy Cold” opened of its own accord. Every wedding brings other weddings to mind. Every funeral brings other funerals to mind. One of my nephews celebrated the birth of a son this week (welcome, Jackson!), and I spent that whole day remembering my own daughters’ births. Some events are so deeply etched in our minds and hearts—because of the enormous joy or terrible sorrow—that they are really never far away.
When that sort of deep remembering happens with our bodies, we call it “muscle memory.” When it happens with scripture, as it so often does, we call it “text memory,” the sudden foregrounding of other times, other places that we have read these words. I have deep text memory of Sunday’s epistle. We continue reading in 1 Corinthians, a letter known most for its famous 13th chapter: “If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love . . .”
I can’t tell you how many bridal couples have chosen that text for their wedding day. Even those who don’t know scripture at all, will ask for that “part about love, you know the part that you have to read at weddings?” For some, 1 Corinthians 13 is an unquestioned ritual like singing the National Anthem before a football game, or relinquishing your seat on the bus to someone older. It’s just what we do.
I remember those weddings with great fondness. But, more and more, we read this beloved text at funerals. What else can we say at the death of the faithful than that Love lives on? It happened just last Saturday, as we laid a much-loved husband and father to rest after a long struggle. His son was the reader—the son who only weeks before had heard this read at his own wedding. How ironic, how touching, how fitting that he would read the same words over his father: “Love hopes all things, believes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”
Do you have a text memory of these words? A wedding? A funeral? A tender moment? Please join us Sunday morning to add another layer of remembering to this rich, familiar text.
It seems the worst of the Polar Vortex has passed. This morning I parted the drapes in my living room to let my house plants breathe a bit of brittle sun. I took the space heater out of the poorly-insulated mudroom. My dog, Maggie, was willing to be outside more than 30 seconds to do her morning business. I won’t have to hold my breath, fearing that my car won’t start. And I slept more peacefully last night, as did the turgid trusses and broad beams of my sturdy house.
I trust you found warmth and safety in these last days, and that you took a moment to give thanks for shelter. Know that I was remembering you, giving thanks for you, basking in the warmth of the Love that never ends.
Pastor JoAnn Post