by Gregory Wismar
One of the features of summertime is attending family reunions. Sometimes these are large, organized events held on a regular basis. Other reunions are much less formal, as relatives get together for visiting, either across town or across the country.
Often, one of the best features of family reunions is the sharing of memories about family members and events from days gone by. Remember-ing the family from generations past and passing along those remembrances strengthens family ties.
In the life of the Church, the custom of observing commemorations is a way by which our corporate memory of notable people and places is renewed and passed along from generation to generation. In Hebrews 13:7, the writer of the letter directs us to what sort of remembering?
A list of commemorations of special people and events is located at the front of many hymnals. The new Lutheran Service Book contains an expanded list on pages xii and xiii of the pew and gift editions. In the entries for the months of June and July, we present a number of notable Christian people and events to be recalled during these days. The entries fall into three special categories:
First, there are lists of special people from the Bible, such as Elisha (June 14), Jeremiah (June 26), Isaiah (July 6), Ruth (July 16), Elijah (July 20), Ezekiel (July 21), and Joseph of Arimathea (July 31). Special items of interest about each of these people of God are found in the Bible and may be researched through concordances and Bible encyclopedias. For example, according to John 19:38–39, who assisted Joseph of Arimathea in the burial of Jesus?
The second group of commemorations is of notable Christian people from centuries past who made significant contributions to the growth and vitality of the Church. In June and July, this list helps us remember Justin (June 1), Boniface of Mainz (June 5), Cyril of Alexandria (June 27), Irenaeus of Lyons (June 28), Johann Sebastian Bach (July 28), and Robert Barnes (July 30). Just as each family may contain some members more readily remembered than others, so some of the commemorated men and women here are better known than others might be. Yet each man and woman on the roster is an important member of our family of faith, someone for us to discover and learn from. (The Web site of the LCMS Commission on Worship has a full list of their biographies.)
By faith, we have the hope of meeting these people whether we know of them by name on earth or not. What does John tell in this regard in Rev. 14:13?
The third type of commemoration is the remembering of special events, just as we think back on weddings, anniversaries, and graduations. Two major Christian events remembered in June are the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea on the 12th and the Presentation of the Augsburg Confession on the 25th. A text traditionally associated with this day in the life of the Church reminds us that there is blessing for us in remembering and honoring the people and occasions that have shaped our faith. Who brings pleasure to the Lord, according to Psalm 149:4?
Taking time to remember our extended family in Christ through discovering the treasures of the commemorations is a special way to enrich the memorable days of summer.