A Time Remembered
Beyond the Christian holidays of Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter and Pentecost, my favorite secular holiday is the Fourth of July. This probably stems back to my grandma’s love for this holiday. For us, the Fourth of July was not just a day to celebrate the founding of our Nation, nor was it only a day for a parade, fireworks, and parties (although we did all that too); this was a day to celebrate our family story and how we have intricately been woven together.
Every year my extended family would travel back to my Dad’s hometown to celebrate together. The town’s festivities included street dances, a huge firework display, a parade and a family picnic lunch. We didn’t miss one minute of it.
Our traditions stayed the same each year. My grandma would paint all the girls nails in red, white and blue. We would wear our new Fourth of July attire. My uncles and dad would head to the firework stand to get the best firework work display for our “at-home show.” We always gathered at the dads' childhood home for the fireworks and make sure we arrived extra early to get our spot for the parade. Our traditional food for the Fourth of July meal included: watermelon, grandma’s homemade rolls, fried chicken, potatoes, and spaghetti (from our favorite fried chicken place), and whatever Fourth of July themed dessert that my grandma made from the July cover of Better Homes and Gardens.
Each year I looked forward to our trip home for the Fourth, but as I have grown older I realize that while I love fireworks and seeing my extended family, what makes this weekend so special are not the things we do, but the memories we share. Every year, my aunts and uncles would tell stories of their childhood, my grandma and great-aunts and uncles would tell us about growing up “back then,” we celebrated the traditions that were passed down from generation to generation as we enjoyed spending time together. It was during this weekend that we remember how we belong together and how our stories intersected even though we all live all around the world.
This year as I have been reflecting on the upcoming week, I keep thinking about the Last Supper that the disciples celebrated with Jesus. A meal that ended with Jesus telling the disciples to “do this in remembrance of me.” Jesus wanted to give the disciples a physical act of remembering their story and reminding them in the midst of struggle, busyness and stress that this is where they belong. Jesus wanted to point them to the visible signs of Jesus’ grace that abounds around us.
When we take communion, it isn’t just a piece of bread and a sip of juice, it is the sign and symbol of who we really are—this is our story, this is where we belong. It is easy to forget with the overwhelming lives we live and yet it keeps coming back: this is who we are—Jesus says, You are my beloved. I love you and I am right here.
Even though my grandma passed away, grandchildren are grown, some have married, children have been born, loved ones have passed away; my family still goes back every other year to celebrate this wonderful holiday. The events have not changed nor has the famous Fourth of July meal. What has changed is who is telling the stories. Now as adults, grandchildren remember the stories of the past and continue to tell our stories that shape our family’s future.
Our individual stories are important; they tell about struggles, joys, tears, laughter and day-to-day life that shapes us. But what brings us back to our Christian story are the moments we return to experience the grace found in simple bread and cup, the people we share the meal with, and the story of Jesus that is living within us all.
Blessings to you this 4th of July. May God be with you until we meet again at the Lord’s Table.