The Bright Sadness

經文:創世記 9:8-17 (原文英文,孫志硯漢譯。)

2-26-2012

God said to Noah, "This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.”

See and Remember

Memory is one of the most important part of our identities and our personhood. For example, when we think about Alzheimer’s, or any type of dementia, really. If you’ve met the family of someone who has Alzheimer’s, you will know that losing their memory means that they are no longer who they are. They are still alive and most times their bodies still work, but, “they are no longer there.” Or He’s not him anymore.

We are who we are because of our memories. Likewise, we are a people together when we remember.

Remembering

The act of remembering makes us who we are, but it also makes our God who God is.

The word “remember” comes up many times in the Bible. Almost 150 times, in fact. And that’s not including “do not forget,” “remembering,” “remembrance,” “remembered,” etc.

What is really interesting is that we usually think about memory in the past. But God remembers us, in the past, in the present, and in the future. This covenant that God made with Noah is not simply to remember that people were once so wicked that God had to destroy the world or that Noah and his family were spared because they were good people.

Today is our first Sunday of Lent. This is our somber, penitent season. The season of Lent is 40 days, where we remember the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert. We are remembering what God has done for us through Jesus Christ, our Lord; Christ suffered with us and for us.

In the midst of the remembering, we are also celebrating. It might seem weird that we’re celebrating pain and suffering, but what we’re celebrating isn’t the pain and the suffering. We remember the pain and the suffering but we are celebrating that we are not alone in the pain and suffering. We are celebrating that we have the information we need to move forward in our lives; living differently. In short, we are celebrating hope.

Throughout Lent, our church is celebrating and remembering our sins and Jesus’ suffering on our behalf by taking away the sweets table at lunch, to remember that life is not always sweet. Yet, we are still blessed because Jesus is among us.

Of course, as Taiwanese people, we know that life is not always sweet. Today, we are also remembering and celebrating the 65th anniversary of the 2-28 incident in Taiwan. There are certain days we always celebrate without questioning. Birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, anniversaries. And then there are days that we wonder whether it is still necessary to celebrate, like Memorial Day or 2-28.

Some people ask: is it really necessary to think about the unpleasantness every year? After all, we already hear enough about the politics of Taiwan in our daily lives. To everyone who have always known Taiwan to be a democracy, why are we looking back on something that is no longer the case?

And the Lord said, "As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you—that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.

In this passage, we see that God was remembering forward—for the FUTURE. Because of this, history will not be repeated. There will never again be a flood so devastating that all people will die. So, too, must we remember forward, to not make the mistakes that we have in the past. The 2-28 “incident” happened 65 years ago. Taiwan is a different country now than what it was then.

We must remember forward of what the incident tells us of: a tragic time of hope for a freedom that finally came. While I know that many among us are angered and saddened by the political turmoil that exists in Taiwan, it is also true that we are a free people; a people who have the right and the ability to choose our path in the future. Perhaps we do not like that path that the Taiwanese are choosing, but from our history, we know that we are strong enough to change and make a difference.

In our remembrance of the past, we discover our identity in the present. We remember who we were before, how we suffered during, and ignite our hope for the future. Our collective destructive history was tragic, but through it, we are reminded that we are Taiwanese, not Chinese. This may never have happened if not for this incident, and we will surely start to forget it when the memory of the difference starts to fade.

The story of Noah reminds us of the possibility that is the future—a fruitful future where there will not be destruction, but grace, a future where even though we suffer, we do not go at it alone. We remember that God made a covenant with us. No matter how bad things get, the world will never again be so bad that it cannot be redeemed. We cannot be so terrible that we cannot be redeemed.

Those who died during that time gave their lives for their country and for their fellow Taiwanese people—to teach us that we are a people: a people with a voice, with the right to declare ourselves TAIWANESE. Though we may be tempted to allow this incident to pass by without recognition because the past is too painful to live through and the present is too disappointing and we feel misunderstood by our children and our grandchildren, we must commemorate this day because at the core of 2-28 is our identity.

When we remember 2-28, we are not restarting a battle. Today is not about politics, or the negativity or hostility we have toward the pan-blue. What we want is to reinstall our identity as a people of God, honoring and celebrating our heritage and our identity, with which God has blessed us. We are reclaiming our pride of being who we are, remembering that we came from a people of strength, a people with hope, and a people with a dream—the dream of one day having our collective voice heard as Taiwanese people by the entire world, standing up to the bullies and the naysayers, to live as the people with whom God covenanted. We cannot do this without looking into our painful past. We cannot be afraid to hurt in order to find healing and peace.

Lent is the season where we look into our lives, reevaluate who we are as Christ’ followers. When we partake in the Lenten practices of giving something up, we are doing an exercise in remembering who we are as God’s people. Out of our sadness comes the light within. From the suffering will arise a stronger, wiser, more compassionate and loving people who will speak for the many people of God who have no voice, who have no identity, who suffers, and who are in pain.

Let us, in celebration of 2-28 and Lent, remember from whence we came, from whom we came, and to where we can go with the help of God, giving thanks to God for giving us a collective history that makes us who we are. Let us draw our strength and hope for the future from the fertile grounds of pain and the suffering from our past.