Throughout the year, the Southern New England Conference of the United Church of Christ reproduces the Daily Lectionary for use by churches. These are the suggested readings for March 18th: Psalm 63:1-8; Daniel 12:1-4; and Revelation 3:1-6. I would encourage you to read these short selections as part of your Lenten practice.
We are now at the third Lenten Friday. Days feel longer artificially because of Daylight Saving Time, which arrived last Sunday, and actually are longer as we approach the Spring Equinox, which is reached this Sunday. I would wager, though, that the artificial change of daylight has more of an impact on the way we feel than the actual change as the sun works its way gradually to the Tropic of Cancer. The immediate effect of one full – yet artificial – hour of daylight is unmistakable, while the slow addition of real minutes of daylight can pass unnoticed.
It’s like when we see a person every day versus when we see someone only on rare occasions. The miniscule changes in a person’s appearance every day can go unnoticed, but run into an old friend at a reunion and the years’ worth of change are usually seen quickly.
Neuroscientists know that the growth of the hippocampus, the brain region associated with learning and emotion, overwrites memories. Forgetting is part of learning. If a memory becomes disconnected from personal experience, say it is no longer useful, then it retreats from consciousness.
I remember having to memorize geometry formulas back in the day, but I don’t think I could tell you a single one with certainty now. If someone told me about them today, the old memories may resurface, but since I haven’t had need for geometry formulas for literally decades the very efficient brain has filed them away in some box on a dusty back shelf of the mind.
Neuroscientists are learning that memories can be moved out of reach of consciousness, but they’re not wiped away. They’re there, but almost irretrievable. Maybe you’ve had one of those moments where something in the present stirs-up some long, forgotten memory of the past. The memory just appears. It was always there, but until startled alive, it was unreachable. The person shaped by the forgotten experiences survives, while their ability to recall the memory of those experiences decays. We are who we are, in part, because of our experiences, but those very experiences may be lost to consciousness.
As we progress through our Lenten 40 days, as we today mark our third Lenten Friday, each day may seem unremarkable, sort of like the additional couple of minutes of real daylight at this time of the year. However, I hope and pray, that as the season progresses, as we spend more time with the mystery of the crucified Saviour, as this is drawn forth at worship through our prayers, hymns, readings and sermons, as we participate in the Lenten Discussions, as we follow through with our own private Lenten devotions, that as we look back to Ash Wednesday, we may see that change has taken place in us.
And as we do this year after year, I hope and pray that our Lenten traditions may build on each other so that even if we don’t recall the specific memory of a past Lent, that we know it had its effect on us and has helped us to become who we are spiritually today.
In the Daniel passage today, we read one of the extreme few mentions in the Old Testament of resurrection: “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake …” We are who we are and we may think the memory can be erased, but God never forgets. And when we are startled awake and we are remembered, let us hope and pray that we need not blush before Jesus’ gaze, that we led lives that are worth remembering, not necessarily in grand feats immortalized, but even in acts that can be forgotten yet never erased.
If you’d like, here is the link to the Southern New England Conference’s daily reading schedule: www.sneucc.org/lectionary.
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