About Remembrance and Recognition
(c) Gerhard Altendorf 2006-2010
Translation by Jochen Riess

Martin Luther

Once again we have seen two important holidays come and go. Thanksgiving Day and the National Day of 3rd October to commemorate Germany’s reunification. The next is Reformation Day on 31st October. It is less of a celebration but rather a reminder to those still interested in matters of faith not to forget that there is something like a responsibility vis-á-vis history. Mankind ought to remember events because they comprise always a long prelude and a difficult epilogue. The yearly harvest too requires careful preparation and long periods of hard work.

As Christians we are supposed to thank God for everything we are given. But if we do it in the same casual manner of saying ‘thank you’ as in daily life we take communication with God perhaps a little bit too easy. A thoughtless ‘Thank God’ is certainly not what these two words imply. True gratefulness requires the willingness to recognise the sometimes lifelong efforts and investments of energy made by somebody else in my favour.

There is a story of a professor of theology who had to undergo difficult surgery. Afterwards a nurse told him: “You have every reason to thank our doctors!” To which he replied: “I thank my God!” – as if the efforts of these medical specialists in terms of qualification and attention were a quantity negligible not worthy of a particular thank you.

In Martin Luther’s opinion we have to include in our prayer for daily bread good friends and reliable neighbours and all those who in the course of time have offered assistance in matters great and small, sometimes through simple presence, sometimes by investing energy and attention which contribute towards our mental and psychological wellbeing.

We should take Thanksgiving Day as an opportunity to explore ways to to express gratitude in a personal manner and give thanks especially to those whose help in difficult matters proved essential only in hindsight. It seems that we tend to forget precisely those cases of help that were of special value. Strangely enough our little Ego appears unable to recognise the importance of such cases. What lacks are not only the words but also how to express our feelings. Very often it concerns cases when we knew at depth that we should have taken action yet were unable to do so. Or is it that we feel shame because we are dependant on someone’s help?

It seems that negative incidents are easier remembered than positive ones we owe to fellow man. Reason enough to revive positive memories, consciously repeat them and enter a process of reanimating parts of our biography which appear forgotten but are not lost. Should we feel guilty because our own heart may whisper ‘too late’ in an attempt to condemn us for a *thank you’ not given when required, biblical wisdom can provide help to overcome self accusation and sadness since “even if our conscience condemns us, God is greater than our conscience and knows all” (1.John 3:20). There is probably not a single biography without elements that would deserve a revival and a recount – at least on the inner stage. And nobody should thank God without including a sincere “thank you” to fellow man, even though it proves almost impossible to ever give it adequate expression.

Take the case of someone who tells me “I have a living connection to God!” Why is he telling me? Is it a hint that I don’t have such good fortune? I prefer to assume that here I meet a person who is ready and able to appeal to those inner areas of my own feelings and memories which I considered lost but could perhaps be reanimated for renewed use. Wouldn’t it be nice to meet somebody along the way through life who would help my poor limited self to establish contact with that boundless source of energy which originates from the unfathomable depth of the cosmos? It could transform all negativity, pain and sadness but also happiness into energy, light and good will.

It was Jesus who spoke of that type of person we all would like to have as a comrade at our side, one we could ask to walk with us one mile on our way through life and who from his or her own free will would offer us to go a second mile as well.


This page was created November 19, 2006 and updated 2010-02-12.