Choose What You Remember
Choose What You Remember
Memory is strange. There are some things I would prefer not to remember but find difficult to forget. There are other things that I would love to remember that are all too easily forgotten.
There are some things that are important for societies as a whole not to forget. All over the world, we see war memorials with the names of those who have died for their country. Often in Britain these memorials feature the words ‘Lest We Forget’. A plaque at Auschwitz Concentration Camp reads, ‘The one who does not remember history is bound to live through it again’ (George Santayana).
We do have some control over our memory. There are some things we are told in the Bible to ‘forget’. There are other things we are repeatedly called to ‘remember’. You can make choices about what you choose to ‘forget’ and what you choose to ‘remember’.
The word ‘remember’ in its various Hebrew and Greek forms occurs over 250 times in the Bible. It is so easy to forget all that God has done for you. It is important to look back at your own life as well as the history of the church, both local and global, to remember all that God has done.
At the Last Supper, Jesus instituted the service of communion so that we would not forget the central events of world history – the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Remember Jesus alwaysPsalm 45:10-17
Generations come and go but the name of Jesus will be remembered for ever.
The New Testament applied this psalm to Jesus (Hebrews 1:8ff). The early church saw its own relationship with Christ reflected in the relations between the bridegroom and the bride as they are described here.
Jesus loves the church: ‘The king is enthralled by your beauty’ (Psalm 45:11a). We are to honour Jesus; he is our Lord (v.11b): ‘I will perpetuate your memory through all generations; therefore the nations will praise you for ever and ever’ (v.17). Jesus the King will be remembered for all time. Every nation will worship him for ever and ever (Revelation 5:13).
Lord Jesus, I worship you today. Help us to perpetuate your memory through all generations, that all the nations might praise you for ever and ever.
Remember the poorLuke 16:19-17:10
If you have food to eat every day, own a pair of shoes and have a roof over your head you are rich in comparison to most of the rest of the world. And if you own a car, or even a bicycle, you are very rich in comparison to the rest of the world.
This passage is a challenge to me personally as I look at our situation compared with much of the poverty around the world. It is also a challenge to our society, as we look at our global neighbours, for example in Africa, who as a result of television and other forms of global communication are now ‘at [our] gate’ (16:20).
The great nineteenth-century preacher D.L. Moody often took as the title of his talks the words: ‘Son, remember…’ (v.25). This parable is a warning. (It is a parable and therefore it is not a complete teaching about life after death.)
The words of Abraham to the rich man, who had ‘[wasted] his days in conspicuous consumption’ (v.19, MSG), are haunting: ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things’ (v.25). The rich man was judged for his failure to act on behalf of the poor. I live in Western Europe, which is one of the wealthiest parts of the world. Relative to most of the world I live ‘in luxury every day’ (v.19).
The rich man was aware of the poverty of Lazarus because he was laid at his gate ‘covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table’ (vv.20–21a). Modern media makes us increasingly aware of global poverty. Now is the time to act. I have even less of an excuse than the rich man. In the Old Testament the people were called to act upon the word of Moses and the Prophets (v.29). We are called to remember and to live out of the death and resurrection of Jesus (v.31).
Yet this parable is not merely an attack on being rich. After all, Abraham was exceedingly wealthy and he is pictured in heaven (v.22). The rich man’s love of money reveals his spiritual state and lack of relationship with God based on repentance and faith.
When he realises his mistake, he says to Abraham, ‘If someone from the dead goes to [my five brothers] they will repent’ (v.30). Abraham replies, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead’ (v.31).
If the rich man had listened to Moses and the Prophets, he would have repented and put his faith in God. Luke, in recording this parable of Jesus, is of course confronting the reader with the fact that we have even less of an excuse now that we have the evidence of Jesus rising from the dead. We are challenged to repent and put our faith in Jesus.
Underlying all the sections of today’s New Testament passage is the common theme of a relationship with God based on repentance and faith.
This continues in the next section (17:1–4). Jesus calls us to watch our lives carefully to avoid either causing others to sin or falling into the traps set by others. Live a life of constant forgiveness. Forgive even those who sin against you seven times a day (v.4).
The disciples realise that this is only possible with great faith. They say to Jesus, ‘Increase our faith!’ (v.5). Jesus replies, ‘If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, “be uprooted and planted in the sea,” and it will obey you’ (v.6).
It is this faith that leads to humility. Whatever you do in service of God, you can never put God in your debt. Everything we do is simply out of gratitude for what he has done for us. All we can say, at the end of the day, is, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty’ (v.10).
Faith is a muscle that grows by stretching. One of the ways you increase your faith is by doing something God asks you to do.
If you want to avoid hearing those haunting words, ‘Son, remember...’ in the future, now is the time to respond in repentance, put your faith in Jesus and live out your faith, especially in your response to the poor.
Lord, have mercy. Forgive my sin. Help me always to forgive. Increase my faith. Open my eyes to see the needs of those around me and to act now.
Remember what God has done for youDeuteronomy 23:1-25:19
Throughout this passage the people of God are told to ‘remember’ (24:9,18,22; 25:17). In particular, they are to remember that they were slaves in Egypt and the Lord their God redeemed them (24:18–22). Indeed, the passage for today ends with the words, ‘do not forget!’ (25:19).
Again, there is a link with the poor. Because they were slaves in Egypt, they should remember those who are suffering: the lonely, the fatherless and the widow (24:21). They are to look after the poor and needy (v.14).
Generosity towards the poor was not a matter left to each individual’s conscience – it was a matter of law. It is surely right for a society to have laws to provide for the needs of the poor. But it should not stop there. It is also the calling of every Christian.
As the people of God in the Old Testament were called to remember that they had been slaves in Egypt and that God had redeemed them, we remember that at one time we also were enslaved to sin. Jesus redeemed you from that slavery.
Constantly remember what Jesus has done for you. That is one of the reasons the service of Holy Communion is so important. Jesus said, ‘do this in remembrance of me’ (Luke 22:19).
The purpose of the Christian calendar is to remember. At Christmas we remember and celebrate the incarnation. At Pentecost we remember and celebrate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
Supremely, at Easter we remember and celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus. The resurrection is the peak of the Christian calendar. From the very earliest days, Christians have remembered the death and resurrection of Jesus in a service of celebration involving bread and wine taken in remembrance of Jesus.
Lord, thank you for the body of Jesus that was given for me and his blood that was shed for me. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, your word and sacrament, may my thoughts and memories be focused on you.
‘Watch yourselves’ (Luke 17:3).
As I look at the rich man and Lazarus story, I find myself thinking, what a terrible man the rich man was! I am not like him, I am okay. But then I have to ask myself, ‘How much do I really care for the poor?’, and I realise how far short I fall (16:19).
Verse of the Day
‘The LORD your God… turned the curse into a blessing for you, because the LORD your God loves you’ (Deuteronomy 23:5).
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.
Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.