It’s good to remember.
In fact, it’s commanded of us in the Bible, to remember.
In the ESV translation, the word “remember” or a derivative thereof, is used 237 times, in various ways. But some of those ways are definitely commands to followers of Christ to remember, or they are stories in which the people are told to remember.
This morning, Mark and I went to mow and weed eat an ailing lady’s yard that is located within sight of the Seaford Cemetery. As we worked, I marveled at the monuments–all different sizes and shapes, and I’m sure, some very, very old and some very, very new.
And of course, it reminded me of Memorial Day.
This is the day we set aside to honor our fallen soldiers, our veterans, and those currently serving in our armed forces.
But why is remembering such an important concept in the Bible? And why do we need to remember, when remembering can stir up so many emotions: pain, loss, joy, hurt, longing, loneliness, good times, bad times, and deep sorrow? There is much that I do not like to remember. Much.
But in doing some research, I discovered two stories from scripture I want to share with you. The first involves Jacob. Jacob was journeying to a place named Haran to both escape his brother’s Esau’s anger and to find a wife. On his way there, he had a dream of a ladder reaching up to heaven. At the top of this ladder was the Lord, who told him He would give the land that Jacob was laying on to Jacob, and He would make his offspring tremendously numerous.
When Jacob awoke, he was astonished–as I’m sure that we all would be were we to have such a dream and receive such a message from God! But what is so interesting is what Jacob did next:
16 Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.” 17 And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” 18 So early in the morning Jacob took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. 19 He called the name of that place Bethel, but the name of the city was Luz at the first. 20 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, 21 so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God, 22 and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house. And of all that you give me I will give a full tenth to you.”
Do you see what Jacob did? After he awoke from this awe-striking dream, he took the rock that he had used for a pillow, set it up and anointed it with oil, creating a monument. A monument that would cause he and other’s to remember this place where He had experienced God so strongly.
Now there was nothing magical or mystical about this stone. No, it was a place holder. Just like those monuments in the cemetery, marking special ground for a reminder to us to remember.
Jesus told His apostles to remember, too. But in a much different way. He knew He was about to die, and so, as He ate the last Passover meal He would eat with them, He broke the bread and the gave the wine, accompanying these acts with these words, recorded in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26:
23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that ythe Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
This was a serious moment. And no doubt, one that was very confusing to his apostles. What could Jesus possibly mean–the bread is His body? The wine his blood? Not until after His death and resurrection would they understand. This was a monument, a memorial, a remembrance of what Christ had accomplished on the cross–the forgiveness of sins through the sacrifice of the son.
In Hawaii, in a secluded place that only I know where it is located, is a very small stack of rocks. In Hawaii, the Hawaiian people who believe in the Hawaiian gods stack small rocks as altars or memorials to their gods. In that hidden location that I hiked to, I imitated the Hawaiians, but as a marker–as a monument–when I came to believe that God knew my name. This was a very significant moment for me, this realization that the huge God Creator of the immense universe, knew my name. Whew.
So, let’s take today seriously. Let’s remember our loved ones who have gone Home before us. Let’s remember our military men and women who sacrifice so much for our freedom. And let’s remember our Christ, who was the ultimate sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins through His death on the cross.
God calls us to remember.