Remembering to Remember

Blind Faith (No. 21, 2016)
Weekly Devotional for May 26, 2016
Remembering to Remember

“Oops! I almost forgot!” “I really meant to do _________, but I just
forgot!” Sound familiar? Remembering is not always easy. Schedule
interruptions, distractions from unforeseen enticing temptations, and plain
absent-mindedness can banish from our thoughts the things we intended to
remember. Sometimes remembering is painful, and forgetting may spare anguish
we are not eager to dredge up. But memories truly are precious. They form
the foundation our lives are built upon. When we remember and reflect on
past events we have renewed opportunities to celebrate triumphs, to learn
from mistakes, and to understand important values that are central to who we
are.

Memorial Day is on everyone’s calendar for Monday, May 30 . but
how much remembering actually will take place? The day is intended to be a
day for U.S. citizens “to provide a time of Remembrance for America’s fallen
and to make a commitment to give something back to our country in their
memory.” So says legislation passed in 2000 establishing the White House
Commission on Remembrance, an independent governmental agency tasked with
helping Americans to remember fellow citizens who have given their lives in
service to our country and its values and to the cause of freedom for all.
But this year the commission’s website www.remember.gov is not active. So
far no presidential proclamation for Memorial Day has been issued. A number
of civic activity calendars list special memorial events for the day, but
most references to Memorial Day seem to offer little more than door-buster
sales bargains or pool and picnic schedules. Honoring the memory of
sacrificial service seems in danger of slipping our collective mind this
year.

I expect that traditional observances of Memorial Day will
happen. A presidential proclamation is sure to call for the “National Moment
of Remembrance” at 3:00 PM local time. People will be asked to be silent for
one minute respectfully to remember those who died in service to our
country. In some places buglers will play Taps. Play will be suspended at
Major League Baseball games. A few communities will do more, some of them
holding parades and fireworks. A few more American flags may be flying (not
many of them appropriately at half mast until noon, then raised to full
height until twilight). Many will give a brief nod to memorializing on the
day, but truly remembering sacrifice and honor takes more effort than many
are willing to give even with a holiday dedicated to doing it.

Yet remembering reconnects us with a prior reality that continues to affect
our lives in the present. When we take the time to allow memories to
resurface to full expression, we have opportunity to empathize with the
people who experienced the events, some at great sacrifice, even to the
point of death. We can give thanks respectfully for those who have given
more than we may ever be called upon to give. We can honor their memory by
renewed commitment to the values for which they gave their all.

God reminds his people to remember over and over throughout the
Bible. Retelling the story of God’s covenant faithfulness, his deliverance
of his people from oppression, and his continuing mercy and loving kindness
time and time again calls God’s people to acknowledge their dependence upon
his grace, and to recommit themselves to living God’s way. Psalm 105 is an
example of Israel remembering and retelling the story of God’s deliverance.
In the process, the nation is moved to praise God’s faithfulness, and to
reconnect their current actions with God’s designs. Psalm 105 begins:

Hallelujah! Thank GOD! Pray to him by name! Tell everyone you meet what he
has done! 2 Sing him songs, belt out hymns, translate his wonders into
music! 3 Honor his holy name with Hallelujahs, you who seek GOD. Live a
happy life! 4 Keep your eyes open for GOD, watch for his works; be alert for
signs of his presence. 5 Remember the world of wonders he has made, his
miracles, and the verdicts he’s rendered..
7 He’s GOD, our God, in charge of the whole earth. 8 And he remembers,
remembers his Covenant– for a thousand generations he’s been as good as his
word. (Psalm 105:1-5, 7-8 MSG)

The psalm goes on for 45 verses recalling the sacrifices of Abraham, Isaac,
Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, and the people of Israel, God’s faithfulness
and deliverance of his people, and their response of thanks and praise. God,
too, is depicted as actively remembering his covenant and continually
demonstrating his commitment to Israel.

Nowhere is the value of remembering more clearly demonstrated
than in the institution and observance of the Lord’s Supper. Paul records
both Jesus’ instructions and what we are to remember that are essential to
the Lord’s Supper: “Let me go over with you again exactly what goes on in
the Lord’s Supper and why it is so centrally important. I received my
instructions from the Master himself and passed them on to you. The Master,
Jesus, on the night of his betrayal, took bread. {24} Having given thanks,
he broke it and said, ‘This is my body, broken for you. Do this to remember
me.’ {25} After supper, he did the same thing with the cup: ‘This cup is my
blood, my new covenant with you. Each time you drink this cup, remember me.’
{26} What you must solemnly realize is that every time you eat this bread
and every time you drink this cup, you reenact in your words and actions the
death of the Master.” (1 Corinthians 11:23-26aMSG) Observing the Lord’s
Supper involves more than a momentary nod or fleeting acknowledgement of
what Jesus did in the past. Paul clearly stresses that the remembrance is
intended to change us and to reconnect us with our commitment to follow
Jesus. It is a supreme act of unifying believers with the living Lord: ” Is
not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the
blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the
body of Christ? {17} Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one
body, for we all partake of the one loaf.” (1 Corinthians 10:16-17 NIV)
Through remembering Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf believers are called to
renewed demonstration of Jesus’ love and grace. Another translation of
scripture states the result well: Every time you eat this bread and drink
this cup you are telling others about the Lord’s death until he comes.” (1
Corinthians 11:26 NCV)

To be sure, we should not confuse our remembering of what Jesus
has done in offering God’s amazing grace to save us from our sin with
commemorating the sacrifice fellow citizens of America have made to preserve
our national freedoms. But remembering to remember is highly valuable both
for our faith and for the dedication we ascribe to our country. In each
sphere, we can revel in the routine joys of each day. On Memorial Day, the
grills should be teeming with mouth-watering barbecue. Enjoy delightful dips
in the pool, lake, or ocean. Save large sums of money at the best sales. But
take time truly to remember, take time to contemplate the sacrifices
Americans before you have made to secure your freedoms, and renew your
commitment to give yourself in service to others so that they may be free.
The highest honor we can pay those who have given themselves sacrificially
for the cause of freedom is to live responsibly in the freedom they have
secured. No greater freedom can be secured than the freedom from sin secured
by Jesus’ sacrificial death and saving life for us. We should remember every
day his sacrificial grace on our behalf. This Memorial Day, give thanks to
God for the sacred sacrifices others have made to preserve and extend the
freedoms that flow logically from God’s gifts of life, liberty, and
equality.

J. Edward Culpepper