Here’s a thought for your mind to consider: Remembering is a spiritual practice.
It doesn’t take any effort to forget. But it does take an intentional plan to remember. If you have a habit of losing your car keys, you make the effort to build some ritual in your life to not lose them. Maybe they always live on the same hook just inside your back door or are always with you in your pocket. That way you never have to “remember” where they are.
I look at my planner every day. Every morning it’s a ritual. Before doing any work, I access my planner and go over my schedule and my goals. I will forget my best laid plans unless I review them each day.
Christians are about to enter the season of Lent. Lent is a 40-day observance of journeying with Jesus to his cross. It’s a time for believers to remember their baptisms, that is, to remember that they belong to God – to remember and to never forget that our primary identity is in Christ, known and loved by God as his people.
We even have an entire book of the Bible dedicated to remembering: Deuteronomy. The book of Deuteronomy is a restating of the Law for a new generation of Israelities about to enter the Promised Land. They were to remember why they existed as a nation, and to whom they belonged. The Israelites needed to remember through restatement and ritual that God delivered them with power from the mighty Egyptians. God is their trust – which means there is no need for a trust supplemental insurance policy with another deity in case he doesn’t come through for them.
“Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.” (Deuteronomy 5:15, NIV)
“Remember the long road on which the Lord your God led you during these forty years in the desert so he could humble you, testing you to find out what was in your heart: whether you would keep his commandments or not.” (Deuteronomy 8:2, CEB)
“Remember the Lord your God! He’s the one who gives you the strength to be prosperous in order to establish the covenant he made with your ancestors.” (Deuteronomy 8:18, CEB)
“So all your life you will remember the time you left Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 16:3, NCV)
“Remember a time long ago.
Think about all the past generations.
Ask your fathers to remind you,
and your leaders to tell you.” (Deuteronomy 32:7, GW)
We cannot expect the next generation to simply know God because we do. If it’s so easy for you and me to forget about God in our workaday world, then how much more do we need to be intentional about passing on the words and ways of Jesus with routines and rituals which help us to remember?
On Ash Wednesday the minister applies the sign of the cross to the forehead of the penitent with the words: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” It’s not meant to be a downer, or a morbid display that we are going to die someday. The ashes are to be a reminder that we only have one life to live on this earth, and it is to be lived knowing, trusting, and finding our truest identity in the Holy Trinity whom we serve – Father, Son, and Spirit – the God who has orchestrated salvation for his people. Remember, and do not forget, your life belongs to God. He cares for you, and you can trust in his goodness.
“The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” (John 14:26, NKJV)
“In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Acts 20:35, ESV)
“Then he broke it in pieces and said, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way, he took the cup of wine after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood. Do this in remembrance of me as often as you drink it.’ For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are announcing the Lord’s death until he comes again.” (1 Corinthians 11:24-26, NLT)
“They only asked us to remember the poor, and that was something I had always been eager to do.” (Galatians 2:10, CEV)
“Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead.” (2 Timothy 2:8, NRSV)
“Remember, then, what you were taught and what you heard; obey it and turn from your sins.” (Revelation 3:3, GNT)
If you think about it, caring involves consistency. Others know what to expect from us. We continually show up with the grace and kindness given to us in Christ. People don’t have to wonder what kind of mood we’re going to be in. We’re there for them. We have provided for them a history of consistent rituals they can remember – a history of patient assistance and quiet strength on their behalf.
We’ve been given one life to live. It is to be a life dedicated to practicing remembrance. We’re to live in the remembrance that Christ has delivered us from brokenness to be an agent of healing in a world in need of remembering who they are. There’s no need to invent new rituals for remembrance. We just need to remember to show up and participate in the rituals the church has practiced for centuries.