Genesis 9:8-17 – I Will Remember

Rainbow

Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you—the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you—every living creature on earth. I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.”

And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.”

So, God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth.” (NIV)

The older I get the less I remember.  I tell my older parishioners when they have a “senior moment” that they have a lot more to remember from a lifetime of experiences and memories than everyone else does. My memory is now such that, if I do not write stuff down, it likely will not happen. On some level, I’m sure you can relate. We all have the common human experience of being forgetful.

Even though God is old, I don’t believe he has a problem with remembering. Yet, even God puts reminders in front of himself to remember. Most people, whether knowing much about the Bible, or not, are familiar with the story of Noah. You remember the story. The world was evil.  God decided to destroy the creatures of the earth because humanity was rife with wickedness. God sent a flood, but spared Noah and his family. Afterward, God made a covenant between himself and all the earth: He would never again send a calamitous flood, stating, “I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you.”

Maybe memory has less to do with actual forgetfulness and more with priority, commitment, and keeping something continually in front of us.  God did not set a rainbow in the sky because he was worried about a senior moment someday; he put a sign in the sky because having symbols that point to significant events are important, even for God.  We put pictures of our kids on our desks not because we will forget what they look like, but to keep them in front of us throughout the day because we love them.  We keep tokens from travels or vacations in prominent places at home not because we will ever forget the experience, but because something significant happened or was decided in that time that was important to us.

The objects and symbols we place around us have significance. Our predilection for having objective symbols comes from bearing the image and likeness of God. And, in some sense, we are all living icons, flesh and blood reminders of God’s creative work. When we choose to use our bodies and minds for good, we are living into our original design and tapping into the wondrous image within.

God wants us to remember – the Word of God, divine actions of old, and, most of all, the Son, which is why we have tangible symbols of bread and cup to remember the redemptive events of Jesus. Christ is to be continually in front of us, our priority, and our love as we live from day to day.

Soli Deo Gloria

Gracious God, you have made covenants with your people to remember and be committed to them.  I desire to remember you in everything I do and say, especially the Lord Jesus who loved me and gave himself for me so that my priorities will reflect your goodness, and your mercy will be shown. May I continually remember: churches everywhere throughout your world, that they may proclaim the risen Lord; creation, that the people of the earth may meet their responsibility to care; those in despair and darkness, that they may find the hope and light of Christ; and, those forgotten by others, but not forgotten by you; through Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.

Psalm 105:1-11, 37-45 – Remember the Lord

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“Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.  Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced, you his servants… He remembers his covenant forever, the promise he made, for a thousand generations…” (New International Version)

Every day I read in the psalms.  There are two reasons I do this: first, the psalms are the church’s prayer book.  They are more than reading material; the psalms are meant and designed to be owned for us as prayers; and, second, I need their reminders – a lot!

Remembering is a major theme throughout the entirety of Holy Scripture.  It’s just part of the human condition, fallen and forgetful as we are, to lose sight of what has taken place in the past.  Today’s psalm invites us to seek the Lord through remembering all the good and wonderful works he has done.

For Israel, remembering meant continually having Passover in front of them.  God redeemed his people out of Egyptian slavery and into a good Promised Land.  They were to never forget God’s miracle through the Red Sea, his protection over them from other nations, and his provision of food and necessities in the desert.

We are to remember because we are made in God’s image and likeness.  God remembers.  God has an ongoing reminder in his divine day timer: fulfill the promises I made; keep the covenant I initiated with the people, even when they’re stinkers and forget who I am.

God doesn’t forget.  He always keeps his promises.  For the Christian, all God’s promises are remembered and fulfilled in the person and work of Jesus Christ.  Deliverance from sin, death, and hell; the gift of the Holy Spirit; and, ongoing presence and provision are given to us graciously and freely by the God who loves and cares for his people.  For us, remembering means coming to the Lord’s Table, entering into the once of for all loving sacrifice of Christ on our behalf.

One of the reasons I write and journal about my life and Scripture is to remember.  Sometimes I forget.  There are times when I’m overwhelmed with life and it feels as if God has forgotten me.  In such times, I look back into my journal and see what God has done.  And I peer into the psalms and see that God is active in his big world, always attentive to working what is just, right, and good in his people.

I randomly opened my journal to an entry made on May 6, 2016.  May your journey with Jesus in this season of Lent cause you to remember the Lord Jesus, to have him always before you:

“Now We Remain” by David Haas –

We hold the death of the Lord deep in our hearts.

Living, now we remain with Jesus, the Christ.

Once we were people afraid, lost in the night.

Then, by your cross, we were saved;

dead became living, life from your giving.

Something which we have known, something we’ve touched,

what we have seen with our eyes;

this we have heard; life-giving Word.

He chose to give of himself, become our bread.

Broken that we might live.

Love beyond love, pain for our pain.

We are the presence of God; this is our call.

Now to become bread and wine; food for the hungry, life for the weary,

for to live with the Lord, we must die with the Lord.

Remember

remember you are dust

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.

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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.

ash wed

“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.

Hebrews 2:1-4 – Learning to Pay Attention

“We must give our full attention to what we were told, so that we won’t drift away.” (CEV)
 
            My three girls all have attention deficit disorder (A.D.D.).  You might think this is a disadvantage.  Rather, since the biology of their brain doesn’t have a good filter for sifting out all the stimuli they hear each day, each of them are much more intentional about picking out the voice they want to hear and engaging with it.  Whereas you and I might take this for granted, my girls know the value of creating the skills to pay attention.
            We stand at the cusp of Lent, just two days from now.  A healthy way of looking at this important season in the Christian Year is that it is a time to listen.  It’s the opportunity and privilege of giving our complete attention to Jesus as we plod along the 40-day path to Easter.  And we need to develop some solid skills in paying attention, whether we have A.D.D. or not.
            The cost of not developing such skills is that we will drift away.  Taking for granted that we are Christians, that we know something about salvation, and are basically good people might only be setting us up for spiritual failure. That is, we think we already know about Christ’s person and work of salvation, so we don’t really pay attention.  Bad idea.
            Assuming we are paying attention is not the same thing as actually doing it.
Assumptions lead to drifting away from truth.  We are meant to have continual and constant reminders of Christ and his redemptive events.  This is what Lent intends for us.  To ignore the wisdom of two-thousand years of church practice puts us in a precarious position of being lost in a sea of competing voices.
            For the next six weeks, make the choice that you will pay attention to Christ each day through:
·         Reading the Scripture every day with a combination of standing and sitting, reading silently and out loud.
·         Holding a cross or other Christian reminder in your hand and feel free to fidget with it.
·         Journaling your thoughts in a notebook.
·         Imposing a time limit on yourself each day for the next 40 days.
·         Using different versions of the Bible to read throughout Lent.
·         Going outside occasionally and praying while walking.
·         Focusing on your breathing. Breathe out: “Speak Lord.” Breathe in: “I am listening.”
·         Drinking some coffee, tea, or something soothing.
·         Being mindful of distractions and acknowledging them without judging yourself.
The point is to have an intentional plan for paying attention.  Don’t assume you’ll just be focused.

 

May your journey with Jesus this season be a fresh experience in knowing him better.

Revelation 3:1-6


            When Christians think of biblical epistles (letters) to churches, the Apostle Paul might immediately come to mind.  But contained within the first three chapters of Revelation are seven compact succinct letters to seven different churches.  What makes these short bursts of exhortation so powerful is that they come from Jesus himself.  Yes, that Jesus – the Lord Jesus Christ, the head of the church.  So, it seems to me that Christ’s observations about the church carry more weight than anybody else’s thoughts.  
             “I know your works; you have a name of being alive, but you are dead.  Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is on the point of death, for I have not found your works perfect in the sight of my God.”  Ouch!  The Lord pulled no punches in getting to the heart of the church’s life… that is, death.  The stark reality is that this statement from Jesus still remains penetrating and relevant; it could be said of a great many Western churches today.
             So, what is to be done about the situation of spiritual deadness in the church?  “Remember then what you received and heard; obey it, and repent.”  Boom!  There it is.  If the Christian Calendar seems to be a liturgical downer by spending forty days of Lent in a state of repentance, then perhaps the Christian Year is not the problem but a provided avenue of getting square with God.  Maybe the issue is our own shortsightedness, lack of remembrance of Christ’s redemption in all things, and perpetual insistence on personal agendas which do not jive with Christ’s teachings.  In short, we have forgotten Jesus.  
             Awesome Lord Jesus, your words penetrate to the core my being.  Strengthen me by the continuing presence of yourself through the Holy Spirit so that my every thought, word, and deed is done in your Name.  Amen.

Deuteronomy 9:6-14


            Significant things happen on mountains in the Bible.  In anticipation of a glorious mountain top experience of Christ’s transfiguration this Sunday, today’s Old Testament lesson reminds us of a great mountain event, and it was not all bunnies and butterflies.  The book of Deuteronomy is a restatement of the law, and a recounting of Israel’s history as they were about to enter the Promised Land.  “Remember and do not forget…” is the constant theme of Moses’ address to God’s people.  The positive remembrance was that God graciously met with Moses on the mountain and gave him the Ten Words (Ten Commandments).  On the other hand, the ugly remembrance was that while on the mountain meeting with God the people became impatient, insolent, and rebellious; they degenerated into a chaotic mass of people who quickly worshiped an idol.  This was not Israel’s best moment.
             But Moses wanted the people to remember that event in all of its foulness and degradation.  It was important for them to not forget how stubborn and pig-headed their parents and grandparents were in running from the true God to a false god.  The people needed to avoid the sins of the previous generation so that they could enjoy God and thrive in the new land he was giving them.
             It does no one any good to whitewash the past or to altogether ignore it.  Whether it is one’s personal past, a previous generation, or even a national history, we must face the sins of our forebears, to remember and not forget.  We must neither be so extremely individualistic that we disconnect ourselves from our generational moorings, nor be dismissive of past sins, as if they have no influence upon us today.  Mountain experiences can either be glorious, turn very dark, or a bit of both.  We are meant to learn from them all, to remember and not forget.
             God of history, your sovereign reign and rule extends to all creation and has existed for all time.  You know the sins of my past, the heart of my present, and the soul of my future.  Do not let me forget my sins, not because you hold them over my head, but because your grace has saved me from them all through Jesus Christ, my Savior.  Amen.

Psalm 25:1-10


             I admit there are things from my past I am neither proud of nor happy about.  Yet, thanks to God Almighty, that he has selective memory.  God remembers according to his nature and character (merciful and showing steadfast love) and not based on the stupid sins of our youth.  God freely chooses to forgive and has made the means available for us to experience daily cleansing and victory through the Lord Jesus Christ.
             Memory is a not a minor theme in the Old Testament.  Rather, remembering is a major focus that pops up again and again.  How we remember past events is of upmost importance to God.  We are to not dwell on and keep remembering any former indiscretions of either ourselves or others.  Since God does not hold the past over our heads, neither are we to do so.  On the other hand, we are to keep in mind and continually remember the great works of God, especially in redemption.  What has happened in the past either by us or against us is not the real issue; the most prescient issue is how you and I interpret those events.
             Today we can choose to remember in the way God remembers.  Thanksgiving meals with family and the holiday season with relatives are, for some folks, a sheer duty.  Even the best of families have those within their ranks that can make for difficult relations.  Paying attention to our memory and how we choose to remember can be a significant part of interacting with others.  If we like it that God has shown grace to us, then the least we can do is let that same grace flow from us to others who neither deserve it nor expect it.  Let’s give thanks to the Lord, for he is good in forgiving sin and showing infinite mercy.  And let’s express our gratitude through selfless words and acts of grace which reflect the nature of God.
             Gracious God, you do not hold grudges and always act according to love.  Even though you could have condemned me, you saved me.  Despite the fact that I have fallen short of your glory, you delivered me.  I remember your mighty redemptive deeds in Jesus, and I give you eternal praise and thanksgiving.  Amen.