Now, once all these things happen to you, the blessing and the curse that I’m setting before you, you must call them to mind as you sit among the various nations where the Lord your God has driven you; and you must return to the Lord your God, obeying his voice, in line with all that I’m commanding you right now—you and your children—with all your mind and with all your being.
Then the Lord your God will restore you as you were before and will have compassion on you, gathering you up from all the peoples where the Lord your God scattered you. Even if he has driven you to the far end of heaven, the Lord your God will gather you up from there; he will take you back from there.
The Lord your God will bring you home to the land that your ancestors possessed; you will possess it again. And he will do good things for you and multiply you—making you more numerous even than your ancestors!
Then the Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants so that you love the Lord your God with all your mind and with all your being in order that you may live.
The Lord your God will put all these curses on your enemies and on those who hate you and chase you. But you will change and obey the Lord’s voice and do all his commandments that I’m commanding you right now.
The Lord your God will help you succeed in everything you do—in your own fertility, your livestock’s offspring, and your land’s produce—everything will be great! Because the Lord will once again enjoy doing good things for you just as he enjoyed doing them for your ancestors. (Common English Bible)
The mind is a vast, glorious, and (un)explored territory. Although there is much we know about it, there’s even more we don’t know about the human mind.
The mind can be both a blessing and a curse. Anyone with depression, anxiety, or other mental disorders and diseases can tell you that, especially family members who have loved ones with dementia.
Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life. Professionally, I visit patients with dementia nearly every day. Personally, I watched my own mother’s faculties slowly erode and decline in the last few years of her life. In her final months, my Mom rarely remembered my name, only knew me once in a while, and never recalled the conversation we had thirty seconds ago. It was difficult to watch, this woman who once cared for me, needing to be cared for.
The biblical book of Deuteronomy is the retelling of Israel’s story as they were about to enter the Promised Land. It’s a book completely dedicated to memory care. If the people were to forget who they are, they would not know what they’re supposed to be doing. The Israelites strayed from the blessings into the curses of God’s covenant life because their collective mind slowly slipped into spiritual dementia.
The mind’s need to remember is not a new issue; it’s endemic to the human condition. The constant refrain of the author of Deuteronomy is to recall and to remember where the people came from, where they are going, and why.
Moses reiterated the covenant and the law for the people before they entered the land. It was a fresh re-hashing, nothing really new, of what God had already communicated to them. God’s people were to remember that they were once slaves in Egypt and that God had delivered to be a people for his name. They were not to forget that they had provoked the Lord in the desert – with the result of an entire generation of people being lost because they had neglected and forgotten what God told them.
Memory issues continue into the Gospels. Jesus miraculously fed a great crowd of people not once, but twice. The second time, he called his disciples to remember what had happened the first time in order to understand the second.
In the New Testament Epistles, Paul kept reminding the Jews in the churches that they should remember the ancient covenant, and called the Gentiles to remember that they were once estranged from that very same covenant. Both Jew and Gentile together needed to collectively remember the death of Christ that united them into a new covenant community. Like them, we are to “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David.” (2 Timothy 2:8)
Like the ancient Israelites, Christians are to remember who they are and what they are about: blood-bought people of God, belonging to Christ, and given a mission to make disciples and participate with God in the redemption of all creation through remembering the poor, seeking justice, and being peacemakers in the church and the world.
Think about where you have fallen from, and then turn back and do as you did at first. (Revelation 2:5, CEV)
There’s a difference between the disease of dementia and the church’s spiritual dementia. Folks inflicted with dementia will not recover but only worsen, whereas the church can recover its collective memory by listening again to the ancient Word of God and being constantly refreshed with the promises and covenant of God.
- Why do you and the church exist?
- How do God’s words inform and influence your identity?
- Does the mission and practice of your church intentionally remember the risen and ascended Christ?
- Are disciples being formed around collective remembering of God’s covenant and promises?
- Are ministries, spiritual practices, and policies being established based on Christ and his commission, or on something else?
Let’s continually work through answers to those questions so that we are not cursed but blessed, and continually built up in the faith.
May the Lord bless you and keep you.
May the Lord show you his kindness
and have mercy on you.
May the Lord watch over you
and give you peace. Amen.