Let Us Not Forget
First Baptist Church Laurens
May 27, 2018
A major newspaper recently invited people to send in their real stories of forgetfulness. Most of the stories were simply moments from every day life that were light-hearted, humorous and that made you feel better about your own times of forgetting where you parked as you walked out of Target.
Two of the stories really caught my attention. One was from a woman who had lived in a very large U.S. city and who worked in the downtown area of that particular metropolis. She always rode the train into the office and one Friday, she hustled to the station at the end of the day excited about the upcoming weekend and wanting to get home just as fast as she could. When she arrived at her house, she noticed that her car was not in the driveway. It was in that moment that she remembered for the first time that she had driven to work that morning in order to get home quicker than she normally did on the train. Rather than a jumpstart on the weekend, it took her three and half extra hours to ride the train back into the city, find her parked car and drive home in bumper to bumper, Friday afternoon rush hour traffic.
Another story was that of a man who had lost his driver’s license. As any of us would do, he turned his house upside down looking in every closet, drawer, pair of pants and coat pocket for his missing license. Finally he found it and with relief put it in his wallet. But, with his heart having barely slowed to a normal rhythm, he took his wallet out and looked at the license one more time. As he did, he realized that what he had actually found was not his new license but rather an old license that he had also lost several years before. Unfortunately, the found license was out of date and his current one was still missing.
I share these two stories having been here at church myself until 9 o’clock just this past Monday night looking for something. We had just finished a meeting that ended a little after 8. As I prepared to lock the door and turn off the lights, I couldn’t find me keys. I spent the better part of the next hour trying to remember where I had left them!?!
Forgetfulness is simply a part of the human experience. At times our forgetfulness is frustrating. At times our forgetfulness is comical. And, in the more painful moments of life such as the coming of diseases such as Alzheimers or Dementia, chronic forgetfulness is sad, devastating and completely life altering.
This morning, however, I want to bring to our attention the fact that there are other times when forgetfulness is instead what happens as a result of our failure to take the time to do the hard work of remembering.
When I say this, I am not talking about tying a string around our finger to remember to take the trash out. I am thinking instead about our critical experiences with each other that we always want to preserve, valuable stories that we never want to forget, quotes that we hear that totally transform our lives, moments and experiences with God that deepened our faith or relationships with people that taught us things about life and God that we want to hold on to forever.
In the midst of such moments, we say to ourselves, “I don’t want to forget this.” Or, “I will always remember this”. Or, “this will always be important to me”. But then, with time, our humanity, and the passing of years, we do forget, we loose track, we no longer, as human beings, remember despite our best efforts and adamant plan to do so.
This is where I think a final moment in the Esther story becomes so valuable to us. It is a moment that is easy to miss, dismiss or not see as important. It is the decision of the Israelites, after they are saved from the schemes of Haman, to create a festival called Purim through which every year they would be forced to remember this significant historic moment, Esther’s heroism and God’s faithfulness. Yes, this festival was birthed out of a desire to celebrate. But, I firmly believe it was also birthed out of a desire not to forget.
Truth be told, we see this sort of practice repeated over and over again in the scriptures. When Joshua and the Israelites cross the Jordan River and enter into the Promised Land, they stop, take 12 stones, one to represent each of the 12 tribes of Israel, and build a memorial so that they will not forget this event and God’s faithfulness. Also in the Old Testament, we encounter the Ark of the Covenant which was an ornate chest that the Israelites carried with them wherever then went. The chest symbolized God’s presence in their midst and God’s spirit was said to hover over the chest at it’s very center point. But, inside the chest were also located three objects of significant, historical importance. Inside was a copy of the Ten Commandments, a jar of manna and Aaron’s budding rod. Each object was connected to an important moment in which the people had learned something about God. Each object, preserved a moment in time and helped them to remember. Likewise, in the New Testament, shortly before his death, Jesus institutes a meal what we call The Lord’s Supper or Communion. That meal was about remembering. Jesus made the bread and the cup symbols and told the disciples and all his followers to celebrate this meal regularly. Why? At least in part so that they would not forget.
I want to say it again, remembering is intentional work and it is hard work. So, how do we do it? Let me quickly mention two things.
First, we must capture our memories before they leave us. Some of these will be of people, some will be of events and others will be of spiritual moments, experiences with God and things we have learned along the way. We must capture them by writing them down, recording them, journaling about them and by preserving objects or mementos associated with those same events. What we cannot do is convince ourselves we will natural remember – we will not.
I regularly walk with people through the last days of their lives. Often in those very personal moments they share stories, offer quotes or remind me of significant moments from their lives. In the midst of those visits, I often say to myself, “now, I am going to remember that, I am sure I will want to use that at their funeral”. But, then, I don’t write it down or make a note. In turn, I cannot begin to tell you how many times the fateful day comes to memorialize that person and I can no longer remember that important thing I wanted to share. I have forgotten. I didn’t take time to capture the memory.
Second, we must be committed to sharing our memories. Not forgetting people, moments, sayings or special times hinges on our passing on these important memories to others. We truly do keep the special people in our lives alive, our profound moment with God alive, our faith alive, special experiences alive by passing them on. If we do not, all of those important times die with us and are never remembered again. The Israelites created Purim so that this moment, event and experience with God would not die when they died but would live on. We must share our stories too.
Today, we celebrate important peoples’ lives – what we learned from them about living, about faith, about God. Please preserve in an intentional way their stories and then share them.
Today, we celebrate those who gave their lives for our country, what they teach us about courage, patriotism, service and being a hero. Write down their stories, don’t think you’ll always remember them. And then, share their lives as a way of sharing their stories with others.
Let us never forget – our most power witness to this world about how God should influence our lives and how God has influenced us through the lives of others is found in our stories and our willingness to share them that they may shape the life of someone else as they have ours.
This last week, I was in a store and I overhead two ladies discussing researching their family tree. One of them began to talk about the cost of it – making some trips to places family had lived in the past and primarily the cost of subscribing to a database that had been very helpful. Somewhere in the conversation one of them was very clear – learning about where she came from and her family story was worth it; worth whatever it cost.
Our story, your story, your loved one’s story, the story of what God has done in your midst and the need to remember it is indeed worth it. It is worth whatever cost of time, effort and energy it might require in order that we all might not forget…Amen.