I have to be honest and say that in the last few years I am finding it harder and harder to remember things. I really notice it with names, but it’s also dates, appointments and information in emails that I’ve received or sent. I continue to forget what it was I needed as I wander through the grocery store but I am happy to say that in the last 2 years I have not forgotten to buy toilet paper and that because thanks to many of you, I have not had to buy any toilet paper. It’s a long story…
While sometimes I can laugh off my inability to remember things and joke about getting older and having a senior moment, sometimes I find it really frustrating and so I make lists, double check emails and do all I can to try and remember. I was reading some articles this week about why we forget things and learned that the amount of information being generated is expanding exponentially. At the end of WWII, knowledge was doubling every 25 years, now it is every 13 months and soon it will be every 13 hours. No wonder I can’t remember things – there is more and more for us to remember every year. When I was in High School all I needed to remember was my address, phone number and the all important locker combination, but today I have to remember my address, email address, phone number, church number, cell number, multiple passwords for computers, emails, and a dozen web accounts as well as pin numbers, social security numbers and a dozen other items needed just to get through the week.
I don’t know that it’s just all that there is to know that makes it hard for us to remember as much as it is our desire and drive to know more that is the problem. At times we are so obsessed with what’s new and exciting and always looking for more that we fail to focus on what we already have or where we have come from. Because we are always looking forward, we forget to reflect on where we have been and what we have learned and the timeless truths and promises of God that help us. Stress, multitasking, poor diets, lack of exercising also make it hard for us to remember, which most of us can probably agree with. When we are under a lot of stress, whether it’s from our job or school or health, it’s easy to forget things.
Thinking about all of this, I guess it makes sense that today we struggle to remember, but failing to remember is not a new problem, it is an ancient problem. After God led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt and miraculously brought them through the Red Sea and safely away from the armies of Pharaoh and the hardships of life in captivity, they immediately forgot God. Look at Exodus 15:22-25.
God had just miraculously parted the Red Sea and led the people through on dry ground. God had just done miracles with water and yet 3 days later they were complaining because they didn’t have any water. Three days is all it took for them to completely forget God’s power and ability to provide. They didn’t go to Moses with faith and trust and ask him to ask God to provide them water, no, they complained because God had led them into the desert to die of thirst.
So Moses asked God to provide water and He did. God led the people to a place where there were 12 springs and 70 palm trees which meant it was a place of abundance. Now you would think this would help the people remember that God was there to provide for them, but once again the people quickly forgot. 6 weeks later they again have completely forgotten God. Look at Exodus 16:1-3.
So half way through the second month, or 6 six weeks since they had walked through the Red Sea and 5 ½ weeks since God had provided them with water in an oasis, they have once again forgotten God and His ability to care for them. They go as far as saying it would have been better for them to have stayed as slaves in Egypt where at least they had good food. They have forgotten God’s power, presence and purpose for them.
So failing to remember is not a new phenomenon, which means we can’t blame it on the rapid increase in information and the increased access we have to that information. Failing to remember is part of our human condition and it is something God has always had an answer for. For Israel, God’s answer wasn’t just a command for them to remember, He gave them resources to help them remember.
To help them remember how God led his people out of slavery God told them that each year they were hold a special meal where they would tell the story of how all the plagues God sent on Egypt never touched them. This meal, called the Passover, was a reminder that the angel of death passed over the homes of the Israelites.
God also told them to set aside a day each week to remind them how He created the world and then rested on the seventh day. God told the people to write his law on the door posts of their homes so every time they went in or out they would remember who God was and how God called them to live. God told them to set up stone memorials to remember how God provided for the people in certain times and places and God even told his people to wear special clothes that would remind them of God’s law and God’s presence. The tassels on their clothes (tzitzit)
were to remind people of their religious obligations and the special arm wraps called tefillin and phylacteries are full of symbolic meanings to remind the people of God and his word.
So God didn’t just command the people to remember, he gave them resources to help them remember because God knows how easily we forget. We still use some these same resources today, in fact, we are celebrating one this weekend. Memorial Day is a day that our nation has set aside to remind us of the men and women who gave everything they had to not just help our nation but to help people around the world. Tomorrow isn’t just a day to have a picnic; it is a day we as a nation have set aside to help us remember because without it we would forgot. Without Memorial Day, we would forget the sacrifice so many people have made on our behalf and we would forget the values of sacrifice and service that are so much a part of our nation.
Without Memorial Day we would also forget to say thank you to the men and women who have served and those who continue to serve in our today. We would forget to pray for and support those veterans who have physical and emotional needs from their time of service and we would forget that it is our duty to care for them.
Like the Passover and other special days, Memorial Day is set aside to remind us of these things because without it we would forget. I hope that at some point tomorrow we will stop and remember the sacrifice and service of those who have given so much and if we have the opportunity I hope we will say thank you to those who have served and those who continue to serve our community, nation and world.
But this weekend we don’t just celebrate Memorial Day, we also celebrate Pentecost. In the Old Testament, Pentecost was known as the feast of weeks and it came 50 days after the Passover. The feast of weeks was to include an offering from the first fruits of the harvest as a reminder that God provides for the people. In the New Testament it was during Pentecost that the Holy Spirit came upon the followers of Jesus and filed them with power. Acts 2:1-4.
What the Holy Spirit did that day was move the disciples of Jesus from the safety of the upper room out onto the streets where they shared all that God had done for them and they shared all the truth about Jesus. The Holy Spirit wasn’t just given to provide power; it was also given because God knows that we are prone to forget. According to Jesus, one of the reasons God sent the Holy Spirt was to help us remember. Look at John 14:25-27.
Because God knows we are prone to forget and that symbols and memorials only go so far in helping us to remember, God decides to send his spirit into us to help us remember all that He has taught us through Jesus Christ. God understands our forgetfulness and so throughout history has provided outward signs and here an inner spirit, God’s Spirit, to help us remember. Today we still have these outward signs and God’s spirit to help us remember. We have a cross to remind us of Jesus and we have set times of worship to hear once again the story of God’s work in the world and the story of God’s presence in our lives and we have special days like today that remind us that the Holy Spirit has come to live inside us to help remind us of all these things.
God has done all of this to help us remember and the foundation of all that God wants us to remember is: God is here with us and God is here for us. Just as God was with Israel in the Old Testament, God is present with us today and God provides for us because God loves us and that is ultimately what He wants us to remember.
While God has done his part in providing so many things to help us remember, we need to do our part as well. The resources God has given aren’t any good if we don’t use them, so to remember we need to read God’s word. To remember God we need to celebrate in times of worship where our hearts and lives are directed away from the world and centered and focused once again on God. We need these special days to remember the powerful way God has provided for us. We need times of prayer where we ask God’s spirit to speak to our hearts and remind us of his truth and love, but most of all we need to live lives that reflect God each and every day. As we live for God we will remember God.
There is a Chinese proverb that says:
I hear and I forget.
I read and I remember.
I do and I understand.
When we do, when we live out the reality of God in our world, when we are faithful and obedient and strive to be the presence of Jesus in our families, community and world, it is then that we more fully understand God and remember.
To Remind You
1. Memorial Day is to remind us of those who have sacrificed and served for our nation and world. Take time to remember those who have served. Seek out a veteran or current member of the military to honor and thank them for their service and sacrifice.
2. What might be the causes of your forgetfulness?
• An obsession with what is new and exciting
• A focus on ourselves and what we want and need
• Lack of sleep
• Poor diet
• Trying to do too much
3. What resources that God has provided could help you remember God’s presence, power and purpose for your life?
• Reading, reflecting on, or writing out Scripture
• Regular worship and set times of prayer
• Consistent giving of a tithe or offering
• Intentional times for serving God and others
4. Identify one truth of God you want to remember this week:
What can you do to make this truth an ongoing part of your life?
I hear and I forget.
I read and I remember.
I do and I understand.
~ A Chinese Proverb ~