I grew up in the suburbs outside Washington, D.C. and spent my childhood touring the museums, monuments, and memorials scattered around the city. It's where my classmates and I went for field trips every year.
When I bring my children back to visit, I teach them about our nation's history as we walk from one monument to the next. When we pass an important federal building, I prompt their memories asking, "What happens in that building?" On a trip there this past summer, I brought them to the Arlington Cemetery where we visited President Kennedy's grave and watched the eternal flame dance in the afternoon heat. We talked about what the flame signifies and remarked on the placement of it, with a view of the Washington monument and the Capitol off in the distance.
Everywhere you go in DC, there is something of historical significance. Most buildings are etched with words and images rich with meaning. Every monument, statue, and memorial stands as a reminder of who we are, where we've been, and where we desire to go. They remind us of our past, of important people and events that shaped our nation. Such reminders fuel our purpose and drive us forward. As the walls on the National Archives declare, "What's past is prologue."
Such memorials and monuments are not found only in a country's capital. We all create memorials in our lives, markers that remind us of our past. It might be family photos hanging on the living room wall. Many of us have a wedding ring encircling our finger. Some may have special ornaments they hang on the Christmas tree each year. We all make efforts to remember the past. Even our social media feed pops up images from a few years ago to remind us what happened in our life that day and we pause and smile at the memory. But we don't just remember the past simply for the joy of it; we remember because the past is part of us and it shapes our future.
Such remembrances and memorials were important in Scripture. Joshua had representatives from each of the twelve tribes set up twelve stones to remember how God brought them through the Jordan River to other side (Joshua 4). God established regular feasts and festivals for his people to reflect and remember all he had done for them. Jesus established the communion meal as a time of remembrance where we dwell on his sacrifice on the cross for our sins.
As limited and finite people, we need remembrances because we are prone to forgetfulness. We go about our days living as though we determine our plans and steps. We live as though we are the gods and goddesses of our kingdoms. We get wrapped up in the problems and trials of our lives and think we're the ones to rescue and save ourselves. We splash and flail in the rising waters as the storms of life toss us about and we forget the One who rules over the wind and waves. We forget who we once were before Christ and how we got to where we are today.
We need to remember.
How do we remember who God is and what he has done? We remember when we read his Word each day. We remember when we gather with God's people and sing to one another of God's faithfulness and hear his word preached and feast on the bread and the wine. We remember when we give thanks for our daily bread and God's provision of grace in Christ. We remember when we testify to someone else of who we once were apart from Christ and who we are now because of what he did for us in his life, death, and resurrection. We remember when we preach the gospel to ourselves in the midst of our worries, fears, heartaches, and griefs. We remember when we unplug and take time to explore the wonders of God's marvelous works in creation. We remember when we engage in community face to face with other believers and rejoice together at the goodness of God in our lives, when we weep with and support one another through trials and suffering, and when we share with one another out of the provisions with which God has blessed us.
As we remember God's past grace toward us in Christ, it gives us hope and confidence in his future grace.
Numerous studies have shown that most Americans know little of their US history. Few know the meaning and stories behind the statues and monuments that dot the landscape of our nation's capital. A tragedy indeed. But it’s a greater tragedy when we as Christians forget who we are in Christ. When we forget the history of redemption. When we forget God’s amazing grace in sending his Son to save us from our sins. For the believer, it's not simply a matter of forgetting a few historical facts. It's not simply about walking down the streets of our nation's capital and missing out on the significance of what each building and monument represents. For the Christian, when we forget who God is and what he has done, we wander off the narrow path of life. We live like orphans rather than children of God. We start to seek life and hope in the creation rather than the Creator. Such forgetfulness is harmful to our life of faith.
Remembering who God is and what he has done is important. It's a spiritual act, a holy habit. Today, let’s take time to remember our rich history and heritage in Christ.