Sunday, March 26, 2023

The sin of forgetfulness. . .

Israel's problem was largely forgetfulness.  Because they did not remember what the Lord had said and done, they were led blindly by the influence of others or their own sinful desires and that road always ended up badly for them.  In response, the Lord constantly told them to remember what they had forgotten, sent prophets to recall them to the memory of God's mighty acts, and set it as a liturgical refrain lest they forget again.  Which they did.

There are literally hundreds of texts in which the Lord reminds them that His people forgot.  Here are six typical verses to consider:

  1. You deserted the Rock, who fathered you; you forgot the God who gave you birth (Deuteronomy 32:8).
  2. When I fed them, they were satisfied; when they were satisfied, they became proud; then they forgot me (Hosea 13:6).
  3. and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery (Deuteronomy 8:13-14).
  4. They forgot His deeds and His miracles that He had shown them (Psalm 78:11).
  5. But they soon forgot his works; they did not wait for his counsel. … They forgot God their Savior, Who had done great things in Egypt (Psalm 106:13, 21).
  6. But they forgot the LORD their God; so he sold them into the hand of Sisera, the commander of the army of Hazor, and into the hands of the Philistines and the king of Moab, who fought against them. They cried out to the LORD and said, “We have sinned; we have forsaken the LORD and served the Baals and the Ashtoreths. But now deliver us from the hands of our enemies, and we will serve you”‘ (1 Sam 12:9-10).

Liturgically, the whole of Psalm 136 is a rehearsal of the mighty acts of God on behalf of His people, a reassurance that these acts were done in mercy, and a reminder of the that which is hidden behind everything God does -- His steadfast love endures forever.  It would be difficult to go through that Psalm one day and wake up the next without a memory of what you just read.  But that is what Israel did and what we do every day.

It is the heart of worship to recall what God has done to create, redeem, restore, and renew His people.  Saying back to Him what He has first said to us, we not only glorify Him but we plant anew the record of His deliverance into our hearts and minds so that it will not depart from us.  But it does.  So worship is not an irregular activity but the regular, at least weekly, gathering of God's people to hear His Word, recall what He has accomplished for our salvation in His Son, and reorder our lives in response to His love.  Of course, we do this with songs, hymns, psalms, and spiritual songs of praise and thanksgiving upon our lips and with the tithes and offerings of a grateful heart in our hands.

The New Testament is not without its own call not to depart from the teachings given, to remember what God did in your baptism, to remember by faithful communion in His flesh and blood what Christ accomplished for your salvation, and to walk worthy of this gift and blessing.  It is all because we forget.  Or, sometimes choose not to remember.  The Church Year and the Liturgy exist for the same purpose -- to unfold by season and Sunday the mighty acts of God by which we have been saved, are now being saved, and will be saved when He comes again in His glory.

Much of modern Christianity has forgotten the voice of God in Scripture and it has become a mere jumping off point to manufacture a faith designed and approved by the cultural values of the moment.  We surely know on some level that the decisions we have made to approve the wholesale reconfiguration of marriage and family is not consistent with but in contradiction to what God has said but we trudge on.  We surely know on some level that the choices of sexual desire and gender identity we are making are outside the pale of God's creative and redemptive will and purpose but that has not slowed us down.  We surely know on some level that our callous treatment of the sacred and precious gift of life in the womb and through its natural end is an affront to the intent and esteem with which God holds life but that has not stopped us from claiming God wants death by choice, death to the child in the womb, and reproductive technology that treats life as a product.  We surely know on some level that our peace with death and our quest for a best life now stands in direct contrast to what God did to free us from that death and to bestow upon us a life unimaginable in earthly minds and hearts but we celebrate life and go home content with a memory instead of all that God has offered to us in Christ.  We surely know on some level that Scripture is not just any book and that its meaning is not subject to our own whims or preferences but we plod along as if the Bible were mere mythology for spiritual inspiration instead of the Book of Life to raise the dead in Christ, the living voice of the eternal God, and the very means by which we are transformed for no people with no hope into God's people with an endless hope.  We surely know on some level that sentiment is not a substitute for faith and yet we continue to confuse feelings with God's facts and sincerity in what we want to believe with the confession of Christ, the Son of the Living God.  We forget -- either by failing to listen and repeat what God has done or by intent because we no longer care about it.  So God has to remind us.

That is why the voice of the Church is so vitally important.  We are the voices who cry out to a people prone to forget all that God has said and done.  We cry out in warning when error clouds the truth or hardened hearts no longer repent.  We cry out in comfort when wounds of guilt, pain, shame, and death beg for healing.  We cry out in hope when despair threatens and fear takes captive the hearts of men.  We cry out in peace when bitterness and violence lay all around.  Who will hear unless they are sent?  How will they remember unless they are told again the story of God's love in Christ?  It was St. Paul's question in his own day and it must surely be ours.  We may feel like hiding behind a closed door in a world so forgetful and unfriendly to the Gospel but that is not God's purpose nor our vocation.  Perhaps the worst of the sins of men is to forget the goodness of the Lord who made all things and the mercy of the Lord who redeemed those unworthy of His love.  May the Lord bless us that we may not forget -- not for our sakes but also not for the sake of the world!


1 comment:

Archimandrite Gregory said...

The Church's voice is vital only when it reflects the mission and the call of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.