It seems that our education and culture is not sure what we ought to remember. At School, we are meant to remember the 5th of November, our Times tables, perhaps the digits of Pi to 6 decimal places and how many wives Henry 8th had and if they got divorced, beheaded, died or survived. In our culture we are probably the only things that went in are the lyrics to pop songs in our early teens, and where we were when some great disaster or world event happened, or whether we enjoyed the summer of 2012. Unfortunately, much of what we remember easily is not really worth remembering.
A second problem is this. Much of what we remember, we remember wrongly or falsely. Our emotional life is wired to give extra emphasis to negative events and feelings. We like to feel that we learn from our mistakes…when we have made catastrophic decisions, or even good decisions that were personally costly or negative, we might turn to those close to us and say ‘well, I’m never going to do that again’. But sometimes doing the right thing has negative consequences for us personally or professionally, and what we remember should not stop us from doing the right thing again. In order to learn wisdom, we have to remember the good and the bad, and not just the bad.
Does Jesus often say to us – make sure you moan, complain and whine? Does the bible say, make sure you stay bitter and cautious, always take the path of least resistance and protect yourself at all costs? It doesn’t need to – because this is already our natural tendency, and our self-centred bias. Instead the Bible, and especially the Psalms, are really insistent that we need to remember rightly in order to be wise, and we need to remember often in order to be right with ourselves and with God.
Psalm 111:4 says “He has caused his wonderful work to be remembered, the Lord is gracious and merciful.”
Psalm 103:2 says “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.”
In other words remembering rightly is good for the mind and also good for the soul. We should remember the good works that God has done, and our souls should consider the benefits of knowing God personally and experiencing his love.
By contrast, God has no problem remembering. Psalm 111:5 says that ‘God remembers his covenant’. He remembers why he loves us, he remembers all he has done for us, and all he is doing, and he even remembers what he will do and has promised to do in the future. God’s recollection is absolute, unconfused, unfading, his love is generous and his works are evident and enduring.
There are two things we can do to remember. Firstly, perhaps today try to focus on a single ‘work’ of God in your life. An answered prayer, some real benefit you have ever experienced in knowing him. Remember it. Write it down. Thank God for it in your own life. Consider whether this remembered things might help you face the future with a slightly different perspective. This is a way to wisdom, and each of us needs to develop in our workplace and our relationships which puts ‘remembering’ rightly in our framework.
Secondly, we can recollect and remember the works of God together. It shouldn’t escape us that the psalms are written to be sung out loud in public with others. Commit to a weekly activity of worship and thankfulness, making worship a priority, either midweek in a minster community or prayer triplet, or in worship on Sunday. Sunday morning or Evening this week will give you an opportunity to do this. You might want to take some time to come to the farm over the next few weeks, in your own time or with others on a community day and give thanks with physical service and labour – give god a couple of hours of your muscle power as a ‘thank offering’ and a gift of your time.
With much love,
Worship Night, this Sunday 7th May at 7:30pm in the Big Barn
Minster Womens Evening, next Friday 12th May, 7:30pm. buytickets.at/minsterwomensgathering
Community Farm Day, next Saturday 13th May, 9:30am-2:30pm including lunch