I doubt anyone came to the Telkwa Cenotaph for today’s Remembrance Day observation thinking they were radicals or revolutionaries. But in at least one way, everyone there was just that by the very fact that we were taking time to remember.
Remembering is not an activity that is held in high regard in our society and culture; anything over a month (a week?) old is irrelevant. How far back does your Facebook newsfeed go by default? A few hours? A kid who’s part of the same church as I am told me the other day that my 2-year-old computer is an antique! In general, if we’re not preoccupied by the present moment, we’re thinking about the future – our own personal future, or what the world or technology or the climate will be like in years to come. That we spend time remembering things that may well have happened long before we were even born can certainly be seen as radical, even revolutionary in our time!
I submit, however, that remembering is not only a good thing to do (e.g. to be encouraged by God’s provision in the past or to learn from yesterday’s dumb mistakes), it’s also a biblical thing to do. Think of the Israelites crossing the Jordan River. Ushering them into the Promised Land, God parts the waters like He did with the Red Sea at the beginning of the exodus. However, before they all make it across the Jordan, God commands some people to take boulders from the middle of the riverbed and pile them up on the other side. Why? Here’s God’s reason: “In the future when your descendants ask their parents, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ For the LORD your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over… He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the LORD is powerful and so that you might always fear the LORD your God” (Joshua 4:21-24). In short, God wanted them to remember and pass along what He had done for them.
Similarly, we gather at a monument today to remember fallen soldiers who fought so that we may have a free country (something we so often take for granted). As we remember events from the past, we can give thanks to God for how He has orchestrated history in such a way that Canadians live in freedom today. But what’s more, in thinking about historical events, we see ourselves as part of something bigger than just ourselves. We find ourselves part of a larger story. We might not know a single one of the soldiers who sacrificed their lives, and yet our lives have been impacted for the better by them.
The apostle Paul encouraged young Pastor Timothy with these words: “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is [the] Gospel…” I don’t think Paul only means for Timothy to remember Jesus’ divinity and humanity as historical facts or as a spiritual reality – though those things are certainly good and true. I hear Paul encouraging Timothy to remember Jesus so that Timothy can find himself part of the larger story of Jesus’ life and mission. It’s as though Paul is saying, Think about Jesus and how, because of Him, you are part of a grand, ongoing story that has meaning and a purpose.
This is a great story. It will revolutionize your life. This story takes seriously our brokenness and pain. It takes seriously the wars that were fought and are being fought – many overseas, many in our own strife-filled homes. This grand story reminds us how we are lost in sin. …Lost in sin apart from Christ. In Christ, there is forgiveness and redemption! This isn’t something to just think about on your deathbed; this is something in which to immerse yourself today. Jesus invites you to find your identity, to locate and live your particular story within the larger narrative of His story of redemption.
Part of this involves remembering men and women who have given us the ability to explore such things in freedom regardless of our convictions about warfare. And part of this involves remembering who you were apart from Christ, how He has rescued you from the devil-warlord, and where He desires to lead you in freedom as you are obedient to Him. (Freedom in obedience… It sounds like a paradox, I know.)
So I encourage you to remember. And to remember well.