“Remember, remember the fifth of November; Gunpowder, treason and plot, I see no reason, why gunpowder treason should ever be forgot.”
This is a time of year when we are presented with many opportunities to remember. We remember the dear departed in various Memorial services. We remember and commemorate the ending of the First World War on Remembrance Sunday, and we remember those who gave their lives for our freedom during the two World Wars and beyond. We remember too the historical events of the 5th of November on Bonfire night or Guy Fawkes night.
The Bible has a lot to say about remembering and remembrance. The Lord’s ‘book of remembrance’ (Malachi 3:16) was of “those who feared the Lord and thought on his name.” “Do this in remembrance of me,” said Jesus in the institution of the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). Yet the people of God have been forgetting their past for centuries, for millennia, and time and time again prophets spoke out to restore the people’s relationship with God. In Isaiah 62 we read “I have posted watchmen on your walls, Jerusalem; they will never be silent day or night. You who call on the LORD, give yourselves no rest, and give him no rest till he establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth.” (Isaiah 62:6-7) Other translations speak of watchmen and ‘remembrancers’ (here translated simply as those who “call on the Lord”) – those who remind or put the Lord ‘in remembrance’. The list goes on…
Why is remembering so important? What are we to remember and are we to remember everything? A famous philosopher, essayist, poet, and novelist called George Santayana once said “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” So we can certainly learn from the past; the past is anything but irrelevant and it does have an impact on us. We can learn from experience, and we can learn from the ‘great and the good’ who’ve gone before us as we remember their life and testimony. We can also remember and call to mind the wisdom and insight from the Bible – “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16)
There are however some things we need to ‘remember no more’, to forget! Even God does that; here are some examples:
- “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” (Isaiah 43:25)
- “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Hebrews 8:12)
- “Then he adds: “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.”” (Hebrews 10:17)
It seems clear that we need to learn to ‘forgive and forget’, to forgive and ‘remember no more’ those who have sinned against us. This is important. We pray in the Lord’s prayer “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” We are asking God to forgive us our sins in the same way as we have shown forgiveness to those who sin against us.
We live in a time when perhaps more than any other we need watchmen and remembrancers; not simply those who put the Lord ‘in remembrance’, but also those who remind us of ‘the things of God’ and often speak with a prophetic voice. I am sure there are people like that in your Church; if there are, then give thanks for their ministry, whether lay or ordained. If there aren’t, pray that God might raise up people like that. And if you’re going to forget anything, forget the wrongs people may have done to you in the past and instead remember God’s promises and the inspiration of those who have gone before us.