Lead me, Lord, So that I do not forget or fall away,
We are told to “remember” more than 200 times in the Bible. Perhaps we are reminded in scripture to remember because we are so often prone to forget: to forget who we are; whose we are; and what God wants from/for us. As pilgrims in the season of Lent there is another aspect of this remembering which we might see. Lent, historically, was a time for catechesis. Those wishing to enter fully into the community of the church would spend the weeks of Lent in instruction about the faith and would be baptized and take first communion on the Day of Resurrection (Easter). Those of us already members of the family of faith might take time during Lent to remember what we have learned about God and about our own discipleship as we follow Christ to Jerusalem.
One of the most powerful passages of scripture, which I sometimes jokingly suggest every Presbyterian should be made to read once a year, is the eighth-chapter of the book of Deuteronomy. After forty years of wandering and as they approach entry into the promised land, Moses pauses to give instruction. In essence he has been counseling them about how to build a workable human community through a neighborliness which is both just and loving.
Deut. 8:1[NRSV] This entire commandment that I command you today you must diligently observe, so that you may live and increase, and go in and occupy the land that the LORD promised on oath to your ancestors. 2 Remember the long way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, in order to humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commandments. 3 He humbled you by letting you hunger, then by feeding you with manna, with which neither you nor your ancestors were acquainted, in order to make you understand that one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. 4 The clothes on your back did not wear out and your feet did not swell these forty years. 5 Know then in your heart that as a parent disciplines a child so the LORD your God disciplines you. 6 Therefore keep the commandments of the LORD your God, by walking in his ways and by fearing him. 7 For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land with flowing streams, with springs and underground waters welling up in valleys and hills, 8 a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, 9 a land where you may eat bread without scarcity, where you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron and from whose hills you may mine copper. 10 You shall eat your fill and bless the LORD your God for the good land that he has given you.
Deut. 8:11 Take care that you do not forget the LORD your God, by failing to keep his commandments, his ordinances, and his statutes, which I am commanding you today. 12 When you have eaten your fill and have built fine houses and live in them, 13 and when your herds and flocks have multiplied, and your silver and gold is multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied, 14 then do not exalt yourself, forgetting the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, 15 who led you through the great and terrible wilderness, an arid wasteland with poisonous snakes and scorpions. He made water flow for you from flint rock, 16 and fed you in the wilderness with manna that your ancestors did not know, to humble you and to test you, and in the end to do you good. 17 Do not say to yourself, “My power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth.” 18 But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, so that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your ancestors, as he is doing today. 19 If you do forget the LORD your God and follow other gods to serve and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish. 20 Like the nations that the LORD is destroying before you, so shall you perish, because you would not obey the voice of the LORD your God.
God desires for us to live in peace and in plenty, in a land of justice and neighborliness. If we are to receive these blessing from God we must do our part by not forgetting or falling away from the life to which God invites us. As Deuteronomy chapter eight suggests — the irony of our situation is that it may be that precisely when we have received the most blessings from God that we are most vulnerable to a kind of amnesia which fails to appreciate that everything we have and all we are come as gifts from God.
Daily Collect: Lord, who on the eve of crucifixion said, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me,” we can see the depth of your love in the events of Holy Week. Help us never to forget what you have done in love for our sake. May we remember always the things you have taught us about love of God, neighbor, and ourselves. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.