Once a month, I take an afternoon to write birthday and anniversary cards for members and friends of the church. Taking a moment to think and remember what makes each one so special, I try to write a blessing that fits each individual. For me, this writing is a sort of prayer and spiritual discipline that expresses my pastoral care for my flock.
I don’t just limit my cards to those who are alive, I also write cards to remember birth dates and anniversaries of those who have died. On wedding anniversaries I send cards to widows. On birthdays, I send cards to someone whose mom or dad died years ago. As I write these cards I call to mind memories of each person—a time when they poked their head into the office just to say hello, a special conversation, a sense of humor, a twinkle in the eye and scores of other things. Some of the people I have never met because they passed away before I came here. For them I remember the stories their families have shared with me—memories of how they met, the joys they shared and the struggles they faced together—and I find myself thinking, “I would have loved to have known them.”
Many of my members have told me how much they appreciate knowing that their loved ones are still remembered. If one of the worst things you can say to someone is “Forget you!!!” then to say, “I remember you,” has to be a blessing. And so I see that a part of my pastoral calling is to remember those whom I love and serve.
At a dark time in Israel’s history, God’s people thought that God had forgotten them. Through the prophet Isaiah, God reassured them with these words.
But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me,
my Lord has forgotten me.”
“Can a woman forget her sucking child,
that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb?
Even these may forget,
yet I will not forget you.
Behold, I have graven you on the palms of my hands.” Isaiah 49:14-16
God is a God who remembers. When Noah was in the ark, God remembered him and sent a wind to dry up the flood (Genesis 8:1). When Israel were slaves in Egypt, God remembered them and sent Moses to lead them to the promised land (Exodus 2:24). When Hannah was childless, God remembered her and allowed her to conceive and give birth to Samuel (I Samuel 1:19). When the thief on the cross prayed, “Jesus, remember me when you come into his kingdoms,” Jesus responded, “Today you will be with me in Paradise (Luke 24:32-33).”
How God remembers is different than how we remember. When we remember a thought comes to mind and with it comes strong feelings of love, joy, sadness, and longing all mixed together. Our memories nurture us but they cannot undo the loss we feel. However, when God remembers he acts on our behalf. When Jesus remembered the thief, the man joined him in paradise. When God remembers the saints who have gone before, he holds them in his hands and promises them a resurrection is coming. When God remembers us, he holds us in the same hands and promises us a day of reunion is coming. This is our confidence and hope for God never forgets.
© November 17, 2019 by Rev. Michael A. Weber.
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