Wednesday, September 14, 2016

We Need To Be Reminded

The title picture of this week’s blog is fuzzy and a bit faded. It was taken 30 years ago and to most people it’s just an old photograph. But for one of my staff members, it’s a picture taken by her father. It’s part of the backdrop of her childhood. And on the right hand side in the distance, although the angle and the picture quality makes it look like one building - that’s the twin towers of World Trade Center.

This past Sunday, we paused to remember the victims and heroes of 9/11/01. The dramatic reading that we presented was based on something that the Skit Guys did for the 10th anniversary, but re-worked by our Creative Team Leader (and contributor of the photo above), Jenni Baier. In case you missed it, here’s what we read:
Reader 1:          15 years ago this morning, many of us were going about our normal, busy routines.
Reader 2:          But this day turned out to be anything but normal.
Reader 3:          And when we heard the news, it shocked us out of our routines.
Reader 4:          “For the waves of death encompassed me; The torrents of destruction overwhelmed me;” (2 Sam 22:5)
Reader 1:          We stood in disbelief.
Reader 2:          We wept.
Reader 3:          We cried out to God.
Reader 4:          “In my distress I called upon the Lord, Yes, I cried to my God; And from His temple He heard my voice, And my cry for help came into His ears.” (2 Sam 22:7)
Reader 1:          15 years ago, we came together in unity. We set aside political differences.
Reader 2:          We crossed denominational lines.
Reader 3:          And we prayed together.
Reader 4:          “Should evil come upon us, the sword, or judgment,
or pestilence, or famine, we will stand before this house and before You (for Your name is in this house) and cry to You in our distress, and You will hear and deliver us.” (2 Chronicles 20:9)
Reader 1:          15 years later, our hearts still ache for those who lost loved ones, civilians who were just showing up for work.
Reader 2:          Firefighters and other first responders who put themselves in harm’s way to save others.
Reader 3:          And soldiers who, in subsequent years, have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.
Reader 4:          “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted And saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Ps 34:18)
Reader 1:          We still question aloud, “Why?”
Reader 2:          We still fear the unknown.
Reader 3:          And there are still many things we do not understand.
Reader 4:          “Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity.  All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.” (1 Cor 13:12 NLT)
Reader 1:          15 years ago, we were reminded of how fragile and temporary our lives can be.
Reader 2:          But we also learned that some things can never be taken from us by force.
Reader 3:          And 15 years later, that’s what we’re still holding on to.
Reader 4:          “Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.” (1 Cor 13:13 NLT)
Reader 1:          15 years later, we take these moments to remember.
Reader 2:          We pray for continued healing in our land.
Reader 3:          Our faith remains strong and our hope lies in God
Reader 1:          For we may have been down... but we are not out.
Reader 2:          We will have faith.
Reader 3:          We will have hope.
Reader 4:          And the greatest of these... is love.
In the aftermath of the September 11th attacks, one phrase in particular became strongly associated with imagery from that day: Never Forget. 15 years ago, it seemed almost silly to suggest that anyone could ever forget. I know that many of you feel the same way. How could we NOT remember? But 15 years later… we are already becoming forgetful.

In preparation for our 9/11 remembrance, I asked Jenni to come up with some ideas and see what other churches were planning since 9/11 was a Sunday this year. She belongs to a few Facebook groups for church creatives, and one of them had posted a poll about 9/11. More than half of those who responded said it would be “business as usual” and that they didn’t plan to do anything different. In another group, someone responded to a similar post by saying, “What did you do for [Insert other tragedy here]?” Others didn’t seem to see any value in taking time out of a Sunday service to remember 9/11.
There is something disappointing and sad about that – but it’s also very understandable. As human beings, we’re prone to forget what isn’t right in front of us. We find it easy to dismiss that which doesn’t touch us directly. That doesn’t mean that what’s in front of us isn’t important, but it does mean that we need to make some extra effort sometimes to keep things in proper perspective.
This is nothing new. We have always been a forgetful people.

In the Old Testament, Israel became enslaved in Egypt (Ex 1:11) and God heard their cries (Ex 3:7) and sent Moses. After a spectacular and supernatural deliverance from Egypt, God gave the Ten Commandments and the great Sh’ma (“Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one.”). He specifically instructed the Israelites to go out of their way to remember these things and to teach their children (Deut 6:4-9) so they would not forget.
God knows that no matter how amazing, life-altering, or impactful the event, our memories will fade, especially when things are going well for us. In Deut 6:10-12, God tells Israel that they will come into the promised land, and it will be WONDERFUL. But in verse 12, He adds a warning. He tells them that good things are heading thier way, but once they come, “watch yourself, that you do not forget the Lord who brought you from the land of Egypt…”
And Israel did serve the Lord for a time. But after Joshua died, Judges 2:10-11 says “All that generation also were gathered to their fathers; and there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord, nor yet the work which He had done for Israel. Then the sons of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals.”
So much of the Old Testament tells the story of a repeating cycle: Hardship leading to repentance, which brings about deliverance and peace, which leads to complacency and forgetfulness, which leads to hardship which leads to…
The bottom line is, we must choose to remember. We must work at remembering.

We must choose to remember painful events in our history as a nation. As the saying goes, those who cannot (or will not) remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
We must choose to remember and live by the tenets of our faith and explain to our children why they are important.  

We live in a world where so many things compete for our attention… and they’re not all bad things. But we must choose to remember and make time for what is important to us.

What are you determined to Never Forget?

Earlier this month, I shared in my Town Talk Guest Pastor column that we need to be deliberate and purposeful in remembering the flood victims in south Louisiana, and I rejoiced in the fact that so many local churches in this area are stepping up in creative and practical ways. But as time passes, it will be easier and easier for those of us who weren’t directly impacted to forget that the needs there are still great. (Incidentally, I am bringing a crew to Baton Rouge this Saturday to hang drywall. Contact me if you’re interested!)

Some “Never Forget” moments, like 9/11, are national. Some, like the flooding in South Louisiana, are more regional. And some are very personal.

Here’s a personal example. Before adopting our two youngest children from South America, my wife and I had three beautiful daughters. As they grew up I became increasingly aware of my awesome responsibility as a father to help shape them and their view of men. I came up with a way to daily remind myself of that responsibility - I gave each of my daughters a necklace with a heart-shaped locket that has a keyhole in the middle, and I put the “keys to their hearts” on a necklace that I wear every day. It was a daily reminder to never forget my obligation and calling. It was also a great joy to present my new son-in-law with the key to my daughter’s heart on their wedding day! But I still wear those keys every day to remind me to never forget.


What are your “Never Forget” stories? I’d love it if you’d share them with me in the comments.

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