Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Remember to remember

Today's Old Testament reading is from Deuteronomy, the second giving of the law, the longest sermon in the entire Bible (and maybe in the history of humankind). Here Moses warns them not to forget, and gives them some clues for how to remember:
10When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. 11Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. 12Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, 13and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, 14then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
Deuteronomy 8:11-14
So I see three things that sort of overlap: First, praise the Lord. Someone told me once that we thank the Lord for what he's done, whereas we praise him for who he is. Of course a lot of "who he is" we know by "what he does." I tend to lump praise and thanks together, as the psalmist said, "Praise him for his mighty deeds." So praise and thanks is one.

The second thing I see is that we must take care to remember. The day before yesterday, we had "communion" at church, or "celebrated the Lord's table." This is a sacrament, a ceremony, in which common bread and grape juice (in the early church it was wine, but we live in California and some people under 21 might be in the congregation) are used to help us remember the Lord's sacrifice and some of his final words. There are other things we do to remember things God has done for us; sometimes these seem like rituals, and maybe they are. But they don't have to be empty rituals if we use them to remember him. Maybe we praise and thank him when we remember, too, so this second thing overlaps with the first.

The third thing I see here is to do what he said. We must observe his commands. What commands? I'll tell you what comes to mind, three things that Jesus said:
  • The greatest command: Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30 maybe?)
  • The second is like the first, love your neighbor as yourself (quoting Leviticus 19:18 if I recall correctly)
  • A new command I give you, that you love one another as I have loved you (John 13:34)
Three, not even ten. But a tough list.

I'll tell you what I'm thinking right now. That it is very hard to do these commands. (That's why they're commands, I guess; if they were easy, there wouldn't be any need to command them.) Especially that last one -- to love my brothers and sisters as Jesus has loved us. I want people to like me and appreciate what I say to them. Is that so bad? Well, maybe. If it means I'm using them (to feel good about myself), rather than serving them -- or as Peck said, extending myself to further the spiritual growth of another -- then yes, it is so bad.

Sheesh -- no wonder the Pharisees preferred to weigh out herbs or count coins or steps and debate the meaning of the Scriptures and all that religious stuff! It's a lot easier on the old ego than serving selflessly.

But as for me, may God grant me strength to do his commands, and may I step out in that strength to serve him. And I wish that for you, too.

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