DEUTERONOMY 11: WHY IS MEMORY SO IMPORTANT?
DO YOU RE-MEMBER?
I heard Dry Bones Denver Director Matt Wallace speak at his wife Nikki's grandfather's funeral and say that to remember literally can mean to "put back together." I puzzled about what he meant, then he suggested breaking off the prefix and it became more clear. To re-member something is to place members back together that had been separated. I had never thought of re-membering quite like that! When we re-member, we put people back together into one body. Matt, if I got this wrong, comment on the blog and correct me and I'll revise, but this is how I re-membered what you said.
- When a family remembers at a funeral as Matt was doing for Nikki's grandfather, we are putting people back together as a family.
- When family scandals and divisions break people apart, re-membering brings us back together.
- When a church loses its way, re-membering God's gracious provision and care along the history of that church, helps put people back into a state of mind where they can work together again.
- The Journey re-members our "member" Tim Schweikhard, who lost his father. We also re-member our "member" Bob Schweikhard, who lost his brother. Part of telling stories like this is that we re-member one another and share one another's grief and the importance of how God has touched each of our lives.
When Israel had lost members in the wilderness, and they were about to lose Moses, the speeches of Moses helped bring them back together again.
HOW DID MOSES HELP ISRAEL RE-MEMBER?
First, Moses re-members the love and gracious redemption of God. This is no minor thing with Moses, the Torah, Israel. The act of re-membering that God led them out of slavery in Egypt is central to Judaism and is still commemorated in the central feast of the year, Passover.
Second, Moses calls Israel to re-member the disciplines of God, the punishments in the wilderness.
Third and finally in this last chapter of Moses' second speech, Israel is called to turn toward the future in the promised land. They were given the commands and taught how to love and treat neighbor and stranger in order to flourish in the promised land. Promise was as much about how they were to live as it was the land.
The act of re-membering is literally enacted in very concrete ways and this is repeated from Deut 6, where Israel is called to talk about these commands of God when they walk along the road with their children, when they are in the home, to bind them as a sign on your hands and foreheads. Some to this day take this very literally and bind phylacteries or little boxes with scripture portions on their foreheads or hands, but metaphorically says the Renovare Study Bible, we can take this to mean we remember the laws and reflect on them mindfully and act on them with our bodies, our hands, our "members."
Deut 11:18-21 and 6:6-9 are nearly identical, but maybe they are repeated because of the consequences that are stated: "so that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land that the LORD swore to your ancestors to give them, as long as the heavens are above the earth" (v. 21).
One of the most difficult diseases we're seeing today is memory loss, dementia and Alzheimer's disease. The loss of memory for Israel would be devastating. The loss of memory in a church is devastating. When we forget God, forget God's love, forget God's saving actions, the results are destruction in our lives.
In her commentary on Deuteronomy, Deanna A. Thompson says Marcus Borg who proposes that in order to internalize and more deeply understand the connection between the love of God and obedience, that we replace the word "commandment" with "relationship." For example, when we recite the Shema we hear "that our greatest relationship is to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength." Then Thompson quotes Borg who says, "You can keep the commandments . and still be a jerk. But you can't be in a relationship with the loving God without being continually transformed."
LORD, today we re-member the deep relationship you have with Israel, your people, and your mighty divine acts of redemption from slavery in Egypt. Christians remember how you freed us also from slavery to sin by the power of the death and resurrection of Jesus. May our lives reflect your love in what we think, say, and do.
Greg Taylor preaches for The Journey: A New Generation Church of Christ. Greg's wife, Jill, teaches math at Broken Arrow High School and Tulsa Community College. Greg and Jill have three adult children, Ashley, Anna, and Jacob. Greg is the author of many books, including his latest co-authored with Randy Harris, Daring Faith: Meeting Jesus in the Book of John.