Remember well

Jul. 12, 2015

Amos 7.7-15; Eph. 1.3-14; Mk 6.14-29

"RE-membering" means we put things together from our world in a way that makes it all make sense. Whether we fret, or rejoice, or boil over with anger, as the American essayist Emerson said, we become that which we think all day long. The Bible urges us to remember the important things God has done in our lives. For example, a rainbow represents God's promise to deliver us. Passover recalls Israel's deliverance from Egypt. And we have gathered for communion today because Jesus said, "Do this in remembrance of me." Without remembering, it slips away. What we think about makes a...life that is joyful and celebrative or clouded by fears or spite. Altogether we are our thoughts and memories.

My memory isn't what it used to be! I find that some things are much easier to remember than others...most of us can remember people's faces. Even when we meet new people, we can generally remember not just their faces, but what they do, where they come from, their hobbies, but only a third of the time do we remember their names! Memory fails. Actually, by one estimate I read, up to 80 percent of all contacts made to corporate computer help desks is to retrieve forgotten passwords. And this may sound ridiculous to you, but in a recent poll of a thousand people, almost no one could recall the birthdays of more than three family members or friends. Memory fails.

But I think one of the weirdest "absent minded" story I've ever heard was the case of Tom Vander Molen of Grand Rapids, Michigan. As a young man in 1963 his grandfather gave him a $5 dollar gold piece. And over the years, he collected a great many more as a hobby and investment, but he was always scared that thieves would break in and steal his treasure. So, he tried to imagine a place where no thief could possibly find them. And finally, he came up with the perfect place. There were some old paint cans in his garage and he decided to glue the coins to the bottoms of the old rusty cans. Well, you can guess what happened...he felt so secure about it that he didn't even think about his treasure for several years, until he wanted to retrieve them and he couldn't remember where his perfect hiding place was! He took one entire day and literally tore his house apart...every room, every shelf, every item was checked and rechecked! But NO luck...he was even hoping for a mystical revelation, but it didn't come.

Not too long after that, his brother came over to his house and said, "You know, this place is really dingy...you should repaint it." So, they went out and bought some new bright colors and when they finished the job...they just threw away all those old rusty paint cans and kept the new paint cans for touch-ups. Mr. Molen even remembered throwing the old rusty cans into the dumpster himself. And long after the dumpster had been emptied, the mystical revelation finally came and he realized he'd been the victim of his fears and his poor memory.

As you can tell our thoughts and our selection of memories can be a friend or an unrelenting enemy. In the Scriptures today, Herod Antipas' wife, Herodias represents a person whose thoughts and memory were her own worst enemy, and would lead to a terrible sequence of events. Herodias had been married to Herod's half brother, Philip...but she and Herod Antipas had eyes for each other, and so they both divorced their spouses and married each other. Under Jewish law such remarriage was allowed, but only if the former spouse was dead, but Philip was very much alive. That's why John the Baptist denounced Herod and his harlot wife, Herodias. But Herodias had an exceptional memory for all the wrong kinds of things--and she stewed in her thoughts and remembered rage against John the Baptist. In fact, when she urged her husband Herod to kill John for his slanderous preaching against the royal couple, Herod didn't want to harm the popular prophet, so he just imprisoned him to stop his public protests. But Herodias, SHE remembered...and SHE plotted...and she schemed until this big drunken dinner party with dignitaries from all over their Mediterranean world at their lavish palace in Tiberius, Galilee. Although Herod Antipas was a son of Herod the Great, he wasn't. He only ruled at the pleasure of the Romans over a small portion of Palestine that came with the title, "Tetrarch", a title he shared with his two brothers who controlled the other parts. But like so many small rulers, he wanted to be a bigger one, and this grand birthday party was designed to impress his guests. Even Herod's outlandish promise to reward Salome for her dance with ANYTHING, "even up to half my kingdom"--was an over the top gesture! But Herodias used it as leverage to get revenge against John the Baptist. In a way, actually she's the one who lost her head. Because later, still grabbing for power, she persuaded her husband, Herod Antipas to go to Rome, and ask Emperor Caligula for the title of "king" as had just been given to his brother Herod Agrippa. But instead, Caligula banished him, along with Herodias and they and their kingdom were lost in obscurity.

Herodias represents the worst kind of remembering. Her memories purposed revenge, retribution, and un-forgiveness. If anger, fear, and jealousy are a person's default settings...it can't produce anything good. God says, "I will forgive (your) iniquity, and remember (your) sin no more." What a difference our God makes!

The point is that our thoughts and memories guide the direction of our lives. These memories can either help us or mislead us. If we remember and count only the slights and the offences we experience, our lives can become darkened and twisted. How empty our lives would be if we didn't recall the things for which we are thankful? Recall the good, re-member the blessings, make a different life. If we remember the good, life becomes an avenue of blessing, but if we remember only what we don't have or what we should've had...life is a different thing based on self-justification, and fear, or just getting even.

The point I want to make today is this...you can choose which memories will be cherished and honored and re-membered in your life. The message of faith is to let resentments and wounds slip away into the night of forgiveness, forgive and forget. If we remember and give thanks, then our lives will be pointed toward God and a life of gratitude. Let your life be built from remembering and living in God. What a difference that will make. Amen.


The Reverend WA Ray

St Thomas Church

Diamondhead, MS

07/12/15