This coming Sunday, we will gather together as a family of faith; as a people, a tribe of grace. We will come together to encourage one another, to pray, to sing, to offer and receive teaching, to share in the Lord's supper. We will come together to proclaim and receive the Gospel, and to respond in worship of our Savior King, Jesus. We will do so, not out of simple habit or some sense of religious obligation, or even because we happen to find such times personally enjoyable or emotionally 'uplifting'. No, we gather together in fact, week-by-week, simply because it is of desperate - even vital - importance that we do so. We are a forgetful and easily distracted people, you see! And, it is in the discipline of corporate worship that we enact together and remind one another of that which is most profoundly, importantly, and eternally true.
Back in 2000, Columbia pictures released the suspense/thriller, "Memento", a film in which the main character suffers a trauma resulting in complete short-term memory loss. As each new day begins for him with an inability to recall what had happened the day before, this man begins an obsessive habit of taking pictures and notes that he would leave for himself - even, in the case of the most vital pieces of information, tattooing himself - such that he might be able, day by day, to reconstruct the story that had brought him to where he was. Such is the importance of memory.
In Acts chapter 17, we observe Paul as he wanders through the city of Athens and perceives the thousands upon thousands of wood, metal and stonework 'gods' filling every square and crevice of that place. The scripture tells us that the experience "provoked" the Spirit in Paul, and drove him to engage those around him with the Gospel of Jesus. Whereas our own culture may be more subtle in its expression - our 'gods' don't generally tend to be represented by household statuary - we are certainly no less immersed in a world of idols than were the ancient Athenians. The human heart is, simply and irrepressibly, wired for worship; and where we are unclear about or resistant to the intended and proper object of that worship, history and experience shows that we will fill the void with anything that might strike the fancy of our sin-crippled hearts. This is a constant threat to genuine worship, but it is also an opportunity for the Gospel in the hearts and lives of the lost, as Paul himself understood. Through the idolatry of Athens, Paul recognizes their religious instincts: As G. Campbell Morgan puts it, "Every idol proved capacity for God. Every temple demonstrated man's need of worship."
As a people whose hearts bend irrepressibly and eternally towards worship, then, the question for us as followers of Jesus is only how we might discipline our hearts such that we REMEMBER, day-by-day, the God and Savior who alone can rightly satisfy that hunger, heal our brokenness, forgive our rebellion, and bring us to life. By what means will we "tattoo" the life-giving truth of Jesus to our hearts, such that we might not wake one day to find we have forgotten him, and turned to worship lesser things?
The answer? The regularly-gathered, Gospel-speaking, Christ-proclaiming, sacrament-partaking, prayer-offering, neighbor-serving, one-anothering people of Jesus! We are, together, the shared and living memory of the Truth and transforming goodness of our God, protecting one another from forgetfulness, faithlessness and error through the mutual ministry of fellowship, instruction and worship, by the power and direction of the Holy Spirit of Jesus. As such, it is in this light that I say: I so look forward to seeing you all this coming Sunday! It is in your faces, your voices, your stories and lives that I am reminded of the grace and truth of Jesus, day by day. Without each of you and your ministry of gospel fellowship and friendship, left to my own devices, I would too quickly forget the goodness and power of God. You are my living memory, my family, my tribe, and my conduit of grace. And for that - for you - I am eternally grateful.
By His Grace Alone,