We humans have an incredible ability to forget. This power is so great that not only do we fail to remember when we have no visual reminders, but we also forget even in the presence of reminders. Like Israel, we can easily grow numb to memorials of God we already have, either by treating them lightly or by simply ignoring them altogether. Therefore, considering the Sunday sermon, not only must we purpose to remember God by the creation of new memorials, but we must also purpose to remember God by revived and sober reflection on old memorials. Allow me to share a few examples I’ve been thinking about.
One memorial that many of us have is the wedding ring. Though wedding rings are not commanded in Scripture, they serve as reminders of what Scripture does command in marriage: a vowed commitment to love, serve, and remain faithful to your spouse no matter what (Eph 5:21-33; Prov 5:18; Mal 2:14). Truly, your wedding ring commemorates your entry into a happy but serious covenant love relationship with your spouse, yet how often is this sober monument totally forgotten or ignored! Every time you remain apathetic to your spouse’s needs and desires, speak to your spouse in proud anger, or seek romantic and sexual fulfillment outside your spouse, you contradict your memorial and the vow associated with it. Though the world may be content to ignore and even cast off wedding rings, we Christians should be different, especially since God will hold us to our vows (Mt 19:1-12; Eccl 5:4-7).
Another often forgotten memorial is the rainbow. Many in the world today, of course, only see the rainbow as a statement of homosexual pride/advocacy and remain ignorant of the rainbow’s true significance. However, even we Christians often forget for what the rainbow really stands. I once joked in Sunday school that, if we really knew what the rainbow was all about, we would stop decorating nurseries and children’s rooms with scenes of the rainbow and Noah’s ark. The rainbow is a memorial of a time when God wiped out thousands if not millions of people in a furious global flood judgment on sin (Gen 6:5-7). After saving a mere eight people and a pair of all land and sky animals, and after acknowledging that man’s continually evil nature would not change after the flood (Gen 8:21), God nevertheless promised never to destroy the whole world again with water (Gen 8:21-22; 9:11). God then set his bow in the clouds—hanging up his weapon, as it were—as a continual reminder to himself and to us (Gen 9:12-17). Thus, the rainbow ought to be a wonderful but sobering memorial to us of man’s sinfulness, God’s judgment, and God’s patient grace.
Probably the most forgotten memorial among Christians is, ironically, the cross itself. The cross has become a universally recognized symbol of Christianity, though understanding of the cross’s precise meaning varies. For some, the cross is a symbol of pious fashion, for others, of cultural and political conservatism, and for still others, of militant intolerance. Originally, though, the cross was a symbol of the most humiliating and painful death a person could suffer. Indeed, the ancients designed crucifixion to be the slowest and most agonizing demise possible and for only the worst criminals—hardly a symbol with which one would want to identify! But the amazing gospel truth is that, to save sinners like you and me, the son of God not only became a man but also was obedient to sacrifice himself in death, even death on a cross (Phil 2:7-8). Christ endured crucifixion, having nothing but contempt for its humiliation, then rose again and later ascended to the right hand of God (Heb 12:2). In other words, the symbol of shameful death became a symbol of triumphant life in Christ! Thus, the cross has become an appropriate visual reminder of what it means to be a Christian, and Jesus declared that no one could be his disciple except the one who also took up the same cross of shameful death to follow Jesus into triumphant life (Lk 9:23). But do we often think about the true meaning of the cross, even as we wear it or see it behind the pulpit each Sunday?
Visual memorials are only as good as the mind prepared to use them. May God help us not only in creating new memorials but also in reviving and thinking soberly about the memorials we already have.
Questions to Consider:
1. What other memorials of God do we have? Are we still paying attention to them?
2. Each of the above memorials have a wonderful and sobering aspect. Do you think about both sides?
3. Having considered anew some important visual reminders of God, where do you need to repent and put on new righteous steps of faith?