19 Pentecost, Oct. 15
When the people saw that Moses delayed his return from the mountain, they turned to Aaron and pleaded for another god, a visible image to worship with burnt offerings and sacrifice, a locus of food and drink, and reveling. They turned with all their heart, mind, soul, and strength to the image of a calf. They forgot the God who saved them. “They made a calf at Horeb and worshiped a cast image. They exchanged the glory of God for the image of an ox that eats grass. They forgot God, their savior, who had done great things in Egypt” (Ps. 106:19-21). And because God is jealous, the people’s rebellion raised the prospect that God would turn against them in judgment. “The Lord said to Moses, ‘I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are. Now let me alone, so that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them; and of you I will make a great nation’” (Ex. 32:9-10).
God was about to forget his people until Moses stood in the breach. Let the people remember God and let God remember his people. “Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, how you swore to them by your own self, saying to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants like the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever’” (Ex. 32:13). Of all the good reasons to attend a local church, this may be the best. In the church we remind ourselves who we are as sons and daughters of God caught up into the life of Christ, and, strangely, we remind God also of the promises he has made. We remind God, but in so doing he is the chief cause of our gathering, our reading together, our prayer, our hymns, our communion in the body and blood of Christ, our witness in the world. God is memory.
Jesus tells a story. “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come” (Matt. 22:2-3). Refusal in this case is a kind of forgetting. The invited guests have forgotten the authority of the king, the generosity of the invitation, and that the invitation is a veiled command. They ought to come, but refuse. They make light of the invitation and turn instead to farming and business, and they abuse and kill the king’s emissaries. In the ancient world of the Bible, the consequences are clear. “The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city” (Matt. 22:7). The story continues. The king invites everyone, both good and bad, to the wedding. And they come, though one guest is caught without a wedding garment. Remember that you are called, but pray that you are chosen, elected to put on the garment of Christ. We may refuse to come to the supper of the Lamb, we may forget, we may turn to other cares and other business. And if we come, we may still forget to take off old Adam and put on the new humanity.
Of all the reasons to attend a local church, remembering may be the most important. Remember the God who liberates from the captivity of sin, the flesh, and the devil. Remember the God who prepares the feast, issues the invitation, and has garments of new life waiting. And be bold to tell God what he has promised. Ghostlike, God says — and in prayer, we say — “Remember, remember, remember!”
Look It Up
Read Isaiah 25:6-7.
Think About It
A feast without death.