Archive for December 16, 2009
Thursday is laundry day at our house. When we get home, Melody and I throw a couple loads of laundry into the washer, into the dryer, and then dump the freshly washed clothes onto our bed to fold and put away. It’s usually a team effort. But every once in a while, if one of us has a commitment, the other is left doing laundry alone. Indeed, this happens to me from time to time. However, I never mind doing laundry myself. I wash, dry, fold, and put away the clothes. At least, I used to put away the clothes.
It’s happened again and again. I would fold the laundry, put away my clothes, and then put away Melody’s clothes – except I could never remember which articles of Melody’s clothing went where. I would inevitably put things in the dresser I should have hung in the closet and hang things in the closet I should have put in the dresser. Melody, upon noticing that her clothing was not where it should be, would chide me: “You’ve seen me put my clothes away a hundred times! You can remember all sorts of theological minutia, but you can’t remember where my clothes go?” And as much as I hate to admit it, she’s right. To this day, I cannot remember which articles of Melody’s clothing go where, although I can remember lots of other, more complex, information.
I suppose like many guys, I suffer from selective memory. There are certain things which seem to naturally lodge themselves in my brain while there are other things I cannot recall, no matter how hard I try.
In our reading for today from Hebrews 10, we are met with a case of selective memory. The preacher of Hebrews begins with that which is easily remembered:
The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming – not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. If it could, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. (verses 1-4)
The preacher says that the very Old Testament sacrifices which were meant to cleanse from sin, sadly, served only as a “reminder of sins” (verse 3). In other words, these sacrifices lodged in the brains of the ancient Israelites the sins they had committed against God. Indeed, the Greek word for “reminder” is anamnesis, meaning “remembrance.” To sacrifice is to remember the very things you would most like to forget.
Thankfully, in the New Testament, we receive another anamnesis:
The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” “In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” (1 Corinthians 11:23-25)
The Greek word for “remembrance” in these verses is anamnesis. A new sacrifice has been given to help us remember. But it is not the sacrifice of “bulls and goats” (verse 4) which only serves to remind us of our sins. Instead, it is sacrifice of “the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (verse 10) which reminds us that we have a Savior. It is this sacrifice that we remember in Communion. And marvelously, through the reception of Christ’s body and blood, there is not only a remembering, but also a forgetting. As the preacher of Hebrews promises, “Their sins and lawless acts God will remember no more” (verse 17). God, it seems, has a selective memory. He remembers his love, his faithfulness, and his grace toward us, but forgets all our sins. And there is no greater and more blessed selective memory than that.