I’m unapologetically sentimental. Some people (my poor wife being an example) would argue that there is a fine line between being sentimental and being a hoarder, but memories are important to me. Here’s one example of what I mean. I had the good fortune of growing up in a suburb of London, England called North Finchley. We were relatively impoverished at the time and so lived in what would have been the servants’ quarters of a large Anglican Church Vicarage, but God, in his gracious kindness, had put us in a haven of beauty. The Anglican Church paid for a full-time gardener to take care of the Vicar’s lawns and flower beds and we got to vicariously enjoy the magnificent beauty of His creation. There were two giant Horse Chestnut trees at the end of the garden, one of which served perfectly as the great oak of Sherwood Forest to a young and aspiring Robin Hood played by yours truly. There were also coal bunkers where great burlap sacks of anthracite coal would be emptied and stored for the purpose of heating the home. These bunkers were concrete and rectangular in shape with a hinged lid for depositing and extracting coal. They made excellent hiding places and with a little imagination, were like German tanks with turrets that one could peek out. The soot from the coal served as camouflage adding to the feeling of wartime conditions. These were great places to play in and fueled many a grand adventure. But time marches on, and sadly, we left that home in 1965 due to a change in my father’s employment.
Fast forward 20 years to a business trip in London where I took time out of my schedule to visit the old homestead. To my horror, it was scheduled to be torn down the next month and a block of condominiums put up in its place. As I walked through the old abandoned property, the flower beds were unkempt and a tangled mess of weeds, but to my delight, the trees and coal bunkers were still there. I found myself scrambling through the abandoned bunkers for some left over pieces of coal and gathering up horse chestnuts that had fallen from the trees and putting them in my pockets. I still have these pieces sitting on my desk today. I just have to look at them to be transported back to a time of innocence and carefree living. They scratch my sentimental itch, but more importantly, they serve as a reminder of God’s faithfulness in providing unexpected blessing in the unlikeliest of places. Perhaps it’s not sentimentality that is important; perhaps it’s simply the act of remembrance, of recalling something to mind and reflecting on where it came from.
The Bible is full of calls to remembrance. So many times in the Old Testament, the Israelites were instructed to build a pillar of stones to serve as a remembrance of what God had done in that place. The Ark of the Covenant contained manna as a remembrance of God’s faithfulness in feeding his people in the wilderness. Jesus commanded us to remember at the Last Supper when he exhorted His disciples to “do this in remembrance of me.” These are not calls to foolish sentimentality or to worship of the thing itself but to remember what it represents, to be amazed at how God is at the source of it all, and, most importantly, to give Him thanks.
May He preserve us from acting like the nine lepers who went away rejoicing at their healed state but never expressing gratitude to the one who had healed them. He has called us to remember what He has done. He is our sovereign Creator, He directs our steps, and He is conforming us into the image of His Son. We have much to remember and be grateful for. However, we are a people that are prone to forget without reminders, and we often need to set aside important dates to help us focus our attention.
And so here we are, on the third anniversary of becoming New Covenant Bible Church. How should our attention be focused? What are we really remembering? We are remembering God’s kindness to us as a people of God. We are acknowledging that all we enjoy today is solely due to the sovereignty, grace and kindness of God. We are remembering that He will build His church and the gates of hell will never prevail against it. We are remembering new missionaries that we have the privilege to support. We are delighting in new friendships. We are growing in our understanding and appreciation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are remembering each other in prayer as God has given us a larger circle of concern. We are rejoicing in what God is doing in our midst. But most importantly, as David exhorted us this past Sunday, may we go into this fourth year together more desirous of following Jesus, of loving Jesus more, of loving one another more and may a watching world, when they see us and move among us, be reminded of our Savior.
As we gather together this Sunday to celebrate this anniversary, let’s make much of God and all that He has done in our lives, in our homes, in our church family and let’s commit to expressing a heart of gratitude to Him for His faithfulness to us. We are truly a blessed people.
Elder Ross Stern