Today during lunch I trekked out on foot about a mile away from the office. Columbia has a Memorial Park and while I had driven by it numerous times, I had never taken the time to stop and take a look at what was there. It’s one of those things you know you should do. It’s named Memorial Park for a reason: it has monuments dedicated to those South Carolinians who fought in the various wars of the twentieth century. So today I went. And today I was humbled yet again. I was humbled because when I saw the names, I was forced to deal with the fact that these were real people. Real people who gave their lives for a cause greater than themselves. And for the most part, society has forgotten all about them. That society includes me. And when we forget about them, we forget about what they’ve done for us. We forget the sacrifices they made, and not just the final one, either. For instance, there is a monument dedicated to the U.S.S. Columbia, a cruiser that was laid down for the sole purpose of fighting in WWII. After the war ended, so did she. But there are battle commendations noted such as during heavy fighting off the Philippines where the U.S.S. Columbia, despite taking three kamikaze plane strike attempts – one near miss and two hits, continued to lay fire on in-land positions to prepare for the ground assault that was to come. Even as the men aboard that ship fought to keep her afloat, they were pouring forth everything to try and weaken the enemy fortifications for their brothers who would perform the amphibious assaults. And to the right of that commendation is the list of men who died aboard the U.S.S. Columbia as well as those who were missing in action. There are a lot of names for a ship that only had a four year service life.
So what does this have to do with worship? Authentic worship should, from time to time, include remembrance. It should include reflection on what God has done. For a congregation that has been together any length of time, there should be memorial events where the congregation saw God move in a mighty way or when the congregation diligently followed the call to serve His Kingdom. Even new congregations can have the latter. A friend of mine has a church plant and he has blogged and posted about the start-up of the children’s ministry, of the first baptismal services, and other significant events like those. These are events a congregation should remember and celebrate. For such remembrance brings about the memories of why those events were significant. If the event is something where God did something amazing, that spurs us on to hope and trust in God yet again. If they are events that represent a congregation’s faithfulness to God’s call, then those events can re-kindle dedication to His Kingdom. Remembrance is important. After all:
Now when all the nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the LORD spoke to Joshua, saying, “Take for yourselves twelve men from the people, one man from each tribe, and command them, saying, ‘Take up for yourselves twelve stones from here out of the middle of the Jordan, from the place where the priests’ feet are standing firm, and carry them over with you and lay them down in the lodging place where you will lodge tonight.'”
So Joshua called the twelve men whom he had appointed from the sons of Israel, one man from each tribe; and Joshua said to them, “Cross again to the ark of the LORD your God into the middle of the Jordan, and each of you take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Israel. “Let this be a sign among you, so that when your children ask later, saying, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ then you shall say to them, ‘Because the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD; when it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off ‘ So these stones shall become a memorial to the sons of Israel forever.”
Thus the sons of Israel did as Joshua commanded, and took up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, just as the LORD spoke to Joshua, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Israel; and they carried them over with them to the lodging place and put them down there.
– Joshua 4:1-8, NASB
God called Joshua to set up a memorial. It’s important to note that this is the very start of the journey into the Promised Land. They would be trekking further west into better and more fertile land. This area would be left behind as the bulk of the Israelites pushed westward. So why build a memorial here? Joshua gives an answer, and that’s so when the children ask about the stones stacked together, the remembrance of how God parted the Jordan River and gave clear passage to the Israelites can be told. One of the things that hit me as I read this recently was, “When would the children see this monument? Wouldn’t they be too far west?” Perhaps, but perhaps Joshua was suggesting a message to return and remember. Certainly if an ebenezer was going to be established here, God intended for His people to remember that day.
And so it should be with us, too. We should remember the great things God does in our lives and in our churches and in our nations. We should make a point of celebrating God’s greatness and telling our children of what He has done. And as we do so, we give Him the glory, honor, and praise. We worship Him. Remembering God in this way is authentic worship. And I’m afraid it’s not something we do very much of anymore. But we should. We should remember the great actions of God from our past. And they should inspire us to trust Him for great things in the future. They should encourage us to remain faithful to Him as He is always faithful to us. And they should help us open our hearts and worship Him authentically.