We gather to tell the story. To tell and retell the story. To remember. To piece together the story our ancestors told.
The stories of those who have gone before. Stories that shaped their lives. Stories that continue to shape our life, together.
Each and every week we gather to tell these stories recorded in the church’s holy scriptures with the odd and peculiar belief that they mean something for us today. With the odd and peculiar belief that they demand something of this St. Brigids community, even today.
These stories, the stories of God’s faithfulness to God’s people – from creation, through the Israel, its people, judges, kings, priests and prophets – these stories, from the ministry of Jesus, the one we call Messiah, and the emergence of this odd and peculiar community we call the church – these stories are ours. And they remind us. They help us to remember who we are. And who we are called to be.
Passed down from generation to generation, at times told by firelight, at times whispered secretively in darkened caves and desert hideaways, tales proclaimed by slaves and domesticated by slaveowners, stories proclaimed from grand pulpits, and embraced in the mundane muck and mire of every day life, these stories are ours.
This week, I found myself reflecting on the ways in which this particular story from Deuteronomy – as God implores, pleads, commands the people to remember – I’ve found myself reflecting on the ways in which this story truly is our story. The story of a small fledgling community, making its way in the world, with all its uncertainty, joy, and anxiety. The story of a small fledgling community seeking God’s direction. Seeking to embody God’s new word for the world.
This story is as much about us as it is about Israel living into God’s promise of a new land. It struck me how, in many ways, so little has changed. It strikes me how easy it is to forget. And it strikes me how much I need, and how much we need to remember to remember. How is that we will take care that we do not forget the Lord our God?
In the exodus narrative – the story of Israel’s escape from Egypt up until this point, the refrain is repeated again and again. Remember to Remember. Remember that I am the Lord Your God. Remember that I brought you out of slavery. Remember how little you had. Remember what you now have, because you are my people and I am your God. And remember, remember, above all else, remember that once you were no people, but now you are a people, and you are mine.
As God’s people, you are called to live differently. As individuals, and as a community, your lives will look different. Even when you think you’ve arrived. Even when you land that coveted apartment in your neighbourhood of choice. Even when you worship together in a swank Cathedral downtown. You are called to live differently. Remember with Thanksgiving. Remember with Radical Gratitude. Remember that this world is the Lord’s, and all that is in it. Remember that all is grace.
And I don’t know how it is with you. Maybe it’s not tempting to forget. Maybe it’s not tempting, as we find ourselves here in this most beautiful of cities, built on these traditional, ancestral, and unceded Coast Salish territories. Maybe it’s not in the least bit tempting as we struggle to get by, or struggle to get ahead. And yet maybe there are days when the desire for more, and for more, and for more consumes us in deep and profound ways. It’s one thing to seek enough. And yet, God’s call to Israel, and God’s call to us is a call that places us at odds with the American Dream and its meeker Canadian equivalent.
As Israel prepares to head into the promised land, God entreats them to remember. That remembrance is rooted in both slavery and liberation. It takes into account the decalogue – those ten commandments that call Israel to live in fidelity, in faithfulness to God, and in fidelity to neighbour. Those commandments, with their roots in Sabbath rest suggest that you can’t be faithful to your neighbour if you’re always looking to climb the ladder. If you’re looking, like Pharaoh to build a stockpile, you are not serving God.
Back in Egypt, it was all about more. And to build a Pharoah-sized stockpile required oppression. When God liberates the people, Israel learns to live in the wilderness of God’s abundance. The abundance of the everyday. The abundance of provision. The abundance of neighbourliness and sharing in community. The manna and the quail remind Israel not to hoard. Take only what you need. Make sure that everyone has enough.
And yet even still, God leads the Israelites into this land of abundance. Does God know that they will forget? Is that why God is so insistent on this reminder? Does God know that they will eat their fill and build fine houses? Does God know that their herds and flocks will multiply, along with their stock options and ever-growing list of Facebook friends?
I wonder how you hear this story intersecting with your life, with the life of this emerging community, our own porous memory, and our strivings.
For the Christian Community, and for this St. Brigids community, we move back and forth from places of pain and difficulty and struggle to Christ’s radical hospitality extended at the table. Week and week out we tell the story of radical hospitality, and we seek to respond with radical gratitude as we are reminded whose world this is, and which God we serve.
It seems to me that this is not an individual task. It’s not anything that I – It’s not anything that any of us can do on our own. To live lives of radical gratitude in response to God’s radical hospitality calls a community into being that sees the world differently from the way it presents itself. It calls a community into being that lives in a way that enables us to find sabbath rest in God, and in each other.
The Ten Commandments that we heard last week, the Golden Calf, and even today’s passage calling us to remembrance remind us that we are not slave to the various powers and empires of this world. And that even though we live in a time and a culture that endlessly and sickeningly celebrates the individual, God, through Christ, by the power of the Holy spirit calls this disparate mishmash of individuals into community. And here we are.
It’s in community, gathered around this table, rippling out to the tables of local parks and cafes, and extended from the tables in our own homes, that we discover freedom. Freedom in relationship to the ever-faithful covenant making God who calls us to remember who we are, with deep and overflowing gratitude.