Memorials & Memories : A Practical Approach
Texts : "Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a 'memorial' to her." (Mt.26:13).
So he said to him, "Your prayers and your alms have come up for a 'memorial' before God." (Acts 10:4).
Hold it ! No death here. Far from it ! Our discourse here today is not suggestive of memories of a loved one that passed on to glory. It's rather a mirror and searchlight to that particular aspect of our lives that are often erroneously chronicled only at death. It is a misconception to consider memories as acts that can only be relayed after death. Far from that. We make memories virtually each day of our lives. For example, our past acts, activities, actions, and reactions, are already in memorial mode, to reflect and ponder over, and to reverse to a pleasant one, if need be. Reason being that memories can never be neutral. It's either we make or encounter good or bad memories, positive or negative. The writer of the book of Psalms was not unaware of how bad memories could be, even from close associates. He wrote, "even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted , who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me." (Ps.41:9). Essentially, our encounters and interactions with ourselves and the larger world leave us with memories that last a lifetime.
In its adjectival state, memorials/ memories, simply put, can be defined as remembrance of someone or something. These are encounters that are commemorative. Memorials / memories are also structures established to remind people of a person, situation or circumstance.
Memorials / memories are often rewarded at a point in time, even when the beneficiaries are no more. Instances abound the world over of certain past heroes and heroines or prominent national figures, who by virtue of the impact they made in their generation, occasioned their memories to have a place in their nation's history. One of such is an event that takes place every third Monday January every year in the United States. This is in memory of the famous freedom fighter , Martin Luther King (Jr.). Named after him, it is tagged 'Martin Luther King Day.' In addition to this, is the famous 'Memorial Day.' It's a day set aside in the United States to commemorate the memory of the various men and women who died while serving in the United States military. Other nations of the world are no exceptions to the practice and culture of institution of memorials . They are archived and inherent in the various occasions and ceremonies that run through each year, as the case might be.
Books, autobiographies, biographies, memos, journals, poems and other forms of written documentaries are a means by which people immortalize the memories of their beloved ones. Such documentaries, more often than not, are usually stocked as invaluable references and compendia, on various subjects, in academic and public libraries, globally. They are a reflection of how the immortalized excelled in their various disciplines and careers , while alive. Till date, such works still wield so much influence such that they form the bedrock of academic curricula in institutions of learning, ministries and places of worship in our contemporary times, even at the global level. One of such writings that lends credence to this assertion is a poem titled "Journey Of The Magi" by Missouri born, T. S Eliot (1888-1965). The poem is a snapshot and biblical allusion to the journey of the three wise men ( Mt.2: 10-11) that payed homage to the new born Jesus Christ. How memories are made!
(For the purpose of avoiding semantic overlap, memorials (adjective) and memories (noun) will be used interchangeably in this submission).
Beyond this, as stated earlier, memorials / memories do not reflect just the events that chronicle the life and times of the dead, rather, they are a continuous occurrences within the human space. This translates to the fact that we make memories on a daily basis. We wake up each day to the effect of memorials/ memories of yesteryears staring us in the face . And tomorrow as well is pregnant with its own memorials / memories. This in effect implies as long as the human race exists, memories are made. Hence, our daily activities and interactions give expressions to the memorials we make and encounter. Some of us are where they are today as a result memories that influence our existence . By inference, we are all a product of one memory or the other, regardless of how pleasant or otherwise such memories are. Can we think of some memories we had had, or we thrust in relationships, businesses, politics ? even in Christendom? How pleasant or ugly are they ? This rhetoric finds an expression thus, "the knowledge of past memorials is a function of how people react to things, people and habits around them." How we react to these experiences is a major determinant of how far we will go in life. In other words, regardless of how unpleasant memories could be, we should not let them define us. We just have to take it in gentle stride and keep moving . It's all part of our life experiences that prepare us for further challenges ahead .
Within the biblical context, Absalom, son of king David, knowing fully well that he might probably had no one to document his memories in written form, or give verbal expressions to such, took no chances. He thought it wise to fashion one by himself, and just for himself . However perverted his memories were, he strove to leave his name in the hearts of men, the best way he felt he could. The scriptures say, Now Absalom in his lifetime had taken and set up a pillar for himself, which is in the King's Valley. For he said, "I have no son to keep my name in remembrance." He called the pillar after his own name. And to this day it is called Absalom's Monument.(2 Sam.18:18). This tells us that memories / memorials are not what we can gloss over. They mean so much, even after we might have long left this terrestrial space.
As believers, it is of utmost importance that we strive to leave pleasant memorials / memories wherever we find ourselves. It is better explained thus - Pr.10:7 "the memory of the righteous is blessed , but the name of the wicked will rot." Little wonder, the late famous English playwright, poet and actor, William Shakespeare, (1564-1616), in one of his famous works, Julius Caesar, said "the evil that men do lives after them."
If leaving good and pleasant memories behind is what we, as believers aspire to, then, our two texts above are a springboard to navigate through this discourse.
The two characters in the said passages : the unnamed woman that anointed the head of Jesus Christ at Bethany (Mt.26:13) and Cornelius (Acts 10:4), as trailblazers in this wise, will be put in perspective. Between these two major characters, we have a vivid picture of individuals, male and female, who left good memorials / memories for their generations, so much so that we still reference them even in the body of Christ, today. For the woman with alabaster flask of very costly fragrant oil, it was an opportunity to minister directly to our LORD in the days people were only interested in what they could benefit from the LORD. The oil was probably a type that was expensive in those days such that even the disciples placed value on it. To the disciples, the cash value would have been enough to take care of the poor. To them it was a waste ! Imagine the myopic reasoning of 'spiritual' mortals! Hence, they showed unsolicited empathy with the woman whom they thought would have hit a goldmine, had she placed the oil for sale in one of the high-brow stores in the days. The price-tag, by the disciples' estimation, obviously would not be for the commoners. In their hearts, the disciples probably took her to be the most foolish woman to ever have come out of her generation. Nevertheless, the woman looked beyond the indignant disciples to achieve her objective. She was not ready to be discouraged by anyone's tantrums. We are in a world that more often than not, we need a strong will to overcome discouragement to do a good that will speak for our generations, even yet unborn. The said woman was oblivious of the eternal value of her generosity and kindness in this case, anyway. She was just doing the best thing she knew doing.
Since "the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart" (1 Sam.16:7), the carnal state of the mind of the disciples could not comprehend the eternal rewards awaiting this poor woman. Yes, because to them there was no need for such wanton waste on an individual. Worse still an individual already condemned to death! Not even in a situation of embracing an option of "imaginary" heavy cash if she offered the oil for sale ! Much as they were close to the Master, this is one of the few occasions the disciples failed to see beyond their noses. Little did they realize this "unidentified" woman was on the verge of making memorials / memories that will NOT only outlive her, but will be archived in the history of mankind and referenced among believers, for as long as the earth remains. What constraints us to making this type of indelible memorials, christians? Beloved, how many times have we allowed the flesh to dictate contrary to what the Spirit ministers to us? Yes, it is true we pray, fast and put up a whole lot of outward spiritual activities and gymnastics in our "Cathedrals", but then , how much space do we give the 'Spirit of truth' to lead us aright in the things of God? Do we not see it as a grievous inconvenience when the LORD is making a demand of the best from us? Or better still do we take it to be a voice from our common enemy, "satan", each time God speaks to us to do a certain act that is out of our usual norm or pattern ? Oh yes, as long as it is not a convenient demand or sacrifice, it is NOT from God. I submit that making good memorials comes at a price- a price that is not necessarily cheap. Our female character was resolute and determined to play her part in the body of Christ, regardless of the oppositions. And at the end, it was accounted to her as "a good work for the LORD" (Mt.26:10). What good work are you and I carrying out in our world and in the body of Christ ? The woman really had no idea how her little effort in the body of Christ could translate to a state of perpetuity.
Yet, by the LORD'S estimates, it actually transcended a good work , at the end of the day. In His final speech here, He said this act, by this "unknown" woman will form an integral part of the gospel wherever and whenever it is preached in the whole world as a memorial to her. Here we are today! And in His usual gentle mien and disposition, Jesus Christ did not forget to tutor His disciples on why they should not trouble the woman because she saw far ahead of the disciples and took no chances to do the needful, "for in pouring this fragrant oil on My body, she did it for My burial" (Mt. 26:12). How far do we see into the future, especially Spiritual matters, beloved ? And if we do, how proactive are we about it? May the LORD help us!
For brother Cornelius in Acts 10, it was indeed a day of divine visitation and 'Open Heavens' when his consistency in a threefold act of (1) fearing God with his household, (2)generous almsgiving, and (3) consistent prayers, was reeled out to him, in a memorable form. A day came for God to acknowledge him. And when God remembers, He acknowledges. And by implications, His memory comes alive for the next commensurate action and reward, "and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God acknowledged them" (Ex.2:24-24). This was the scenario that played out in the house of Cornelius, on this day. I pray for someone reading this, the LORD WILL REMEMBER YOUR GOOD DEEDS , ACKNOWLEDGE YOU AND PAY YOUR HOUSE A REWARDING VISIT TODAY ! Amen.
With this singular visitation, Cornelius became a conduit through which his entire household embraced Salvation. (What type of conduit are you and I for our generation , peers, and immediate family ?) What a huge positive difference an individual can make in a family, group, or nation! Remember brother Achan and his ungodly act ? (Jos.7). This day went down in the Cornelius' lineage as a day not to be forgotten in a hurry. Like our 'unnamed' woman with alabaster flask of fragrant oil, an eternal memory was unleashed, and remains fresh and relevant as we talk. Still fresh today, as it first became canonized on the pages of the scriptures.
The subject of memories and memorials is so important and dear to the heart of our LORD that it forms a substantial part of the scriptures. That is why in some cases, they are a recourse for the LORD to make certain decisions, judgments, and paybacks that are beyond human comprehension. Good enough, He is God all by Himself. No one can query Him. This simply infers that memories and memorials do speak. For this singular reason, there is the need for believers to strive to always make each encounter a pleasant one, for as many as we interact with. We serve a God that keeps records and pays back as at when necessary regardless of the time lag. Between Abraham and Isaac his son, the memory of almost a flawless lifestyle of obedience to God's instruction, spoke for Isaac. It is captured thus, And the LORD appeared to him the same night and said, "I am the God of your father Abraham; do not fear , for I am with you. I will bless you and multiply your descendants for My servant Abraham's sake." (Gen.26: 24). The emphasis using possessive pronoun, "MY Servant" in the text suggests that Isaac did not need to work for this open door since his father's walk with God carried pleasant memories enough to earn him the credit. The events that unfolded right after God appearing to Isaac showed that Isaac was set on course for great exploits.
At other times, God in His discretion, uses human agents to launch a memory to activation. Or how else could we explain the overnight and unexpected, impromptu turn-around that hit Mephibosheth, Saul's grandson, living in Lo-Debar -a land of no pasture ? Everything in the life of this innocent young man betrayed royalty. Lame in his feet, forgotten and abandoned in the slum, oh, this was a totally hopeless situation. Almost irredeemable, humanly speaking. Call in the part 2 of 'Dry Bones' in Ezekiel 37, you are not far from the truth. Right on point ! However, a day came and God touched David's memory to remember his covenant with Jonathan. David became restless until he voiced out, "Is there still anyone who is left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan's sake?" (2 Sam.9:1). Similar to Isaac, Mephibosheth, without lifting a finger, was set on course to experience a new lease of life. Simply because a memory spoke for him. In a twinkling of an eye, the servant (Ziba) seating on his fortune became a shadow of himself. Simply because a memory spoke! ( I PRAY FOR SOMEONE READING THIS THAT A GOOD MEMORY OF YOUR PAST DEED WILL SPEAK FOR YOU AND YOUR HOUSEHOLD .Amen!). A simple payback to the house of Saul for Jonathan's sake - remember Jonathan that died years before this time in history.
The persistent cries of Abel's blood from the ground echoed unpleasant 'memory' of brother's inhumanity to his blood brother. The painful cries triggered a curse that God placed on Cain, "So now, you are cursed from the earth, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand. When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield its strength to you. A fugitive and a vagabond you shall be on the earth." (Gen. 4: 11-12). Murderers are cursed ! (I PRAY FOR YOU, YOU SHALL NOT BE MURDERED & YOU SHALL NOT KILL. Amen!)
The three instances above suffice for this piece to drive home the fact that memories do speak, even after several years in incubation. The posers left for us here include: what memories are we making each passing day? What efforts are we making to make all past unpleasant memories we inflicted on people, delible ? What memories would you want to be remembered for when we take our leave from this perverted world?
Conclusively, the book of Ecclesiastes does not only lend credence to the validity and importance of memorials and memories, as expressed in this piece, it equally provides a template, apt for believers to hug close to our chests in this journey called Christianity . Knowing that we serve a God that keeps records, and does not fail to give a handout as at when due, the preacher wrote, "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man's all. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil." (Ecc. 12:14).
Let us remember, memories are not necessarily deferred till we translate from mortality to immortality. We live and make memories each passing day. Wisdom is, to live each day thrusting pleasant memories on everyone we encounter, regardless of gender, race or culture. We are bred for the Kingdom.
Being A Monthly Scripture Nuggets From The Desk of:
Olusegun A Emosu.
The Redeemed Christian Church of God,
1879, S Stonemountain Lithonia Rd,
Lithonia GA 30058, (404- 644- 4127)
May 19th, 2023.
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