“A Time to Remember”
A Time to Remember
If New Year’s is about making resolutions and the future, and Halloween is about costumes and candy, then Thanksgiving is about remembering and the past. Turkey, stuffing, and stories get handed from person to person. While the platters and gravy boats empty, the stories get filled out with new details and embellishments. Some of the stories are as old as the pilgrims; others might’ve happened just last year. (Erler stories) You can relive the past year simply by looking down the dining room table. Where grandma or a cousin once sat, there’s now an empty chair; or perhaps where there was just one chair, now there are two or three and the dining room’s bursting at the seams with new members. The gray hairs, the lined faces, the round cheeks—all tell the story in their own way. You Can Sum Up the Day like This: Thanksgiving Is about Remembering.
In the text, Moses sets out to remind you who you are and where you come from, to help you remember. The gist of what Moses is saying is a short sermon, but he repeats it many times: “Remember the Lord”; “Remember and do not forget.” I wonder if the children of Israel ever got tired of hearing that sermon time after time. Did they tune Moses out after a few minutes? “There he goes again. Hey, Moses, we already heard that one.” Today is like a family gathering where Moses tells the old stories again, your stories. You get to hear him speak today, “Remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you” (v 2).
We need to remember what God has done for us. Don’t know? This is what the Lord has done for you: He sent you a prophet greater than Moses—Jesus Christ, His Son—to deliver you by His death on the cross and resurrection. He brought you out of slavery to sin. He rescued you from death and the devil. He drowned your sins in baptism and called you to be His people. He has led you year after year through this life. These are things we need to remember.
But Thanksgiving isn’t simply about remembering facts. The mental exercise of recalling names and dates might be good enough to pass an exam, but it certainly won’t do for Thanksgiving. I might know all about 1621, Plymouth Plantation, Squanto, and William Bradford, but many would say that I haven’t really done Thanksgiving until I’ve watched some football, enjoyed a forkful of turkey and pecan pie, and loosened my belt a notch or two. Obviously that’s not it either, but a proper remembrance of Thanksgiving involves the whole person.
So when Moses says, “Remember,” he isn’t reciting a set of historical facts for you to know. He wants your entire life to be one of remembrance, for you are to remember the Lord with your heads, your hearts, and your hands. You are a member of the heavenly Father’s family, and you need to remember the Lord your God by living as His child.
Now you may not like being called a child, but it’s OK here. To be a child usually means first that you receive what your parents give. You live in their house, you eat at their table, you call to them when you’re in need, and you enjoy their stuff. It is the same way for you who are children of the heavenly Father through adoption into Christ Jesus. In this place you remember who you are. This is your Father’s house. This altar is His table. You call Him “Father,” and His ears hear your prayers. We remember the Lord when we receive more from Him: more forgiveness and more salvation. His day is made, He is happy to give to you, to provide for you, to answer you. He does this not only here but in your own home as well. Your roof, your bed, and your table are His gifts, too. The turkey and stuffing and sweet potatoes all come from His hands.
He gives; you receive. And in receiving, you remember who you are: His child, whom He loves.
(List of stuff I asked for)
While we remember some of the things we are thankful for, we also remember we are living in a wilderness (a world polluted by sin), which means that there may be hunger and sickness and tears along the way. Some tables may have less this year than they did last year; some of you may not be going where the table is this year; some belts might be pulled a little tighter. If things have gone bad for you this year….that’s not a sign that the Lord has forsaken you or forgotten you. He is still blessing us.
Will you still REMEMBER/live as His child even though things may get rough? Do you see that what you do have is a gift from Him? Will you fear, love, and trust in Him as your good and gracious God? Know this: you don’t live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from His mouth. You haven’t starved and you have clothes on your back. The Lord provides. He blesses us. And we remember Him not only when we receive His blessings, we remember Him when we are a blessing.
We need to remember and listen to Moses today: “So you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God by walking in his ways and by fearing him” (v 6). We need to remember we belong to Him, and then act like it.
You know, it really makes me mad when I realize how often I get up and walk to a different room and when I get there, I forgot why I got up. I hate it when that happens. We are always in danger of forgetting who we are. In spiritual matters, as in the rest of life, it is easy to forget and have a selective memory. But Thanksgiving is here to help us remember, and Moses jogs our memories. He reminds us who we are: we are the Lord’s people, purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ.
Therefore we should remember this by receiving His gifts. Remember this by living as one who has been redeemed by Christ the crucified (and risen again!). Make the sign of the cross. Listen to His Word preached. Remember it with your heads, hands, hearts, ears, and everything else. With the Holy Spirit leading you to remember and give thanks, knowing the blessings you have received and knowing you need to be a blessing, go on and go over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house (if that is your plan), pick up the platter, tell your stories, pass the gravy, and enjoy all that the Lord has given you. Remember.
In the Name of Jesus.