Seth Thomas Crissman is a licensed minister in Virginia Mennonite Conference and is the youth worship music leader for Orlando 2017. Seth is also member of The Walking Roots Band, a Harrisonburg, Virginia based folk band. He and his wife Theresa work for Virginia Mennonite Missions, helping congregations share and receive God’s love in their local neighborhoods through after school Kids Clubs. They have one daughter, Eliana, and are expecting a son in September. Photo by The Pinwheel Collective LLC
It’s so easy to forget. Forgetting doesn’t seem to take any work at all. Remembering is hard.
So we take pictures, make lists, scribble on our calendars, set alarms and tie mental strings around our fingers.
Of course, some things I would rather forget: things I have done and left undone; sin that has been committed against people I love. Lord have mercy.
But this is about remembering.
In Exodus 3, God tells Moses, “I have seen my people’s sufferings in Egypt, I have heard their cries for help, indeed, I know their suffering. I have come down to save them.” God acts, saving a mixed multitude of people by bringing them up out of slavery and invites them into a new covenant at Sinai. God reaches out in love.
God liberates and invites those liberated ones to respond to the love they have been shown within the context of covenant.
God cuts a covenant with the people that is full of steadfast enduring love (Hebrew: חסד chesed) as well as expectations. “I am the LORD your God who brought you out of slavery in Egypt” comes first, then God’s expectations for how the people of God are to treat each other and those around them.
When Jesus is asked which is the greatest commandment, he reminds those listening to love God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength (from Deuteronomy 6:5). Deuteronomy 6:6-7 continue, instructing the people to keep these words by talking about them when they get up and lay down. They are to remember as they are walking along the way and keep these instructions with them to help them remember (Hebrew: זָכַר zakar “remember”).
But the people forget.
They forget to care for the poor, widow, orphan and “ger” (Hebrew: גֵּר ger “sojourner/immigrant”) in their midst. They further marginalize the vulnerable.
They often forget to love the GOD who saved them from slavery, and are so wrapped up in following the rules that they forget about justice and mercy. They forget to love their neighbors as themselves.
Love ceases to be a verb as the people succumb over and over again to spiritual amnesia. They stopped being rooted and established in God’s love for them as they let go of the things of God and picked up human things instead.
God sends prophets to help them remember. Sometimes the people listen. They often do not.
It’s really easy to forget.
As Christians we believe that the God who liberated the people from slavery has come near in the form of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ call for us to love our neighbor as ourselves is an extension of our love for God, and our love for God is in response to the love that God has first shown us. “We love because God first loved us” (1 John 4:19). At the communion table, we are invited to take, eat and drink, remembering Jesus who has come near and embodied God’s love for all people. Jesus invites us to be rooted in that embodied love.
But it is really hard to remember.
It’s hard to love our neighbor as ourselves.
It’s hard to love our brothers and sisters when they have done us wrong.
It’s hard to be clothed in Christ’s humility.
It’s hard to listen, let alone love.
It’s hard to remember.
It’s easy to tune the “other” out.
It’s easy to only remember in our heads, and not in our hearts.
It’s easy to choose abrasive, violent rhetoric to speak to our brothers and sisters.
It’s easy to focus inwardly, instead of loving outwardly.
It’s easy to forget.
Remembering is hard, but remembering is the work of being Jesus’ disciples.
We must remember Jesus commands us to love each other.
This is how they will know that you are my disciples, that you love one another.
I think Love is a Verb is a simple, beautiful theme. It reminds us that love is to be lived out and embodied. It calls us as the church to actively remember what God has done for us.
In order to actively remember what God has done for us, we need to confess and lament the times we, in our spiritual amnesia, have perpetrated sin against others. We must confess the times our inaction and actions have harmed others. We must lament together.
Then we need to remember and live out love.
If we remember the love that God has shown us, God will teach us how to love each other and our neighbors.
Here’s a song to help you remember. Click on the link to listen.
Song of Confession