Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.
2 Timothy 2:8-10
To remember Jesus Christ was important for Paul, since it was for Jesus’ that Paul suffered. And he charges Timothy to remember, and not only for himself and for his work, but for others. Timothy is to guard the truth, care for it, and pass it on, reminding the brothers and sisters of this gospel.
Likewise, our common calling is not just to speak about God, but to remind each other of this gospel: That God came to earth in Christ, he put to death death itself, has forgiven our sins and will give us life with him forevermore. Do you remember that? Something has happened on the cross and who we are is a consequence of Jesus Christ. We should never grow weary of thinking back to these things.
To understand better what Paul is saying here we need to stop and look at what it means to remember. I want to make sure the active tone of this word is coming across. It is not just reminiscing or simple, dull memorization so that if someone quizzes you about Jesus you can ring in with the answer.
It’s not quite, “Don’t forget.” It’s more.
My family does a far bit of road tripping up and down the East Coast. One thing we do to pass the time is listen to audiobooks. One year we went through a great recording of The Chronicles of Narnia. In my favorite, The Silver Chair, I think we learn well what it means to remember, and why we should. The Christ figure, Aslan, a lion, tells a girl Jill four signs to lead her on her journey. And before he sets Jill on her way, he gives her a speech in which he says:
“But first, remember, remember, remember the signs, say them to yourself when you wake in the morning and when you lie down at night, and when you wake in the middle of the night. And whatever strange things may happen to you, let nothing turn your mind from following the signs. … The signs which you have learned here will not look at all as you expect them to look, when you met them there. That is why it is so important to know them by heart, and pay no attention to appearances. Remember the signs and believe the signs.”
(Chronicles of Narnia, CS Lewis, 560)
Jill leaves Aslan and discovers her quest is to find a lost Prince. Tragically, all along the way the signs are forgotten or misunderstood. The result is her group had to begin their journey without official support, they end up on the menu of a group of giants, and almost fail entirely when they come face to face with the prince himself—since they hardly were able to recognize him.
The problem was she had learned the signs, but was not remembering them.
She knew one sign was to find an ancient city, but failed to recognize it in the rubble she saw because she was distracted and her attention was on the bitter cold and dreams of a warm fire. She knew the Prince would be the one who spoke the name Aslan, but when that person who spoke was an imprisoned, enchanted mad-man, she was paralyzed with fear. Fortunately – against all her “better judgment”, she decided to let this dangerous man loose, freeing the prince, for she says, “What was the point of learning the signs if we weren’t going to follow them when they came up?!”
If only she could keep the signs straight. If only she could remember.
We try so hard to do the same in our lives and in the life of the Church, and how far off the path do we find ourselves. Once we are entrenched in the world the commands of Jesus, the truths of the Bible, even simple ones like “love you neighbor,” do not seem so clear to us. We get distracted, we are afraid or anxious about life, or maybe we focus on our own comfort.
We veer from our course, and all too often also try to justify it. If only we could see more clearly. To follow Christ can be simple enough, but it is difficult. It is easy to lose sight of him. That is why we need to have the discipline to remember Jesus Christ… each night, every morning, and even when we wake in the middle of the night. Only when we keep him fixed in our sight are we able to live the life and follow the path that God has laid out for us.
*This was originally a sermon I preached years ago, but have chosen a selection of it and edited it down as it fits with readings for Year in the Bible this week.