The best I can do?

O God, we meditate on your unfailing love as we worship in your Temple.

Let the people on Mount Zion rejoice. Let all the towns of Judah be glad because of your justice.

Go, inspect the city of Jerusalem. Walk around and count the many towers.

Take note of the fortified walls and tour all the citadels, that you may describe them to future generations. 

For this is what God is like. he is our God forever and ever, and he will guide us until we die.

(Ps 48. 9,11-14)

I used to wonder why the psalmist exhorted his hearers to go and count the towers of Jerusalem, it seemed a pretty weird thing to do as a way of worshipping God! But I now realise that this physical act of walking and counting was a very practical way of directing attention to how God had kept his promises to his servant David, that a temple would be built, and a city established where a king would reign. The city itself was a memorial, a testimony to God’s faithfulness. Yes, it was strong, but it was God’s strength which established and maintained it, and it was His presence which made Mount Zion a place of rejoicing

The Old Testament stories are full of memorials, ways that God appointed to help the people to remember the truth about Himself, so that their faith could be strengthened and passed on to future generations. The twelve stones carried from the bed of the Jordan river to create a pillar at Gilgal when Joshua led the people out of forty years wandering into the Promised land; the Ebeneezer stone raised by Samuel marking the defeat of the Philistines; and the great Passover Feast itself, which recalled the dramatic events leading up to the deliverance from Egypt. These each in their own way prompted the people to recognise that it was God who was at work – rescuing, leading, preparing the land for them – and to celebrate the God who was so powerful on their behalf and crucially to trust that God would continue to be with and for them in the future.

As followers of Jesus, we have one particular memorial, established by him, the night before he died. The Lord’s supper, communion, call it what you like, is a memorial, a physical act which he commands us to carry out for just the same reasons. When we take bread and wine, remembering his death for us, we recognise that God was at work, celebrate His power to achieve what was beyond us, and strengthen our faith in His ongoing presence and work in our lives now.

There is another reason for memorials, hinted at in the psalm – that we might tell future generations about the God whose acts are celebrated.

We may not be confident in debating the philosophical grounds for belief in God, but we can legitimately share our personal experiences of His power at work in our lives. We can tell the stories of our own private memorials – celebrating times when we saw Him at work; showing people the God who has saved us and come to live with us. We can do what the early disciple Andrew did, when he went to find his brother Peter, in order to bring him to meet Jesus. We can pray for others for God to bless them in the way that the four friends of the paralysed man fought so hard to bring him into Jesus’ presence. We can do as the Samarian woman did after she encountered Jesus at the well in the noonday heat – bringing her neighbours to meet the man who knew all about her.

We cannot in our own power force anyone to accept Christ as their Saviour, but we can and must make every effort to ensure that our lives reflect Him. We may be the only stories about Jesus that a person ever hears, what are we telling them?

It is always good to care for physical needs, to show practical love and care, but the best thing we can do for anyone, is to bring them to Jesus, because ultimately their eternal salvation matters more than anything else. It is God alone who convicts people of their need, who brings faith to life, and we can have confidence in His power to do this. Our job is to say, “Come, we have found the Messiah, we have found God dwelling with us!”

May we have confidence to obey, and wisdom to know how to do it, so that many souls will yet be gathered into the kingdom!

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