Sunday, September 7, 2014

Grace and memory

Ask rain from the Lord in the season of the spring rain, from the Lord who makes the storm clouds, who gives showers of rain to you, the vegetation in the field to everyone. For the teraphim utter nonsense, and the diviners see lies; the dreamers tell false dreams, and give empty consolation. Therefore, the people wander like sheep; they suffer for lack of a shepherd. Zechariah 10: 1-2 NRSV

The name Zechariah means the Lord remembers. This concept seems very simple at first, but if we think about it, it is actually quite profound. Daniel Schacter wrote a book titled The Seven Sins of Memory. One of the "sins" of memory is absent-mindedness. When we are distracted, our attention is drawn away from the situation at hand, and the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and feelings of the situation are not recorded in the short-term memory. For example, we are frying bacon and the phone rings with an urgent message that our loved one has been taken to the hospital. In our urgency to get to the hospital, we rush out the door and absent-mindedly leave the bacon frying on the stove. The Lord is never distracted. He can manage perfectly, all at the same time, the need of each and every molecule in the entire expanding universe, without ever forgetting one iota of need.

With the idea of the Lord's phenomenal memory in our own minds, let us look at the scripture for today. It encourages us to ask the Lord for rain in the season of rain. In other words, we should ask the Lord for rain and expect to receive it when we are supposed to receive it. God wants us to ask for blessings and gifts, but because He is not an absent-minded God who drops everything as each request is presented to Him; He is able to deliver blessings in perfect timing. Our poor distracted memory forgets that God wants us to ask for blessings and to expect Him to deliver the blessings we request. We think that when God does not give us the blessing we want when we want them, we are distracted and forget that He is the good God who is full of grace towards us. We forget that He wants to bless us! The scripture above also reminds us that the other gods, (the teraphim), the diviners, and false prophets are distractions for us. If we listen to them, we can become overwhelmed, wander without a purpose, and accomplish nothing.

Another story illustrates how we react to this distracted mentality. A woman's husband had a near fatal heart attack and was rushed to the hospital. When the woman arrived at the hospital, a nurse informed her that she should call her family, a receptionist thrust at her a thick stack of papers to complete, and the woman had to use the toilet. The woman was paralyzed, unable process everything at once. At that moment, a neighbor, who was full of grace and who saw the ambulance activity at her neighbor's home, arrived at the hospital to be with the woman. The neighbor took the stack of papers from the woman's hands and said, "This is the least important right now. First, go to the bathroom." When the woman came back from the bathroom, the neighbor, still holding the papers, said, "Now, let's find the phone and call your daughter. After we do that, we will sit down and wait for your daughter to arrive and begin to complete these papers." This is how God's grace works. It sorts out each need and meets it. We just have to be willing to allow the Lord to direct us.