Memory Matters

Why memorizing God’s Word matters

“The Lord be with you.” The pastor prayed over the men and women in front of him. Almost immediately, the congregation bellowed out, “And with thy spirit!” This congregation was not gathered inside a sanctuary or a chapel. They were gathered inside a memory care unit of a St. Louis nursing facility. All of these dear saints suffer from varying degrees of memory loss.

As one of the facility’s chaplains, I have the pleasure of serving these precious children of our Lord, and they continually surprise me. Many times, these dear souls do not remember my name, and their conversations with one another are often confused and conflated. They may not even recognize their own family members who come to visit. But, when it comes to the liturgy of a midweek Vespers service, not one of them misses a beat. The Creed is ever present on their lips. They pray the Lord’s Prayer robustly and confidently. Each of these men and women illustrates to me just how important it is to commit Scripture to memory and to be present on Sunday to receive our Lord’s gifts each and every week.

Is memorizing Scripture really that big of a deal? Short answer, yes, and here are two reasons why:

First, our Lord commands it. He says, “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deut. 6:6–7). God is clear in what His will is for His people. There’s no wiggle room. His Word is to be on our lips, in our homes and dwelling in our lives constantly.

This truth is echoed in the Psalms, as King David prays that blessed is the man who has his delight “in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:2). Will we do this perfectly? No, of course not. We still struggle with our sinful flesh that would rather scroll through a social media newsfeed than read the Word of the Lord. Yet we must daily repent and return to the forgiveness granted in our Baptism and the life-giving words our Savior pours over us, “Your sins are forgiven in My death and resurrection.”

Second, God’s Word prepares us to die. At the deathbed, I have often found the Word of the Lord to still be upon the lips of the saint, even when all else — hearing, cognitive functions, sometimes bodily functions and memory — have left. We meet the trials and tribulations of this world as Christ did. He rebuked every temptation of Satan with Holy Scripture. God’s Word drowns our old, sinful flesh and daily renews a right Spirit within us. We have been cleansed by the blood of the Lamb, and we trust that even in death itself, we are heirs of life. There is no greater comfort to confront our mortality than this truth found in God’s Word. Why would you not want this peace from our Lord engraved on your heart?

As we continue to endure this present age of hardships and uncertainty, we rejoice that our Lord’s Word to us is unchanging. Today, we still take upon our lips the same prayer taught by our Lord to His disciples. Do not take this for granted. There may be a time where the true Word of God may not be as readily available to you as it is today. Continue to go to church faithfully to hear our Lord’s Word to you and to receive His gifts. Repent for complaining of “hearing the same thing over and over again,” and instead relish in His unchanging Word and promises to you. Take comfort that no matter what trials and tribulations may come your way, our Lord is with you, always, through His Word and His Sacraments. Nothing, no virus, no laws — not even memory loss — can separate you from His forgiveness, life and salvation, now and forevermore.

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2 thoughts on “Memory Matters”

  1. This is so meaningful to me this morning as I read it to my dear wife of 60 years. I don’t know if she heard it because she is asleep, in Hospice care and near the end of her life on this earth. However, it was cathartic to me just to read it out loud.
    Thank you

    1. God bless you and your wife, Gary. You are in the prayers of myself and so many of our brothers and sisters in Christ. I likened your scenario to that of a newly born child hearing God’s Word from his or her parents and pastor. While here on earth we will never be perfectly united with God and his Word (or even understand it in many cases!), hold onto the hope we have of seeing Jesus’ face in our eternal dwelling! And Brian, thank you for this great devotion. I love that your conclusion reminded me of Romans 8:38-39 !

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