We Need To Retell the Story!

     Last Sunday, I had a conversation with a couple that went something like this. “Wow, that reading from Leviticus is sure boring.” My response was candid: “I can’t disagree with you.”
      From chapters one through nine, the author of Leviticus repeats the same set of ritualistic instructions twenty-two times. I became drowsy. So, I started reading the text aloud to stay alert and awake. Predictably, all three of my cats fell asleep.
     However, I was awakened out of my stupor when I came to the beginning of chapter ten: “Now Nadab and Abihu, two of Aaron’s sons, each took an incense pan. They put fire and incense on them and offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, which he had not commanded them” (Leviticus 10:1, CEB). One would think that after the incessant repetition of instructions, Aaron’s boys would have had the pattern down pat.
     It would be easy for anyone to poke fun at Nadab and Abihu for their mindless blunder. However, the fact is the mistake these two priests committed could have been made by any of us. We all share a common shortcoming: our memories tend to leak. How quickly we forget is a universal mantra.
     Given our mutual shortcoming, I once had a seminary professor claim, “As Christians, we need to be reminded of things we already know.” As much as we struggle with the tedious nature of repetition, our minds must be continually renewed and refreshed. Jesus understood our tendency to forget which, I believe, is why Jesus instituted Holy Communion with the words, “This cup is the new promise made with my blood. Every time you drink from it, do it to remember me” (1 Corinthians 1:25, GWT).
     Every time the early church gathered for worship routinely. When they did, they retold the story of Jesus’s crucifixion, even as they broke the bread and received the cup. They understood that forgetting, all too often, is followed quickly by ingratitude. For this very reason, these first-century Christians deliberately sought reminders of the story they already knew.

     The second verse of Kate Hankey’s lovely hymn summarizes our all-to-human need for repetition:

Tell me the story slowly, that I may take it in—
That wonderful redemption, God’s remedy for sin;
Tell me the story often, for I forget so soon,
The “early dew” of morning has passed away at noon.

Grace and Peace,
Pastor David