Terry R. Baughman
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship” (Romans 12:1).
Beautiful monuments and celebrated memorials are scattered across our nation to commemorate war heroes and notable individuals who have contributed to great causes or sacrificed greatly to preserve freedoms and our way of life. Washington D.C. is perhaps the most decorated region as our nation’s capital provides host to numerous sites where veterans and notable leaders are venerated. From the Lincoln memorial to the Washington monument past presidents and brave leaders are celebrated. The veterans of various wars are honored and landmarks of history are memorialized in museums and architectural tributes. Collections are curated by the Smithsonian Institution and a vast collection of published works are cataloged in the Library of Congress. The sense of history is everywhere. There are so many memorials it is easy to miss the immense value of the sacrifices and the reasons for the existence of the memorials.
From ancient history in biblical days great value was placed on the construction of memorials. Joshua was instructed by the Lord to place memorial stones on the banks of the Jordan to match those that were placed in the river bed when the people of Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground. The Lord miraculously stopped the water and prepared a path for his people to enter the land of promise. For years to come there was a memorial of stones to remind future generations of the miraculous hand of God that brought them into the land and prepared the way before them. When children would ask, “What do these stones mean?”, there would be an opportunity to share the story of conquest and the great deliverance by the hand of the Lord. “Then you shall answer them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it crossed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. And these stones shall be for a memorial to the children of Israel forever” (Joshua 4:7)
After the resurrection of Christ there may have been those who desired to create monuments and memorial stones commemorating the events of recent history. However, it was not Christ’s intention to memorialize holy places or make sacred the natural elements of new significance. He instituted living memorials as the last rite at the conclusion of supper and shortly before His arrest in the garden. He took normal elements of the meal, the most basic bread and drink, and gave them spiritual symbolism. ‘Take eat,” He said, “This is my body. Drink. This is my blood of the New Covenant.” (See Matthew 26:26–28.) Jesus desired to take normal, natural things and to make them relevant, importance, and symbolic.
The sacrifices of ancient rites and offerings of Temple worship were replaced with new significance. Rather than bulls and goats, Jesus desires living sacrifices. Instead of the deadness of rituals and performance of routine ordinances, Jesus calls us to live our our worship and declare the resurrection in victorious living. Here is the way to honor His memory; live out His teaching. This is the path of Christ’s example; love one another.
The Old Testament prophets spoke of God’s distain for rituals and sacrifice that had become a meaningless mockery. “I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them…” (Amos 5:21-22).
Memorials are more than sculpted granite monuments, polished marble, or rusting relics of former events. Memorials are born in the heart and shared from one generation to another. God’s desire is for meaning; His intention is that we may have authentic worship and a living declaration of our faith. He does not desire monuments, but a movement of faith-filled believers living out His life in the world!
“… So a book of remembrance was written before Him For those who fear the Lord And who meditate on His name” (Malachi 3:16).