Thursday, 29 April 2021
If I forget God…
John 6: 39-40
“ And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. ”
“If I forget God, will God forget me?”
Recently, I attended a webinar titled “Ageing and the Church: Theological and Pastoral Perspectives”. One of the speakers shared that his late father, who had suffered from Alzheimer’s for over 10 years, asked him this very poignant question one day.
He also shared that his father’s cognitive functions declined to a point where he could only remember the Sunday School song, “Jesus loves me this I know” and would sing it repeatedly in the last few years before he passed away. (This is why the Sunday School ministry is important, added Rev Lim Kar Yong, the speaker; the other speaker was Rev Tan Soo Inn, PBC’s former pastor.)
What Rev Lim shared would resonate to some extent with anyone who has had to care for aging parents or in-laws, or those who have relatives or friends suffering from dementia. For the record, “Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia.” (Alzheimer’s Association, US)
According to a World Bank report, Malaysia transitioned into an aging society in 2020, with more than 7 per cent of the population aged 65 and above. That is expected to double to 14 per cent by 2044 and by 2056, one in five Malaysians will be 65 and older.
The fact that Malaysia is an aging society has implications for the Church and its ministries, even for something as mundane as toilets with doors wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs, or making sure to include a hymn or two during worship services (for more on this, watch the recording of the webinar on YouTube).
The biggest known risk factor for Alzheimer’s is increasing age, but the disease is not a normal part of aging, says the US Alzheimer’s Association. Still, as we get older, our memory is not as sharp as before. My mother, who could rattle off the house phone numbers of my aunt and god-sister in Melaka even into her early-80s (when I myself could not remember) would say to me with a tinge of sadness when I wanted to call them, “I can’t remember anymore.”
Losing our memory is not just a frightening prospect but something that may cause us to grieve while we are still able to recognise that it is happening, the way we may grieve our loss of productivity, independence and mobility as we get older.
That is why I found the webinar so helpful, not just for the theological and pastoral perspectives but also the personal. What do you say, for instance, to someone who says that they feel “useless”, as my godmother used to say to me each time I visited?
What has this to do with John 6 verses 39-40? The words of Jesus clearly tell us that He will not lose anyone whom God has given Him, and that He will raise them up on the last day. The promise of resurrection is repeated in verse 28.
In John 10: 27-28 , Jesus says: “ My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. ”
Even if we were to suffer from hearing loss or a deteriorating memory or be lost in the fog of dementia as we age, Jesus will never lose us – we are safe in His hand.
In the 1990 movie “Home Alone”, an eight-year-old boy is accidentally left behind by his family when they travel overseas for a Christmas vacation. Our Lord is not like the distracted parents in the movie who, in the chaos of getting to the airport on time, did not notice that one child was missing. On the last day, Jesus will not suddenly realise that He lost track of one sheep.
“If I forget God, will God forget me?” Never! In Isaiah 49:16 , God says: “ See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me .” Even if a mother could forget a nursing child, God says He will never forget us. Others may, but not God.
Abba Father, thank you for engraving us on the palms of Your hands and for your promise that You will never forget us. Thank you for the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ who keeps us safe in His hand. In His name we pray, Amen.
差 我 来 者 的 意 思 就 是 ： 他 所 赐 给 我 的 ， 叫 我 一 个 也 不 失 落 ， 在 末 日 却 叫 他 复 活 。
因 为 我 父 的 意 思 是 叫 一 切 见 子 而 信 的 人 得 永 生 ， 并 且 在 末 日 我 要 叫 他 复 活 。
在《约翰福音》 10：27-28 *中，
上帝说：看 哪 ， 我 将 你 铭 刻 在 我 掌 上 ； 你 的 墙 垣 常 在 我 眼 前 。