The Ministry of Reminding
Ihave nothing to say to you today that is original with me,” the Sabbath school teacher said quietly.
“I’m here to study with you a story that is probably more familiar to you than almost any other Jesus ever told. Everything I point out in the text has probably been shown to you before. My goal is simply to remind you of what you already know is true: that the Father’s love is immeasurable; that forgiveness is real; that mercy still reaches us even when we are a long way from home.”
The lesson about the prodigal son unfolded from that undramatic point, a rehearsal of a story about which tens of thousands of sermons have been preached and uncounted pages of commentary written. The goal, the teacher said, was not novelty but reminder—calling to active thought truths already agreed to but too easily forgotten.
I heard his words gladly, for the burden of saying—or finding—something new in our study of Scripture frequently obscures the larger meaning of the Word. We want an exhibition of cleverness in the pulpit or the classroom: the speaker who tickles our ears with unfamiliar teaching also flatters us as the kind of wise, intelligent persons who can comprehend such cleverness. But we are usually better served by those who use the sermon or the Sabbath school lesson or the midweek Bible study to remind us of the central truths about God and His character that we too quickly brush by.
In an era of cruelty and vengeance, we bear reminding that those who follow Jesus are called by Him to “do good to those who hate you” (Matt. 5:44).
As the world’s media revel in stories of extravagance and greed, we bear reminding that Jesus once commanded, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matt. 6:33).
When we look for those gifted by Jesus to serve His church, we bear reminding that He radically denied the quest for personal power and authority: “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all” (Mark 9:35).
If the Holy Spirit is satisfied with the ministry of reminding us of what Jesus has said (John 16:14), a people led by the Spirit will rejoice that they have been given the ministry of reminding each other—and a novelty-driven world—of timeless and unchanging truths.
— Bill Knott