Summary: We remember for a reason. If we lose apostolic doctrine, we lose Jesus Christ.
Alzheimer’s is a memory-destroying disease. Yet, this disease isn’t merely content to take away a victim’s memory; it tries to take down an entire family with it. When one person in the family has lost his memory, the others have to pick up the slack. The family has to do what the victim has forgotten how to do. They even have to remember memories long-forgotten for the one inflicted with Alzheimer’s. So deadly is the disease, this loss of memory.
The Christian Church is a living reality, also with a memory. The book of Hebrews speaks of this collective memory, telling the Church not to succumb to a spiritual Alzheimer’s.
Yet, in many ways, it’s already too late. Spiritual Alzheimer’s has afflicted the Church for centuries. We’ve forgotten much of what we’re supposed to remember. And this remembering isn’t something optional. When the Church loses her spiritual memory, she has not only suffered something terrible, she has lost a large part of herself.
Our sacred text for today tells us: “Remember your leaders, those who have spoken God’s Word to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace” (Hebrews 13:7-9).
Yes, even today, we are to remember our leaders, those who have spoken God’s Word to us. But today, I ask you to consider the Book of Hebrews and when it was written: In the 1st century. Even back then the Church was to remember--yes, their current pastors--but most especially the Apostles and those whom the Apostles taught, those in the past, “those who [had] spoken God’s Word” to them.
Even in the 1st century, as spiritual grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the Apostles began to fill the Church, the Book of Hebrews told the Church to remember the Apostles and their first pastors. When the Book of Hebrews tells us to “remember your leaders,” it isn’t focusing only on me, your current pastor. No, Hebrews is hailing us back to the Church’s first pastors: The Apostles and their students.
In an important way, the ministry of those first pastors continues. As we remember what they taught, they are still teaching us today. When we forget what they taught, that’s when we get “carried away by all kinds of strange teachings,” teachings that do not strengthen us “by grace.”
Our memory, even going back to the Apostles and their students, is to be as a focused spotlight on their teaching of God’s Word. The Apostle Paul tells us in the book of Ephesians that Christ “Himself gave--on the one hand, apostles; on the other, the prophets, the evangelists, and pastor-teachers.” Why did Christ do this, this giving? So He could outfit His saints with spiritual armor and move them into works of service. But most of all, it was to bring and keep them in the Church, the body of Christ.