Summary: In support of property redevelopment in this church: God will remember us, as will this community, if we build with human needs in mind, if we build unselfishly, and if we build for future generations.
All of us have a powerful need to be remembered and will do almost anything to make sure we are remembered. We want to be remembered; we want somebody to remember those significant dates like birthdays and anniversaries, and we will drop hints and leave calendars lying around and do everything we can to help them remember. We want to be remembered.
Last week I finally remembered someone. I try not to miss the birthdays of our church staff, but I missed one by a few days. And although she is far too gracious to admit it, I would not be at all surprised to learn that Mrs. Bishop felt just a tiny bit better when she got that card that said, "Better late than never." Sorry about that! You are remembered. All of us want to be remembered.
In order to be remembered, we will erect tombstones and engrave our names in marble off there in a cemetery, where few will come to see it, but at least it feels timeless. It feels as though we are being remembered.
But even that is not really enough, you know. This city is full of monuments and memorials, and a good many of them are designed for us to remember people we would otherwise know nothing about.
Who knows who Taraschenko was? I certainly don I t. I think you have to be Czechoslovakian to appreciate Taraschenko, and not many of you look like Czechs! But somebody wanted Taraschenko to be remembered and put up quite a monument for him at 23rd and Q Streets.
Probably nobody in this congregation except Walter Carolin knows much about the contributions of Samuel Ganpers, but he has a statue just off of Massachusetts Avenue. Organized labor wanted us to remember him.
And if anybody but Drs. Haynes and Nyanjom can tell me about a man named Hahnemann and about something called "homeopathic medicine", I will sit at your feet and learn. All I really know is that somebody threw up a monument to him down in Scott Circle, so that he would be remembered.
All of us would like to be remembered. The builder Nehemiah was no different. His humanity comes out in the memoirs he has written for us. His favorite and frequent prayer is, "Remember me, 0 God". A half dozen times this prayer escapes his lips, "Remember me, 0 God". In the middle of doing good things … in the midst of getting the wall of Jerusalem rebuilt ... Nehemiah is not much different from the rest of us. "Remember me, 0 God, for good".
That raises an interesting question. That makes us wonder what Nehemiah’s real motives were in getting the walls of Jerusalem rebuilt. Why would he go to the trouble of organizing this massive effort, when he could have stayed back in Persia, very comfortable? Was this wall just going to be a useless, expensive monument to Nehemiah’s overblown ego? Was this going to be something like William Randolph Hearst’s San Simeon castle? Would this be like King Tut’ s pyramid? Why build this wall -- just to gain a monument?
Who profits from the building of this wall?
The story reported in Chapter 5, which leads Nehemiah to voice his prayer, "Remember me", will give us some insight.
I often find myself saying at funeral services that in the grand economy of God, no good thing is ever finally lost. In working with grieving people, one of the hopes that I hold out is that God remembers; God holds their loved one in His great heart; and God will use what each person was to build for the future. God remembers. Nehemiah’s prayer is answerable. God remembers.
But what must I do to create the kind of memory that I want God to have? Who must I be to be remembered of God? Nehemiah’s experience at the wall will tell us.
First, if I want to be remembered, I must leave behind a legacy of putting people and their needs first. I must leave behind a record of priorities for people, especially when I see people who are exploited, people who are injured, people who cannot help themselves.
If I want to be remembered, I must see to it that my legacy is a legacy of power to people and not profit for the powerful.
The people interrupted the building of the wall one day and exploded in pain. They had taken it up to here, and they just vomited it all out for Nehemiah. "We can’t keep on like this. We can’t keep working on the wall when we are starving. And, Nehemiah, the reason we are starving is that sane of the nobles and officials here in Jerusalem are foreclosing on the collateral we gave them for loans. We have no money, no bread, no homes, nothing."