Many who enlisted in the SAF, especially in the 1970s, know the dreaded experience of charging up that infamous Peng Kang Hill; and being commanded to charge almost always when they are already down to their remaining last ounces of strength. It was supposed to develop the strength of their resolve. Arising however from that common experience is also a remarkable bonding, which could be re-ignited even decades after, at the mere mention of Peng Kang Hill. Such is the power of remembering.
Thousands of kilometers away, inductees of the Israeli Defence Force would reportedly complete their officer cadet training by also charging up a hill, Masada, where they would make their oath of loyalty to Israel, and complement it by shouting, “Masada Shall Not Fall Again!” That shout leads these soldiers to remember afresh the 960 Israelis, who perished in the Siege of Masada; and inspire them to also defend Israel up to their last breath. Such is the power of remembering.
Exodus helps us to remember that God heard the cry of His people who were enslaved by Egypt. He promised to rescue them and to give them, “a land flowing with milk and honey”. God chose Moses to lead that generation with those two promises. Although Moses was successful in leading them out of Egypt, they were not willing however to let Moses lead them into the Promised Land. Ten of the twelve who spied out the Promised Land brought a report that spread paralyzing fear among the rest. It seemed they had forgotten that just a year ago, God had used Moses to lead them through the overwhelming Red Sea. Consequently, even though they had miraculously not drowned in the Red Sea a year ago, they were now drowning in the flood of fear, distrust, and anxiety rising within themselves. For the next forty years, they journeyed in futility in the wilderness until they perished.
After those forty years, Moses meets that same responsibility again, but with their next generation—to exhort them to enter and inherit the Promised Land. Although Moses could have succumbed to that failure with the previous generation, he refused to let that failure be the final word. The whole of Deuteronomy attests to this, as we read what Moses wrote to help their next generation (as well as himself) remember God’s Promises to His People, how they may live their lives fruitfully in His blessings and carry out their God-given mission purposefully among themselves and others in the Promised Land.
To prepare and equip that next generation for such a monumental journey to receive such a life transforming inheritance and to accomplish such a far-reaching mission—what Moses gave them was surprisingly—a liturgy (Deuteronomy 26:1-11)! That liturgy was not however to become a mere form of worship among other forms. That liturgy was to help them remember and remember repeatedly, so that they will be increasingly clearer and certain about what God has done in the past and what He is still commanding and promising this next generation now. In short, Moses gave them a liturgy to help them to remember and remember repeatedly; so that they may grow in clarity and certainty of God’s love for them, grow in faith and receive the inheritance of His blessings by obeying Him.
When Jesus instituted the sacrament with those words, “as often as you . . . do this in remembrance of me”, we see again the role and power of liturgy in remembering God. This is the original intention of Anglican liturgy too. They are for you to discover, remember and remember repeatedly, so you may grow in clarity and certainty of God’s love, grow in faith to obey Him and receive the inheritance of His blessings. May you be so blessed as you engage anew in these liturgies.
Rev. Joseph Goh