April 14, 2015
As far as the east is from the west, so far has God removed our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:12
April 15 marks the 150th anniversary of the death of Abraham Lincoln, the first president killed while in office, and solemn remembrances will mark the occasion.
Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C., where Lincoln was shot and which is now part of the National Park System, will hold around-the-clock dramatic re-tellings of the events of April 14-15. Its museum will be open as usual, with exhibits such as the tiny pistol John Wilkes Booth used to assassinate Lincoln, his coat and top hat, and a bloodstained flag. Visitors can cross the street to the Petersen House, where the mortally wounded president was carried the night of the 14th and where he died the following morning (D.C. church bells will toll at 8:00 a.m. on the 15th). Adjacent to the house is the Center for Education and Leadership, which explores the immediate aftermath of Lincoln’s death and his continuing legacy.
The events of these next two days are sure to be crowded, but Ford’s is open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas days so you can go there throughout the year (actually, April 18 and 19 are good days to go, because it’s the beginning of National Parks Week, April 18-26, and admission is free on those two days at any park). And although the Ford’s Theatre itself is sometimes closed because it’s a professional working stage, there are other, on-going programs at the site: “One Destiny,” a short show which runs in the summer, depicting the assassination through the eyes of two witnesses, and an evening musical through May 20 about Lincoln and the Civil War. The theatre also will host a walking tour of downtown Washington through October, themed on the shooting. If you’d like to brush up on the events of April 14-15 online, I suggest this Smithsonian article, excerpted from Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln.
It’s right and good to memorialize this and other solemn occasions that changed the course of American history. But reading about all the activities centered on the dates got me thinking about where the word “remember” occurred in the Bible. I looked it up in a concordance, and discovered many of the references were about not remembering. But it was the subject of what was not remembered—in other words, what was forgotten—that riveted my attention the most:
“In Your [God’s] love You kept me from the pit of destruction; You have put all my sins behind Your back” (Isaiah 38:17)
“’I, even I [God], am He who blots out your transgressions, for My own sake, and remembers your sins no more’” (Isaiah 43:25)
“’I [God] have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist’” (Isaiah 44:22)
“’For I [the Lord] will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more’” (Jeremiah 32:34)
“’In those days, at that time’, declares the Lord, ‘search will be made for Israel’s guilt, but there will be none, and for the sins of Judah, but none will be found, for I will forgive the remnant I spare’” (Jeremiah 50:20)
“Who is a God like You, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of His inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; You will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:18, 19)
“’Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord’” (Acts 3:19)
“[God] forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; He took it away, nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:14)
Don’t these verses paint a great word picture? God has taken all the offenses His followers have ever done or will do against Him and others, and infinitely separated them from us. He put them behind Him; blotted, wiped and swept them away; ground them under His feet; tossed them into the deepest sea; and stamped “Paid In Full” on that sin debt once and for all by putting it on Jesus who took the punishment we rightly deserved.
And then He forgets there even was any wrongdoing to begin with!
How He does that…I can’t quite wrap my mind around it. But I figure if He’s great enough to create the world, then He’s great enough to disremember.
Still—I regularly beat myself up about my past mistakes and failures, and too often suppose that’s what God must do, too. But when He casts our sins into the ocean, He doesn’t set up a fishing hole there. So why should we? Because as far as He’s concerned, there’s nothing there.
And that is something to remember.