Why is History Important?

History is the result of living bound within time. The experiences which we create and live soon become the past. But rather than being passive, those experiences dynamically shape the future. In that sense, we are the past. The law of cause and effect powerfully ties past to future.

On the spiritual level, we value history because Yahweh himself entered into our time-bound existence as the incarnate Jesus Christ. This man, the Son of God clothed in flesh, was limited to one lifetime, one historical era, living only a handful of years within our time-bound physical world. Yet, his life provides a skeleton upon which all events of history hang upon and find their shape and significance.

Going even deeper, history is important because of Yahweh’s active remembrance of the past.

The intersection of history and faith is contained in the concept of covenant. Covenant is simply the relationship God initiates and provides for between him and his people. God promises, then he remembers that promise. Remembering and promise-keeping are a good couple, and they sustain covenant. You can’t fulfill a promise unless you attend to it in your mind, plan for it, and act on it. Remembrance is the first step. And God’s remembrance is as good as his action. God’s words after the flood concerning the rainbow are a prime example, “I will remember my covenant which is between me and you.”

Subsequently, he calls us to remember his covenant. The command to remember is built into the Torah, the first five books of the Bible. Repeatedly Moses’s cry to the people is that they do not forget the work of the Lord after they enter the Promised Land. That is, when things are good, do not forget the Lord’s covenant-making actions when you were in despair. In the time of the Judges the problem was that no one remembered the Lord, everyone did what was right in his own eyes. Israel had careless memories and it eventually drove them into exile. When they finally returned and discovered the book of the law which had been lost and forgotten, the people wept and recommitted themselves to the covenant (read about this is Ezra and Nehemiah).

When we fail to remember what God did in the past, we lose hope for the future. Worship of the Lord is based upon our experiential knowledge of who he is, and that experience is both recorded for us in scripture and lived in our own lives. How can we worship that which we do not know? And knowledge is built through experience and experience chronicled through memory.

So let us make a habit of intentionally recalling this God who we worship. Let us recall by reading His Story. Let us recall by writing down his goodness in our own lives. And by doing this, let us give value to the past and increase our expectation for the future.

 

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Person of History: Teresa of Avila

Teresa of Avila, one of the pioneering mystics in the Christian faith, was born March 28, 1515, in Avila, Spain. Her father was strict, her stepmother loving. The writings of St. Jerome (4th C) encouraged her to pursue a religious life as a nun, although the decision between marriage or convent life was difficult for her. Life in the convent for the charming and likable Teresa was not as she expected. Instead of simplicity she found extravagance. Many women entered because they had no where else to go. Status was dominated by money. Women wore jewelry and stylish veils. Teresa lived amidst this worldly religiosity feeling the weight of her sinfulness and struggling to pray and be ever aware of Jesus’ presence.

After some years, a vision of the “sorely wounded Christ” redirected her life and ministry. Following this vision, she had a number of mystical encounters with Christ in his suffering. This reformation of her inner spiritual life led her to push for external reformation in the convent.

These ideas for change centered on simple living – a life of poverty and prayer, a focus on love not rules. She was renounced for her efforts and some sought the Inquisition against her. She battled throughout her life with various church and state officials on her ideas of true spirituality. She started her own convent centered on the life of prayer, and eventually traveled around teaching on her visions and starting other convents. She was criticised by the Pope and others as disobedient and restless. She wrote her autobiography as a purposeful answer to many accusations made against her.

Teresa is perhaps most well-known for her thoughts on the life of prayer. She believed prayer to be an expression of love between God and his child. She wrote, “For mental prayer in my opinion is nothing else than an intimate sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with him who we know loves us. The important thing is not to think much but to love much and so do that which best stirs you to love. Love is not great delight but desire to please God in everything.” God gave her great spiritual delight in prayer through an intense awareness of his presence. Her encounters with Christ, as well as her experiential prayer life, define her as a mystic.

In addition to her autobiography, her writings include the Way of the Perfection and the Interior Castle. Teresa died in 1882.

What have I learned from this precious woman of faith?

1. Experience God through prayer. The spiritual life, although not founded on experience or emotion, involves both, and to discard these leaves us with a shallow understanding of the heart of God. Union with Christ is experienced through prayer.

2. Prayer is driven by love, and that leads us to action. Teresa stood for Biblical truth in a corrupted religious society. Her visions caused her to fight for biblical truth. Will we do the same?