DATE: February 1, 2019
TEXT: Isaiah 49: 15-16 – ESV -“Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me.
I was not the most beloved Confirmation Teacher.
There is a reason for that: I believed in memory work. Not just memory work where the child could repeat a short verse when he was called up to a teacher’s desk. No, I expected my students to know and retain the passages they had studied.
There was a reason I emphasized memory work
That reason comes from having been by the death bed of some of my congregations’ elderly members. Many of them had some sort of dementia… many had forgotten the names of their children and they certainly didn’t remember me. If I prayed the Lord’s Prayer with them, they just sat and stared into the distance.
But… if I said, “Vater unser im Himmel, Geheiligt werde dein Name. Dein Reich komme. Dein Wille geschehe…”; that is the Lord’s Prayer in German, as they had learned it as a child at home and in Confirmation, a light went off and they quickly joined in.
The same held true if I did a Psalm 23: “Der HERR ist mein Hirte; mir wird nichts mangeln. “ The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
Now I have read a report from geropsychologist Benjamin Mast on dementia clients who want to know, “What will happen if I forget about God.?” Mast maintains dementia often attacks the more recent parts of the memory more than it does that which has been there longer. He says people can be at peace as the faith and prayers and songs that have been there since childhood are likely to remain.
And if it doesn’t remain, what then?
Then we count on Scripture’s promises. Look closely at St. Paul’s list included in these verses:
Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, "For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Is there any indication that dementia can separate believers from God’s love? There isn’t. What we know is this: an illness can erase our memories, but it cannot erase God’s memory of one of His once-believing children.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, be with those who battle against dementia. Support their caregivers. Above all, let us remember that nothing can separate us from Your love which comes to us through the Savior. It is in His Name I pray. Amen.
Today’s devotion was inspired by various articles, amongst which is the one written by Addle M. Banks for Religion News Services on January 16, 2019. Those who wish may check out this link which was, at the time of writing, fully active: https://www.christianheadlines.com/blog/dementia-and-religion-what-if-i-forget-about-god.html
The music which introduces and concludes our devotions was written by Guy Baumann, one of my long-ago confirmands. He is singing with three brothers. This song comes from the album: The Baumann Brothers which may be ordered here: http://thebaumannbrothers.com/index.html