24 Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life.
Every morning and every night, devote followers of Yahweh recite the Shema. It’s found in Deuteronomy 6:4-5 and reads, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” Two times every day, every Hebrew family reminds themselves of who God is and what they are called to as his people. It’s as though God knew that they’d need the reminder. It’s as though God is aware that the most important realities can also be the slipperiest truths. From the beginning we have known, stories have power and that remembering the most important stories demands intentionality.
In many ways liturgy is the rhythm we live by – it’s a way remembering and reinforcing the important. Ritual has been a part of the human story from the beginning. We see it at sporting events, in schools and workplaces, and in church services. We are designed to be caught up in the pageantry of the significant, but we often lose sight of what’s most important and true. In 1 John 2:24-25, John reminds his churches about the importance of remembering their story. He wrote, “Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life.” Notice the progression John expounds. Abide in the story, which leads to realizing relationship with God (the Father and the Son), which in turn leads to life eternal.
Abiding in the story is not easy. There are times when the repeated becomes mundane, where we begin to take it for granted, and when the new seems appealing. When John instructed the church to “let what they heard from the beginning abide in them,” he was calling them to intentionally push against the inertia of amnesia and amusement. He’s calling them to persist in memory for the sake of their own vitality. In the same way that Israel circled around Shema daily, the church is called to recall the gospel. That’s our story. That’s the story they and we have heard from the beginning. Today, remember that old, old story. Take a moment and read through this hymn that brings the same message to bear on our hearts.
Tell Me the Old, Old Story
By A. Kathrine Hankey, 1866
Tell me the old, old story of unseen things above,
Of Jesus and His glory, of Jesus and His love.
Tell me the story simply, as to a little child,
For I am weak and weary, and helpless and defiled.
Tell me the old, old story, tell me the old, old story,
Tell me the old, old story, of Jesus and His love.
Tell me the story slowly, that I may take it in,
That wonderful redemption, God’s remedy for sin.
Tell me the story often, for I forget so soon;
The early dew of morning has passed away at noon.
Tell me the story softly, with earnest tones and grave;
Remember I’m the sinner whom Jesus came to save.
Tell me the story always, if you would really be,
In any time of trouble, a comforter to me.
Tell me the same old story when you have cause to fear
That this world’s empty glory is costing me too dear.
Yes, and when that world’s glory is dawning on my soul,
Tell me the old, old story: “Christ Jesus makes thee whole.”
By Ryan Paulson