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Failing Memories

The following sermon was preached by Regina Herman, LSTC student, in Augustana Chapel at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago on Thursday, September 6, 2012.


Mark 7:1-18,14-15, 21-23

Two middle-aged couples were enjoying friendly conversation when one of the men, Bob, asked the other, "Fred, how was the memory clinic you went to last month?"
"Outstanding," Fred replied. "They taught us all the latest psychological techniques, such as visualization, association and so on. It was great. I haven't had a problem since."
"Sounds like something I could use,” said Bob. “What was the name of the clinic?"
Fred went blank. He thought and thought, but couldn't remember. Then a smile broke across his face and he asked, "What do you call that flower with the long stem and thorns?"
"You mean a rose?" replied Bob.
"Yes, that's it!" He turned to his wife, "Hey Rose, what was the name of that memory clinic?"( Story taken from Preaching.com. © 2012 Salem Web Network. All rights reserved. http://www.preaching.com/sermon-illustrations/11635242/)

We as humans struggle to remember.
Our memories may not be quite as bad as Fred’s memory, or perhaps they are,
but especially in today’s world, it is easy become so overwhelmed by the things of life,
moving to a new place
starting a new year of school
needing to order books, to pay for rent or a mortgage, to apply for scholarships
figuring out how to live in a completely different situation, commuting long distances or moving away from family & friends
With all of this going on in our lives, some things are bound to be forgotten!

In the reading we heard from Deuteronomy, Moses passes on God’s command to the people of Israel to not only heed, keep, and guard God’s law,
but to remember all that they have seen, all that the LORD has done for them, to the point of passing on this memory & this message to the next generation and the next.
Israel is called to remember these things, because the LORD their God is unique, different from any other god.
“For what other great nation has a god so near to it as the LORD our God is whenever we call?”
And when we look at all God had done for them, we think how could they forget!
God heard the cry of Israel when they were enslaved in Egypt,
God performed signs and wonders to help them escape from Egypt and Pharaoh’s army
God provided for them and tabernacled with them in the wilderness, even when they complained against God!
And now God is going to give them the land God promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob so long ago.
Still, as the rest of the Old Testament tells us, they frequently forgot.
God’s people forgot about God.
They forgot God’s promises and all that God had done for them.
They forgot God’s laws,
laws meant to be life-giving laws that helped them be in relationship with one another and with God,
laws that call them to love the LORD their God with all their heart and soul and might.

They too became so overwhelmed by the things of life
Moving to a new place
Starting a new life in a foreign land
Needing to build buildings, plant crops, obtain sheep and goats for milk and trade
Figuring out how to live as a nation among many nations
With all of these things going on in their lives, some things were bound to be forgotten!
And the same thing happened to the Pharisees and the scribes of Jesus day.
They were actually trying to follow God’s laws, but also got wrapped up in the things of life -
trying to do everything correctly and perfectly,
trying to make sure they didn’t forget anything,
trying to do everything by themselves,
in a sense trying to earn God’s love and forgiveness,
that they forgot about God – the One who had already promised to be with them, to always love them and be there to forgive them, to help them with these “things of life” that they struggled with.
“For what other great nation has a god so near to it as the LORD our God is whenever we call?” (pause)
We as humans certainly aren’t perfect and God knows this.
God does not expect us to be perfect.
In fact, I doubt God wants us to be perfect, for then we would have no need to trust and rely on God.
We are going to mess up.
We are going to forget things, as it is so easy to do, especially when life gets complicated and messy.

And yes, even here, at seminary, there will be times when we too will forget God’s presence among us and forget God’s promises to us.
We will get wrapped up in papers and reading,
in trying to get good grades,
in thinking about tough questions and difficult theology,
And we might wonder whether we are really meant to be here and whether God is still with us.
But praise the LORD, that, though we are forgetful, we have a God who will never forget us!
We have a loving God who wants more than anything to be in relationship with us and will always be waiting for us with open arms,
For who else has a god so near to us as the LORD our God is whenever we call!
God promises to be with us always.
Today, we remember God’s promises to Abraham, Isaac, & Jacob, promises of blessing, descendants, & land.
We remember God’s promise to Israel, to always be with them and to restore their nation, even when in exile.
We remember Jesus’ promises to his disciples to be with them, to come again one day, and to send them the Holy Spirit.
And we remember that these promises are now God’s promises to us too,
given to us through baptism and the Lord’s supper, along with the promises of God’s grace, love, forgiveness, and everlasting life.
It is these promises in which we hope.

And when we, like Fred, forget what should be some of the easiest things to remember, thank God that we too have a community of friends, spouses, teachers & pastors whom we can call on to help us remember, and - above all - a gracious and understanding LORD who is near to us whenever we call.

Amen.

 

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