Sermon: We Wait With Hope
It’s hard to imagine that Advent is upon us. It seems to have come upon us quickly this year. I don’t know why. It’s not like the stores have had Christmas decorations up since October. While culture is ready for the sentimentality of Christmas, perhaps you are not. For many of us, this time of year is cause for great concern. Presents under the tree, or the lack thereof, magnify financial fears, or they make us face the uncomfortable reality of a dysfunctional family. For some it only increases the grieving of a loved one; adding to that feeling of absence in your life.
Culture tries to glaze over our hardships. But Advent isn’t always so gentle. In fact it can be rather uncomfortable. Kicking off the first Sunday of Advent, we get Bible passages that make us shift our cultural paradigms. Culture assumes a rather shallow display of good will and emotional warmth. Advent demands a radical change in our hearts, in our communities, and in creation itself. This doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time, and it takes patience. And so we enter this season of Advent to wait. And wait. And wait.
Advent demands a radical change in our hearts, communities, and in creation itself.
Speaking of waiting, nobody waits as patiently as our new dog Daisy. She has this trick where you put the milk bone on her nose and doesn’t move until you give her the green light. I don’t know how she does it. I can’t stand within 10 feet of a donut without losing all will power. Yet Daisy sits there and waits with hopefulness and joy. She knows her reward is coming.
Daisy reminds us of why Jeremiah is a perfect reading to kick off the Advent season. Instead of stories about a bright star and Magi, or an angel’s soliloquy to a young virgin girl, we get prophetic warnings dug from the harsh soil of human struggle and the littered landscape of broken dreams. In the bleakest of circumstances Jeremiah gives us hope when it seems all hope is lost.
Jeremiah is a prophetic book written to Jewish hostages held captive in Babylon. They are angry, scared, tired and beaten down. They have watched their beloved Temple be destroyed, and their holy city reduced to dirt. The world and the communities that they have known their whole lives no longer seems to exist. Those who survived are left with a sense of hopelessness. They feel abandoned and betrayed by God. They have lost all reason to go on.
Despite sign to the contrary, Jeremiah declares, “The days are coming….when Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety.” He tells his kinfolk that God’s future will come not from giving up on the covenant promise, but instead trusting in the creative and redemptive faithfulness of God. Given what is going on around us, you might feel like one of these ancient captives, a prisoner trapped in a world that seems hopeless and void of God. It might be an addiction, or a dead-end job, or an abusive relationship. Most of us are just keep our head above water, which becomes more difficult when loneliness or guilt weigh you down. We all have our story. And yet, we are all given the same hope.
Culture gives sugar plum fairies and toys that come to life, but Advent gives us reality. And in whatever reality you are you are living through Jeremiah’s words are able to speak to you. Even if we feel like God has left us waiting in the dark, we know we can get through it because something greater coming. And so we wait. And wait. And wait. Not for presents under a tree or an 8 lb., 6oz. baby Jesus; instead we’re waiting for “the Son of Man coming on a cloud with power and great glory.” This is God’s redemptive gift to the world. Jesus is that savior; the peace we desire; the hope we are clinging to.
I remember the day I sat around waiting for the surgeon to come into the examination room to look at the cancer in my throat. His office was kind enough to fit us into his full schedule. They even gave up a private room for us to wait in. And wait we did. For over four hours I sat there with Kathleen and my dad waiting for my turn to be seen. We waited. And waited. And waited.
I used the time to prepare myself for the reality that was to come. But my head was swimming with emotions and thoughts. I began to take inventory of every place I’ve been, all the things I’ve done, all the people I’ve hurt and the one’s I’ve helped. I thought about teachers, coaches, lovers, neighbors, and friends, all the people in my life who made me who I am because of the stories they wrote on my heart.
It wasn’t until I was preparing this sermon that I realized it was in this time of waiting I truly understood God’s impact on my life. My joys and struggles became clearer to me. I am God’s beloved child. I am an heir to the promised salvation of Jesus Christ. This is my hope that I still to this day cling to. It’s my reason to wait with joyful expectation. Eventually I saw the surgeon, who gave me the good news that my cancer could be destroyed with minimal damage to my voice. As I stand here today, speaking to you all, I can say it was worth the wait.
In his blog entitled “When God Leaves You Waiting,” Joshua Roberie writes, “Sometimes what God does in the waiting room of our lives is more important for our future…Our part is to not figure out his path for us, but to trust him while we’re on it.”
Advent is a time of waiting with joyful expectation. A time to put all trust in God, knowing our future is secure. Our waiting is essential to the growth of our spiritual life and faith. The expectation of the fulfillment of God’s promises to us is what allows us to pay full attention to the road on which we are walking. It is in this time that we live freely and fully and faithfully to what God has called us to do.
Last week the Apostle Peter gave us this assurance. “By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life.” In the glow of the first Advent candle, the light of hope, God gives us all the hope we need to remain faithful to God and to others.
Without this season of wait, we begin to wander and stagnate and become tempted to indulge in whatever gives us a moment of pleasure. We fall prey to culture and her injustice. Advent forces us into that reality, and calls us to challenge the many things that have made us so comfortable and complacent, that we no longer see peace and love as an alternative to war and violence.
As his world came crashing down, Jeremiah pushes his people to see a future; God’s future. His words continue to push us, and provide us with hope. As we look at the suffering and injustice in the world around us, let us not lose sight that Jesus has called us to name each one of them, and to challenge them, as we lean into God’s promise of an alternative future.
Bible, NRSV. Jeremiah 33:14-16; Luke 21:25-36; 2 Peter 1:3.
Anderson, T. Denise. "Living by the Word." Christian Century 132, no. 24 (Nov 2015).
Charles, Gary. Feasting on the Word: Advent Companion. Edited by David Barlett and Kimberly Bracken Long Barbara Brown Taylor. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2014.
Roberie, Joshua. Relevent Magazine. Nov 17, 2015. http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/practical-faith/when-god-leaves-you-waiting (accessed Nov 25, 2015).
If you are a friend. Thank you. If you are a family member. Thank you. If you are part of my congregation. Thank you. If you and I went to school together. Thank you. If we ever dated. Thank you. If you are a friend of a friend reading this. Thank you. If you have forgiven me of any of my mistakes and wrong doing. Thank you. If you have ever made me laugh, cry, pray, sing, think, shout, rage, hug, smiled, jump, create, exercised, scream, or given me a reason to dance. Thank you.
I am grateful for every person that has been in my life, whether or not it was good or bad. I am who I am because of the sentences that have written on my heart. Thank you.
Sermon: We've Got It All
Readings: 2 Peter 1:2-8; Mark 14:26-31
Have you all seen the movie “Forrest Gump?” It’s a wonderful story of a simple man whose good intentions bless him with many great rewards. As the movie moves through these historical moments of life, Forrest unintentionally finds himself in some difficult and crazy situations. But through them all, he always seems to manage with great success.
As a result our hero constantly receives more from life than he could ever imagine. Yet the only thing he wants... is the love of his childhood sweetheart, Jenny Curran. Both he and Jenny suffer the scars of a difficult and painful childhood. Jenny tries to run away from the problems of her past. She is always looking for something more from life: more fun, more freedom, more sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll. Forrest on the other hand lives day-to-day by the simple wisdom he learned from his mother. The most famous being: “Life is like a box of chocolate, you never know what you’re gonna get.”
Life is like a box of chocolates, isn’t it? At our conception we are given our DNA. And at our birth we are handed over to a family. We're not given a choice. We don't get to sample or taste to see if we want to be a chocolate covered caramel or a chocolate covered cherry. We have only the hand that we have been dealt, no more and no less. I sometimes wish I could go through life like Forrest. Worried free and even a bit clueless. Truth be told, I'm afraid I am more like Jenny. I often want more.
The question this morning is: how much more do we need? How much more will it take... to stop us from running away from life, so we can see we've got enough on our plate already?
As most of you know, Trader Joe’s has come to Grand Rapids. You may also know that I live by the simple philosophy that if Trader Joe’s doesn’t have it, then I don’t need it. I don’t need a hundred choices of breads or multiple varieties of canned corn to chose from. I just need my Shepherd’s bread and a can of corn. It’s a good philosophy for dietary needs, but not so good for other needs. For example Trader Joe’s doesn’t carry my brand of toilet paper or shaving cream or laundry detergent. For that I have to go to Costco, where the concept of more is an understatement.
One doesn’t just go in to Costco and buy a can of shaving cream. No, you have to buy three cans. And a jar of honey comes in only one size…a gallon. Costco does this so we can save money. But if you are not careful, you will have to spend more money to rent a trailer to get the stuff home…they sell those there too. More isn't necessarily a good thing. Where does one store 72 rolls of paper towels? Or how on earth can any one person consume a two-gallon vat of yogurt before it goes bad?
We might think we want more. But who here wants more pressure in life, more fear and anxiety, more doubt or insecurities, more restrictions or more opinions thrown at you. We might want a more satisfying job or more self respect, but we might not want to take on more burdens or responsibly to receive it. And that's the problem of living in a culture of "more is better." As rich as you are someone is richer. But as poor as you are there is someone even less fortunate than you.
This mentality of "more is better" has affected the church too. We want more people in our pews, and more members to support our daily ministries. Even Peter wanted to do more to protect Jesus...but then he runs away and betrays him more than could have ever imagined. Truth be told, we don’t need more time or money, or greater success or fame, we don’t need a more perfect body or even a more perfect mate. Because right now, at this very moment, we have everything we need to achieve complete happiness.
The Apostle Peter reminds us of this. He tells us God’s divine power has given us everything we need... not just for life, but for a life of godliness. This comes to us through Jesus Christ, who has called us into his glory and granted us participation in his promised salvation. Through Christ, we receive eternal life! What more do we need? And dare I say, God’s love and grace is more than we can handle.
Through Christ... God has given us not only a way to escape the corruption of our world... but also a way to partake in the world to come. This is an amazing gift! This is all the Good News we need. We may not have been able to pick our family or the life that we were born into, but we can chose to follow Christ towards something greater than our imaginations can employ.
There's a catch. Too many Christians still believe they need more. They carry around more guilt because they believe they have to have more faith to be closer to God. But do we? Do we need more faith? Or do we simply need to allow the Spirit of God to give us all the strength and courage we need to be obedient, to help others in need, or to open ourselves up so we can be more free to love our neighbors?
God gives us what we need to live godly lives. And Christ shows us the way to supplement our faith in order to do what God has called us to do.
Yes...Life is like a box of chocolates. It's full of surprises. Some we will like and some we won't. We don't know what will be thrown at us or what will knock us down. Therefore we must empower our faith by embracing a life that is Christ filled. And Peter tells us we can do this: by practicing goodness, knowledge, self-control, endurance, godliness, mutual affection, and of course love. You can think of them the seven steps to happiness and living out a godly way of life.
They are the steps we all must take everyday, not to increase our faith or to receive more of God’s grace, but to understand ourselves better. And understand all of what we are supposed to do today...in this moment. For its in the moment we are surprised, attacked and knocked down. The more we practice these virtues in our world, the more effective and fruitful we become. In other words, we don’t need more love, we just have to love more every day. And by our actions, each day becomes more loving.
For Forrest Gump, each day brought an adventure all of its own. And each adventure brought its reward. Jenny also had many wonderful adventures...yet she could never see the reward standing right in front of her. Even when Forrest wants to make all her dreams come true...she still runs away looking for more. In the movie we discover the more she runs...the more fragile she becomes. She gets more scared, and more damaged, and more broken.
Jenny's story reminds us that we don’t need more time; we just need to use our time more wisely. We don't need more things, but we just need to stop chasing after those things that make us barren and empty. Instead let us bear the fruit of our faith, by remaining focused on God. And using our time faithfully, loving one another. What Peter is reminding us all is this: a life spent doing what God has called us to do...is a godly life. In such a life, we thrive... with the very gifts we have been given.
Listen to the words of the Dalai Lama who said, “The world does not need more successful people. The world desperately needs more peacemakers, and healers, and restorers, and storytellers and lovers of all kinds.”
Do we need more Christian boys and girls chasing after dreams? Or do we need more godly men and women participating in reality? Bearing the fruit of God's kingdom. One Hindu mystic said it this way. “We don’t need more Hindus, more Christians, or more Muslims – we need more Buddhas, more Jesuses and more Krishnas – then there will be true change. Every human being has that inner potential.”
Life is like a box of chocolate...I believe mine is a variety of sweet and savory. I may not know which one I am biting into, but I know what I can expect to find on the inside. God's love and grace. As we move towards Advent, awaiting the birth of our Savior, we will see how in one little baby, God gives us all the hope, all the peace, all the joy, and all the love we need.
But as you leave here today, remember this: We don’t need more faith, just faith. We don’t need to be more committed; we just need to be committed. We don’t need more grace, for God’s grace is sufficient.
Need I say more?
The face of Jesus and Crisis
I found this image when I was doing a google search for a sermon. It struck me hard. It made me think about all that is wrong in the world. And what purpose it has in our life. Why is it there? And why does it continue to happen? Day after day, year after year. The vicious cycle of violence, hatred, abuse, and greed moves us further and further away from the potential greatness that we possess. Why? Heaven forbid we should do anything to change it, to stop it, or to learn from it.
As we look out into our world, in all its brokenness and darkness, more often than not we want to blame someone. And more often than not, we blame God. It's easier to make God a scapegoat than it is to make ourselves responsible. We say things like,
"If there's a life-giving, all loving God out there then why do bad things to good people?"
I have heard this from atheist as well as many devote Christians and Muslims and Jews. My response is simple:
"God could ask the same to you."
Why do we still allow bad things to happen? Do you really believe it's all on God's plan? I am not so sure that God has a master plan that includes people killing one another for religious or non-religious purposes. It's hard for me to imagine a universal creator leaning over a drafting table drawing up plans of people starving to death, drowning in floods, freezing to death in our neighborhoods, or being beaten to death by a relative. What would be the purpose? I can't buy it because all that stuff has zero purpose in fulfilling God's kingdom.
People are raped, murdered, beheaded, burned alive, thrown out on the streets, kicked out of school, put into prison, and so on because of human actions. If you believe in God, that blood is on your hands. If you don't believe in God, it's still on your hands. God draws up blueprints on how to love one another, how to care for people other than ourselves, how to do business fairly, and how to experience joy even in times of sorrow.
Our responsibility in this world cannot be shifted to God or any one else. It's my duty as well as your duty to stand up to injustice, to care for those around us, to love our neighbors as much as we love our family. Blessed are the meek, blessed are the peace makers, blessed are those who feed the hungry, clothe the poor, care for the sick, and visit the imprisoned, blessed are merciful...for they will receive mercy.
Blessed are those who see humanity in trouble and respond humanely, or those who see injustice happen and act justly. Welcome the stranger and you yourself will be welcomed.
Sermon: Will the Walls Come Crumbling Down
Readings: Mark 13:1-8; 1 Peter 2:4-10
Recently my wife’s cousin bought a church in England that she and her husband are going to transform into a summerhouse. This might sound strange, but in world filled with senseless waste, it’s nice to see there is a growing trend of restoring and repurposing old buildings especially ones with unique architectural structure. By their shear beauty and ornateness, churches seem to be the hot ticket item for these type of renovation projects.
(Showing slides of various renovated churches) Just this past summer, I had a wonderful time at a gastropub in Grand Rapids housed in the refurbished sanctuary of a historic funeral home. Things like this are happening all over the world. In Boston, the Holy Trinity church was transformed into high end condominium complex. In the Netherlands, an aging cathedral received new life as a bookstore. Instead of tearing down this old neighborhood church, Montreal's Museum of Fine Arts incorporated the structure into its building plan. And somewhere out there in Germany, an old church has been turned into a skate park; which, by the way, has me rethinking the space in Fellowship Hall.
I have visited many wonderful churches, cathedrals, and basilicas in my lifetime. St. Paul’s, in the Vatican, is probably one of the most impressive I have ever seen. There is not enough time today to describe its astounding beauty. Suffice it to say it offers us a wonderful window into heaven. The Hagia Sophia in Istanbul is another such place. In fact, this massive building was so awe inspiring that when the Muslim invaders stormed Constantinople in 1453, they kept the church pretty much in tact.
In Mark’s Gospel this morning, Jesus and his disciples are leaving the Jerusalem Temple for the last time. One of his followers comments on the impressive beauty of this enormous worship center. It was an architectural achievement, and is still considered to be one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Herod spared no expense to impress the wealthiest and most powerful rulers of the day. And it worked.
Let me put this grand structure into some perspective. The Temple measured 3 football fields wide by 5 football fields long. The enormous stones of its foundation measured as long as 40 feet. And a few still exist as part of the Western Wall. The front of the main temple entrance was 22,500 square feet. It’s been reported that this wall was covered with so much silver and gold that in the bright sunlight it blinded anyone who looked at it. The surrounding complex included sprawling courtyards, colonnaded courts, grand porches and balconies, covered walkways, and monumental stairs. A spectacular sight for sure.
The Temple, of course, was the center of Jewish worship. It was their closest point of contact with God. And by its very geographical location, it also put God in the center of the known world. So when Jesus publically declares, “Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down,” you can imagine the controversy it created. Even his disciples couldn’t comprehend it. It makes me wonder what our reaction would be if someone made a bold judgment on our beloved church. Would we listen to that person, or crucify him?
Sitting on the Mount of Olives, Jesus takes in the beauty of the Temple in all its splendid glory. And as he does, he warns his disciples to remain faithful to their commitment to God. He knows that we will face trials. We will get distracted by shiny objects, and get pulled off course. Many of us will fall on our face more than once in our life. But through it all, we must remain faithful to the hope and promise of God’s love. We must be like living stones, as Peter tells us, built upon the cornerstone of Jesus Christ, the New Temple, made not by human hands but by God’s divine Word.
As living stones, we have a dual purpose. The first is to be life-giving and essential to the building of God’s world. A young man named E., the grandnephew of (M.G.), was only a teenager, and a freshman at Calvin College, when he fell asleep at the wheel and crashed his car into a tree. He would not survive the accident. But because he was an organ donor, five other people received a new lease on life. Through his promise and commitment to being an organ donor, E. is a living stone, life giving and essential to the building of God’s world. In our faithful commitment to the word and works of Jesus Christ, we too become life giving.
The second purpose of a living stone is to serve as a royal priesthood and be the altar, and the light of Christ to the world. We are called, as a church to become and build up a community that enriches our environment with life giving love. This spiritual house that our mothers and fathers built is still alive because it continues to bring hope, peace, joy, love, sanctuary, and salvation to all who enter through our doors.
As part of this church, we are called to be a living stone, serving the spiritually hungry in our community. But our ministry can only go as far as our people and our financial support allows. This building, just like the people she serves, needs TLC, tender loving care. And this takes commitment, a promise to both our faith and to our community. As we build our spiritual house, by living out Christ’s word and examples, we become part of something that cannot be destroyed. We cannot lose sight of this. This is important to remember. Through Christ the temporary becomes eternal.
We must pay attention to the words of Jesus who tells us not to be fooled or distracted by the trials and tribulations of life. They are only birth pangs of what is to come. We cannot take our focus off God, no matter how bad the world may seem...no matter how scared or afraid we might feel...we must remain faithful in order to be faith filled.
The recent terrorist attacks in Cairo and Paris are stark reminders of Jesus' prediction. War and violence seem to be getting out of control. Even nature is giving us reason to be concerned. Weather patterns are shifting due to our environmental damage. In the Pacific Ocean, the Ring of Fire is busy, igniting violent earthquakes without warning. And of course, there are famines in Africa and Asia, and here Montcalm county where 25% of our neighbors don't have enough to eat. We are not to fear these things, but be faithful to the One who has all power over all creation. We must be committed to being living stones...reborn and made alive in Christ who has entrusted us to be peacemakers, and caretakers. Without Christ as the cornerstone of our faith and faith community, we are nothing more than dead stones, tossed to the side of ancient history.
Let’s face it, temples crumble and churches die. Both Roman and Jewish records tell us that Herod’s marvelous wonder of the ancient world was completely destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD, roughly 30 years after it was completed. I’m not sure, who other than (L.S.) may have personally witnessed its destruction. But I suspect some of you are old enough to remember April 2, 1951. This was the date an arsonist took to the streets of Greenville. He lit up 3 local churches, including ours. While our basement fire was quickly extinguished, the Methodist church was completely destroyed. What we glean from this experience is the same lesson learned on the streets of Jerusalem. Things that are made by human hands are temporary. But those made by God are everlasting.
Today, there is an average of about 1,000 new churches opening up around our country every year. However, in the same time span, 4,000 churches close down for good due to lack of interest or financial support. This beautiful and historical church is just as vulnerable to financial failure as it is to fire. Therefore, we cannot lose sight of this gospel truth: what is made from dead stones is only temporary. But what is made with living stones of God will live forever.
Next week you will be asked to fill out a card to commit to the financial health of our church. Historically speaking only 20% of our members make this commitment. We all need to be commitment to pledge support...and uphold our promise to our faith and to our faith community. For this is one of the most important ways we show our faith and reliance to God.
As we celebrate Donor Sabbath, let us prayerfully consider what promise we can make, and what financial contributions we can commit to each week or each month. Jesus, like the prophets before him and the Apostles after him, casts God's judgment on the Temple. He is speaking to its commitment to God, its worship and its worship leaders.
Our faith, like our worship, is meaningless if it is lifeless like the cold, dead stones of the ancient Temple. We cannot simply worship on Sunday, but must worship daily. We cannot simply do the bare minimum if we are going to survive. We need to do all that we can to live faithfully and to commit fully to the promised hope of God’s grace through Jesus Christ.
This is what it means to become living stones. By our commitment to our faith, we bring new life to ourselves and to others. As living, life-giving stones...built upon the cornerstone of God's eternal Temple, we move beyond the temporary, into everlasting life. This is the Good News of Jesus Christ...as it was in the beginning, is now and forever will be...Amen.
Sermon: In Remembrance
Readings: Psalm 126; Mark 12:28-34
This is my record collection. Or what is left of it. I have some blues, hard rock, classic rock, punk rock, reggae, old country, jazz, rockabilly, and even a few Bob Newhart comedy records for laughs.
These old pieces of history have have traveled with me from Florida to DC to LA and now to Greenville. I’ve lost a few, sold a few, given some away, and left some behind. The ones in this picture are the ones I’ve kept because they each tell a story about my life. They are like little photographs that trigger memories of my youth. Each one creating a story or a poem in songs that spoke the words for me. That is why I have lugged them around with me.
Then digital technology crept in. CD’s began to replace the LP and mix tapes soon became playlist. It seems like my life came to an abrupt stop somewhere around 1989.
As a music lover, I continued to build up my digital library. Today I have an old laptop that holds nothing but my digital music collection. If I kept it playing, which I actually do, I could go 58 days straight without hearing the same song twice. The problem with digital music… you can’t really hold it in your hand. It’s not tangible, nor doesn’t have the same texture and soul.
The sad truth is, I don’t really know the names of most of the albums in my collection, let alone any of the songs. Such is the way of digital. It’s not really that personal.
(A picture of my iPhoto library on the screen)
Another way I remember my past, or piece together the story of my life, has been with photography. Back in the day I used to carry a 35 mm with me. For those of you who remember, the only choices we had were black and white or color, and 24 or 36 exposures. Back then, we had to pay for both the film and the developing. Unlike today, I had to think about each shot I took. I would sit in the situation and experience life before I captured a piece of it. The story was already in my head before it was captured on film.
Then came digital technology. Now we have the freedom to capture nearly every moment; every experience we have. We can literally make movies of our life, not just stories. Just on this laptop alone, I have over 8,000 pictures marking everything from special events to the most mundane moments. The digital frame in our dining room often entertains the kids who love to watch the slide show because it recalls memories for them too.
Yet while I have all these pictured stories, they too seemed trapped to technology. First it was the floppy disc, then the CD-Rom, DVD, external Hard Drives, and now it the Cloud. It seems our digital information is everywhere but here (point to head). We no longer pass around photographs instead we pass around our phones.
Just last week (J.G.) and I were talking about how people are so busy recording life with their phones that they forget to experience the life around them. They no longer sit in the story and wait for the right moment to capture, instead they stare at a tiny little screen missing out on the reality all around them. Behavioral scientist say that without that full experience we will actually have trouble holding onto real memories. We will begin to confuse our experiences in reality with the virtual reality of movies, games, etc. Again, here is technology making life more impersonal than personal.
I remember one day, Kathleen and I had enough of the kids fighting with each other. We retreated to the bedroom and left them to fend for themselves. We had a parent time out. A couple hours later, there was a knock on our door. Outside our bedroom were two little kids dressed in tuxedos. They invited each of us to follow them downstairs where they had transformed the dining room into a candle lit restaurant.
They had designed and printed out menus, including a wine list. They had prepared a salad, a main course, and of course…desert. The soft light, the romantic music, the smell of dinner wafting through the air…our hearts melted The kids had made us a romantic dinner for two, they served us and even did the dishes. Kathleen kept saying, “Get the camera,” but I didn’t. I didn’t want to interrupt this special moment. This memory is now etched in our heads forever.
The head is a great place to store memories. But like technology, it too can change or fail. Age or a simple accident can erase our storage space. Such is the way of human technology.
Today, as we celebrate Memorial Sunday, and remember the lives of those who have gone to be with God, we must also remember that each one of these names that we read has placed a story in someone’s heart. And each one of these stories will be different for each person. This is because we experience life with them. But in light of our own brokenness and frailty, is it better to focus on what we remember, or on how others will remember us?
What is that lasting memory we leave?
For some, it’s epitaphs. These are statements written on a person’s tombstone or grave marker. Let’s take a look at some more famous epitaphs that have been left for us to remember them forever. (Show a slide show of tombstones)
If you could sum up your life in one sentence, or one word, what would be or say? Would it be funny? Smart? Poetic? Serious? Long? Short? Esoteric? Rude? Kathleen and I have decided that ours will say “Got away with it.” Always leave them guessing.
Jesus had the best epitaph. It was short and to the point. “Do This In Remembrance of Me.” This of course was not written on a tombstone, but on our hearts. Our heart is the very place God commanded us to etch our love for him and for our neighbors. We put it there so we would never forget how we are to leave a lasting impression.
We even have Jesus’ epitaph carved into our alter table; the heart of the church’s worship. This is where we gather to love and serve the Lord and one another. Our love and faith transcends time and space. Therefore it cannot be lost to technology. Jesus lives forever in our faith, in our hearts, and at this table. And so we gather to remember him in this meal. It is here we meet Christ and remember his sacrifice that freed us from our sins.
(Moved to communion celebration)
An ex-copywriter turned punk rock pastor and peacemaker who dedicates his life to making the world a better place for all humanity.
"that they all might be one" ~John 17:21
“Prius vita quam doctrina.”
~ St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
* “Life is more important than doctrine.”