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)
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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.”