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1 REMEMBER, REJOICE and RENEW on Fri Apr 22, 2011 2:32 pm



Theme for this Holy Week

"Remember." In the narthex today is a list.What is missing is a list of those to whom this congregation has ministered over the past fifty years. That is a very long list, a list that we cannot know, a list hidden in the heart of God. But we remember the faithfulness of those whose struggle to keep the vision alive, whose faith and faithfulness has brought us to this stage of our life together. They are part of another great list - those who are listed in the Lamb's Book of Life - those saints from Abraham and Sarah, to the prophets, the apostles, and all who have followed the path of faith. Remembering helps us to gain a proper perspective of our own life together, to remember that there are both those who came before us, as well as those who will come after us. It helps us to see that we are not walking the path alone, that there are, as Hebrews says, a host of witnesses who walk it with us. Chief among that host is Jesus himself, who treads the path of faith alongside of us. Remembering in this way gives us courage, knowing that we serve a faithful God - that he who was faithful in the past, remains faithful to us, so that we can stride forward in faith. "Remember."

"Rejoice." Remembrance brings rejoicing. Outside of the Christian community, remembering may bring some other emotions - a sense of loss, guilt, sorrow over unfinished business. But in the Christian community, in this community, we gather to place our unfinished business, our guilt and sorrow under the cross, to have it healed by our Lord. We know that he can even take our mistakes and sins and, healed by his love, make them instruments to do his will. We believe in a God who can make good to come even out of evil. We believe in a God who holds our past, present and future in the palm of his hand. So our remembrance does not lead to sorrow, but to joy. We rejoice in the people who have been part of this ministry. We rejoice in their gifts. We rejoice in the love that they have shared with us. We rejoice in those who have been, and continue to be touched by their witness of faith and their love. We rejoice in the faithfulness of our Lord, who forgives us our sins, who brings us into fellowship, who gives us good gifts, and who promises us a future in himself. In all of these things, as a community of faith, we rejoice.

"Renew." That is where we are today. At a place of renewal. Remembrance of God's faithfulness, rejoicing in the gifts he gives us, now we are called - each of us, and as a congregation - to renew our baptismal vow: to grow in faith, to grow in love, to grow in service to one another and to our community.

That brings us to the words that Jesus speaks to us today. He reveals to us two commandments on which, he says, hangs everything else that God wishes to say to us. I've been spending a lot of time under my house lately - much more than I'd ever hoped to. So maybe that flavors what I'm saying today a bit, but bear with me. Under my house there is a main trunk line of ductwork through which the warm air passes from the furnace into my house. Off of it comes a lot of flexible ductwork, that carries the heat from the main trunk to every vent in the house. These words of Jesus, then, are like the main trunk, through which the warm air, the grace of God and all of his gifts, make their way from his throne of grace, to warm every heart.

The first command, Jesus says, is to "love God with all your heart, and strength, and might." AA recognizes that the beginning of a life of sobriety is to place our lives in God's hands, to realize that there is a Higher Power outside of us that is greater than us, that holds us, and gives us power for living. As a counselor, sometimes I come across parents who put all of their dreams and hopes in their children, making them responsible for their parents happiness. A child cannot do that for a parent. Others think that having enough money, or retiring to a place on a golf course near the ocean will make their lives feel fulfilled and happy. But no place, no hobby, no amount of money can do that. It is expecting too much of things. St. Augustine said, "there is a God-shaped hole in each of us that only God can fill." We must begin with first things first. Our lives must be based in God, focused in God, lived in His presence, if they are to be full and joyful. Augustine also said that that our proper response to God is to love God first, then do as we please. Of course, if we do the first part - love God - what we please will be to please God.

Which brings us to the second commandment, to "love the neighbor as yourself.." A big problem with the way that this is translated is that it seems that what it is saying is that the way we treat our neighbor seems to depend on how we feel about ourselves. And of course, a lot of people don't really like themselves too much. But what it is really saying, is that we should extend the love of God to our neighbor as well. We should treat the neighbor as we would like God to treat us. The first and second commands are connected together.

How do we want God to treat us? Do we want him to treat us according to our weaknesses or sins? Or do we want him to treat us with compassion, understanding and forgiveness? Do we want him to meet us with judgement, or with love and concern?

Today, as we stand on the brink of a new millennium, we can follow one of two very different paths. We can focus on our own life, our own needs, we can meet the world with judgement and condemnation, we can become a Lutheran enclave in enemy territory. We can meet the world with distrust, and the future with fear. Or we can meet the future with hope, meet the world with open hands and open hearts, we can walk the walk of faith, knowing that the future is in his capable hands. We can extend ourselves to our neighbors, lose ourselves in love for all those for whom Jesus both died and rose again, that they may experience his life, his love through us.

Remember the faithfulness of God. Remember those who walked the way of faith, and the gifts they have given us. Rejoice in a God who continues to be faithful to his people. And be renewed both in your faith in God, and in your love for his children. "Remember. Rejoice. And be Renewed." And may the peace of God, which passes all human understanding, keep your heart and mind in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

2 Re: REMEMBER, REJOICE and RENEW on Fri Apr 22, 2011 5:24 pm



God is good all the time! Arrow Arrow

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