(A Sermon on from Psalm 106: 4)
Grace and peace to you from God our Father, and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
Friends in Christ, the word of God for meditation is one that you could easily remember. It is one little word, ‘remember.’ The word ‘remember’ might just be one word, but it is a very powerful word indeed, especially, when it comes to prayer!
In Psalm 106 verse 4 Psalmist prays like this:
‘Remember me, O Lord, when you show favour to your people; help me when you save them.’
In fact, in the entire Psalm 106, explores the journey of people failing to remember God and acting out according to the desires of their flesh and God being patient and remembering His covenant, and promise saving His people.
Let us pray:
God of grace and truth, thank you for your love and gracious acts towards us. Thank you for protecting us from all harm and danger and bringing us safely to the beginning of this day. Through your Word, remind us of your ever abiding presence with us and give us strength to face each day. By your Holy Spirit, open our eyes, our ears, our lives to you, and sanctify us by the truth, for your word is truth. Amen.
Friends in Christ, what was I saying to you just then? What topic were we discussing before prayer? Yes, yes, remember! Simple little word, remember. To remember is to recollect, easier said than done. Friends, do you have those precious moments in life where you constantly search for your glasses or spend time recollecting misplaced keys or search for your wallet or bags?
To remember is more than searching for things, to remember brings some of the best memories out front. Like, remembering the day when you won that race in childhood. To remember is to reminisce about how you might have felt when you found work for the first time in life? Do you remember your wedding day or the day your child was baptised and confirmed? Do you remember receiving that first pay cheque and the feeling you got knowing how much tax you paid? This is a good one: do you remember how you reacted when you first noticed a grey hair on your head? You get my drift.
Remembering is what we do as humans. Naturally then, this word comes loaded with baggage and cherished memories. Here is the deal, baggage is not always is about best memories in life, is it? Often is the case, we remember bad stuff in life, tragic memories latch on to our heads more than good and positive experiences. Once again, this is only natural for us all.
Let me demonstrate, more people said to me that they are done with the year 2020, they said this year bad year and the one they wish they can forget. But, we can’t forget it that easily. Year 2020 exhausted us like no other, and if there is a way to forget it, like it never happened. We did not expect when celebrated ‘happy new year’ and welcomed 2020, that it would turn out to be such a terrible year. People did not anticipate change of lifestyle, no one expected lockdowns or job loses or any of the disruptions to happen. Do you remember how you welcomed 2020?
As much as we want to forget bad experiences, it is hard to shed, like the year 2020. On the other hand, we need every help we can to remember those things that were positive and uplifting for us. We need external help to retain things, especially good things!
Speaking of which, let me ask you, what are some methods you use to retain things in memory? Some people are gifted with sharp memories, like photographic memories, so they tend to retain any information without a problem. While others rely on written notes, you might keep a diary, put things on a sticky note or a logbook or an excel sheet, etc, these days, there are many ways available to us to help us remember things. Photographs or videos of things are also a few other examples. If we simply look at a photo, we remember many adventures we have taken, places we have visited, and people we have met. Without this external help sometimes, we forget best things of life, and are in danger of only holding on to the bad and tragic moments in life.
Whatever methods you employ to remember things, I reckon, there is always a room for others to inform and bring things to our memory. For example, parents constantly feel like they need to remind their children to behave well, clean their room, or use good manners, and stay safe. Christians ask one another to ‘remember me’ in your prayers. Not only as individuals, sometimes have we reminded each other as communities. For instance, we remind each other that wet-cyclone season is soon approaching, so we must be prepared. Or collectively, we remember the sacrifices made for us by our forefathers by remembering and paying respects for them on days like ANZAC or Remembrance Day. If we do not rely on each other to remind things, then collectively, we are in the danger of forgetting things, and therefore are vulnerable.
So, everything you heard so far comes down to this. Positive or negative baggage, to recollect things helps us reminisce about the way we spent our lives. To remember, whatever maybe the means (a photo or a logbook, or relying on others), helps us to overcome the challenges of our life here and now. In some cases, remembering helps us to learn lessons from the past (honour it where it is due and), and in this way it shapes our present and future. Like writer, philosopher George Santayana was credited saying: ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’ That is also the point Psalmist is making in Psalm 106.
Psalm 106 recounts, many instances where people of God forgot their past, and therefore were in the danger of rejecting God. By rejecting God, people rejected God’s provisions, instead, they preferred to design their own future. In verse 7 gives us the insight, of how the forefathers of Israel rebelled against God at the red sea, because they did not remember God’s steadfast love. Verse 19 gives out another reminder of how Israel disobeyed God and His commandments by turning to idol worship bowing to a golden calf. A story we heard in full, in Exodus 32 reading.
Overcome by wilderness and perhaps the absence of their fierce leader Moses, people of God craved for an idol to worship and bow down to. Listen to this account:
‘They made a calf in Horeb and worshiped a metal image. They exchanged the glory of God for the image of an ox that eats grass. They forgot God, their Saviour, who had done great things in Egypt, wondrous works in the land of Ham, and awesome deeds by the Red Sea’ (Psalm 106: 19-22).
Instead of remembering God and his providence, in their vulnerable moments, they acted out of sheer forgetfulness. They forgot God who delivered them from Egypt. They did not remember God’s provisions for them. Neither did they remember, how God stayed closed to them in wilderness and feed them with manna and quenched their thirst with water from the rock, nor did they remembered how God provided them with clothes, preserved their feet from swelling and looked after them. God showed his power and presence to them in their life journey and yet they forgot! Because of the relationship, God even gave them His laws and commandments. Friend, did you know? Ten Commandments were given in chapter 20 of Exodus by chapter 32, Israel had already forgotten the first commandment. They made a Golden calf when first commandment forbids people from making images. What is sad about this whole situation (golden calf) is that people of God simply applied ‘out sight, out of mind’ policy to God and Moses in the wilderness journey. What do you reckon, is there a lesson for all of us in this?
You see friends, when things go our way, we think all is well, God is with us. But, the second things go pear shaped, when our plans collapse, when we find ourselves lost, broken, and hurt we ask much bigger questions, like where is God? Or why isn’t God looking after us? In such vulnerable moments, if we do not watch out, we would be in danger of failing to remember God’s relationship with us. The danger being, like Israelites, we too can come up with idols to turn to find false comfort in weak moments. When I say ‘idols’ I do not necessarily mean, graven images on rocks or photos, but those things that capture our hearts and minds. Those things, that take our time, attention and interest. Martin Luther once said: ‘that which your heart clings to and confides in, that is really your god.’ Jesus said, ‘where you treasure is there your heart will be also’ (Matthew 6:21). So, watch out my friend, lest you remember and cling on to false hopes and promises! By the power of the Holy Spirit, take up my invitation today and reflect and examine your hearts, minds and lives today!
Thank God, that story does not end with where people are at and what they forgot. The good news is, that story recounts how God remembered His covenant and promises. As it turns out, when God became upset with people, he planned on destroying them. But Moses had the wisdom to plead with God. Moses asked God to remember His covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and relent to keep up with His promise. The good news is that, God did not destroy them but relented because He remembered His people, His covenants and promises He made.
At this point friends, I want to give away a secret: each time in Scripture, when God remembers, He acts, more specifically, God acts to our benefit. For us, to remember is to recollect, but to God to remember is to act in our favour. Every time God remembers in scripture, He comes in a specific way to rescue his people. When God remembered Noah, He sent wind and waters of the flood subsided (Gen 8:1), God put a rainbow and said to Noah, each time I look at it, I will remember my covenant with you and will not send such destruction (Gen9), when God remembered Abraham, He did not destroy Lot (Gen19: 29), when God remembered Rachel and He opened her womb (Gen 30: 22), when God remembered His covenant, he redeemed Israelites from Egypt (Exo 6:5), and even at the golden calf incident, when God remembered, He relented from bringing destruction. You see friends, each time God remembers, He acts, and acts for our benefit to provide for us.
But the problem is as much as God provides for us, our sin and our fallen human nature actively reject God and his provisions. We are capable of rejecting God, when tempted enough. Our selfish acts and desires demonstrate our fallen sinful nature.
Once again, remember the heart of God, it works for your benefit. The gospel of Jesus Christ shines brightly here. You see friends, the Bible tells us, when we rejected God, because of His love, God came after us. God knows the stinking sin we carry, death and decay we experience, yet, through grace, He decided to rescue us. Our salvation is not a result of our labour but is purely possible because of God’s heart for us. Let me demonstrate, do you remember what the thief on the cross said to Jesus in his dying moments? He prayed to Jesus saying: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” In spite of his broken body delicately hanging by a few nails, look at how Jesus responded to that prayer, Christ mustered strength and compassion to promise, “truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23: 42-43) Now that is our God: gracious, compassionate, loving, forgiving and offering hope and future for us in certainty of his promise.
If there ever is a symbol that captures how God stays true to his promise, look no further than the cross of Christ. The Word of God (2 Corinthians 5: 21) gives us this good news: ‘for our sake he (God) made him (Jesus) to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him (Jesus) we might become the righteousness of God. Risen Jesus, applies this promise to us through baptism. In baptism, Christ offers his righteousness to us in exchange for our sin. Like in that song we will sing soon, ‘I am covered in the robe of righteousness Jesus gives to me.’ Well, Jesus does this for you, and He remembers your sins no more. Jesus remembers His promise of resurrection, so you can count on him to call you out of death to eternal life.
Because God baptised you, God does this for you. Truly then, there is no other greatest treasure on earth than the gift of baptism, remember this my friend. Especially in the darkest hours of your life when you are lonely and tempted remember this. Remember, Christ’s work for you even now. As you step forward to partake in the heavenly banquet, joining the company of angels and archangels and all the saints who have gone before you remember this and rejoice! Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! (Philippians 4:4)
As God’s people, probably you might be on your best behaviour today, because we are in church. But the real challenge for you begins as you walk out of those doors. Remember the Lord your maker, redeemer and your provider when going gets tough. In times of worry and uncertainty pray like the Psalmist: ‘remember me, O Lord, when you show favour to your people; help me when you save them’ (Psalm 106:4).
In closing, let me point your attention to Sir Jacob Astley, 1st Baron Astley of Reading, a Royalist Commander during English Civil War. At the battle of Edgehill, he was famous for saying the following battle prayer: ‘Lord, I shall be very busy this day, I may forget Thee, but do not Thou forget me’ and the commander followed that prayer with ‘march on, boys!’ and led them to war. Now, we may not be leading such dramatic lives, but we have our own battles to face, our own challenges to conquer. In the midst of such cares and worries, remember Christ has already overcome the world for you! May the Holy Spirit grant you such faith!
The peace of God that surpasses all human understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen
God Bless you!
Rev. Jaswanth Kukatlapalli
Pastor at Mackay Community Lutheran Church (Mackay), and
St. Martin’s Lutheran Church (Cannonvale)
Office Address: 44-46 Wellington Street, Mackay, Queensland, 4740