Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Remember and Remind

Remember and Remind from Joseph Taber on Vimeo.

Luke 17:11-19
11On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. 12As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, 13they called out, saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’ 14When he saw them, he said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went, they were made clean. 15Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. 16He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. 17Then Jesus asked, ‘Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? 18Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’ 19Then he said to him, ‘Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.’

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God

II Timothy 2:8-15
8 Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David—that is my gospel, 9for which I suffer hardship, even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But the word of God is not chained. 10Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, so that they may also obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory. 11The saying is sure:
If we have died with him, we will also live with him; 
12 if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he will also deny us; 
13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful—
for he cannot deny himself.
14 Remind them of this, and warn them before God that they are to avoid wrangling over words, which does no good but only ruins those who are listening. 15Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth. 

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God.

It's anniversary weekend at the Revolutionary War battlefield where my wife works. The battle of Kings Mountain is credited by many historians as the first link in a chain of events that led to the British surrender at Yorktown.

Each year, in the midst of coordinating volunteers and organizing school groups, the park staff host a wreath-laying ceremony. Groups of descendants of those who fought in the battle gather to remember the significance of the battle, and their own family's participation in history.

For many people, memory is a source of pride. We remember our history in a way that connects us to those who have gone before, and to those around us. Ask me some time about my family history and watch me stand a little straighter as I remember where I come from. Ask me some time about the history of the Presbyterian Church and hear my confidence as I remember the winding path of our theological ancestors.

Our memory can be a source of pride. Who we were when we did great things continues today. The way we remember shapes who we are.

But then we throw Jesus into the mix, and everything changes.

Most of us here grew up in the church, and we certainly all grew up in a culture that is heavily influenced by Christianity. So it may be difficult for us to remember a time before we heard about Jesus. Most Presbyterians don’t have a born-again, the-old-life-has-passed-away moment. And even if we can remember that moment of repentance and turning towards God, that’s not the end of our story, and we continue to grow in faith from there. Our experience tends more of growing discipleship than a climatic life-changing moment.

But when we “remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David,” we look at the world differently. We remember differently. Suddenly, pride may not describe it anymore…

We remember that the greatest king of Israel, David, had Uriah the Hittite killed so that David’s adultery might remain undiscovered. We remember his daughter Tamar, and the disaster and terror of what David allowed to happen to her.

We remember what people have done throughout human history because they feared death, injustice born of self-preservation that kept people in slavery. We remember awful reactions to perceived threats that offend the holiness of God. We remember that we too, are sinners. We have inherited patterns of behavior that invite God’s wrath, and that we will repeat those patterns ourselves, and most likely pass them on.

But Christian memory is also the source of Christian hope. “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David - that is my gospel.”

We remember the good news, that we have hope. We remember that God is involved in human history, working through the Davids of the world even though they deserve condemnation. We remember that God is involved in history binding up the brokenhearted, comforting the afflicted, and challenging us to do better, to be better. We remember that even when we fail to practice the faith we profess, God refuses to give up on us, just as he did not abandon David. We remember, and we have hope.

We remember the good news that death is not the end of our story. We remember that we do not have to choose to do the wrong thing in the name of self-preservation. We remember that nothing can separate us from the love of God, neither sin nor death defines us anymore. We are the ones whom God loves, whom he calls to deeper, more complete relationship with him. We remember, and we have hope.

We remember Jesus Christ, a human being who showed us what that meant. We remember that “only human” is an expression of limitation, but also a confession that we are created in the image of God. We remember that God became a human being so that we would be restored the kind of relationship God wants for us. We remember that Jesus Christ was offered as a sacrifice to liberate us from sin and death for all time. We remember that Jesus is Lord, and that all authority on heaven and earth belongs to him, and we are his brothers and sisters, his friends. We remember, and we have hope.

Christian hope is born out of Christian memory. “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David.” Our memory shapes who we are. The grace of God transforms us in our inmost hearts, and leads to a transformation of our actions as well.

After all, when we remember our hope, when we remember the grace we have received, how can we not run back in gratitude to lay ourselves at the feet of Jesus? How can we not offer ourselves as servants of God in thankfulness and hope? How can we not find ways to participate in building God’s kingdom?

We will still suffer hardship, maybe “even to the point of being chained like a criminal.” Remembering Jesus Christ causes us to look at the world differently, to remember differently. That’s going to cause some friction, even among communities of faith. Even though we all remember our core truths, even though we work to remind one another of the sure sayings of our faith, we will often come to different conclusions, and we may practice our faith in different ways.

But God does not choose such a variety of disciples by accident. Conflict is not always a bad thing, sometimes it serves as a reminder that no single human perspective can hold the fullness of God, and that the greatness of the Holy One of Israel challenges us to continue our discipleship and our journey in faith along side one another, and alongside Jesus.

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