Do You Remember?
Sunday, March 6, 2022
Pastor Arne Bergland
We open an old box and memories spill out. The contents a gathering of saved moments in time. We open an old picture book, turning the old dry fragile pages the images help us to remember, who they were, what they did, what they mean to us. We remember.
I walked into the sanctuary of a congregation that I was serving at the time. I was on my way to do a task I have long since forgot. She was sitting in the front pew. She was crying. It wasn’t merely the recent loss of a loved one that brought her to tears. She told me as much as we talked. It was also the memory of the place. The memories that returned from time and distance. These were childhood memories from that time where she began to move from childhood to adult. In that sanctuary she had come to know God and the meaning of that memory brought tears to her eyes.
If you read the book of Deuteronomy you will find a story about how Israel remembered their past. It happened in worship as they were ready to bring the offering to forward. This was not at all unusual, they had done this many times before, and it was a well-practiced habit ,a well-worn custom if you will, to pause for a moment. They paused to remember who they had been. One of the things I respect about the Old Testament is how it remembers God’s people when they were at their worst as well as when they were at their best. It does not deny the wrongs of the past. It does not ignore the difficulties of the past. The people remembered all of that and they remembered what God had done as well. The remembered with these words. “When grandfather was alive, he was not welcome where he lived, he had few friends, and the family was small. Our grandfather became a great nation and when trouble came to call God heard our pleas for help. God stretched out his hands with signs and wonders and took care of us. We remember that, and so now we bring the best of what God has given back to the God who takes care of us. We are the children of Abraham . (Paraphrase of Deuteronomy 19) They paused, and they remembered their history, the good and the bad and how God was with them.
We have begun our journey into the season of Lent. For many that means a time of fasting, of giving something up for the season. It may be something major or it may be something small. As is says in the Old Testament,” …this is the fast I choose…” but maybe our Lenten journey should focus on remembering. Remembering our history and the reality of who we are as well as the goodness of God that is constant.
So, let’s remember together. Recall with me the promise of evil and the promise of God. Remember who we have been, even who we have been when we have fallen far short of God’s expectation. Without a doubt there have been times when we have fallen far short of God’s expectation, let’s not forget.
From the pages of Luke’s Gospel, we have heard a story that helps us to compare the reality of evil with the promise of God. Hungry and tired our Lord had spent weeks in the wilderness. Three times Satan tempts Jesus. Three times Jesus rejects the promise of evil. He is tempted by pride and by the promise of security. Jesus is tempted by power and finally by denying the authority of God for personal gain. My goodness, who doesn’t want security, power and who doesn’t look for short cuts around that which is difficult. Whole industries are built around these ideas. Food looks good to the hungry. Shelter looks good to the homeless. Power looks good to the powerless. The temptations have not changed through the years.
Jesus was tempted to do things his own way and to abandon the plan that God had for him. He was sorely tempted to sidestep suffering and dying in love for all people. The devil offers security, personal power, and self-preservation in return. Satan says,” if you are the son of man turn stones to bread. If you would but worship me, you may rule the world. If you are the son of man, the angels will protect you.” Each of those “ifs” requires Jesus to abandon God. Therein lies the evil. The Gospel of John would define sin as that which separates us from God. Each of the temptations is based on the deadly lie that there can be any good apart from God.
Jesus turns down the offer. Empowered to act by the Holy
Spirit, He tells the tempter, “We do not live by bread alone but by what comes out of the mouth of the Lord.
As the people of God, we face the same temptations, we are lured towards the same shortcuts. It feels good to be safe. It feels good to have power. It feels good to be in charge. It feels good to have privilege. But carried away by temptation of every stripe and color we risk losing our faith in Jesus who is Lord of all. You see God’s love and mercy and sense of justice may not fit in with the security and glory that the world would have us know. Being faithful may not always mean being successful. The way of true love and power and grace, being faithful, may just mean the way of the cross.
We face temptation at every turn. Our victory over temptation will not come from our courage and dedication. The children of Abraham began by remembering. They knew that there were many ways to be drawn away from relationship with God. In the remembering who they were and what God had done, they were drawn back into faithfulness. As we remember we can recall what has happened in the past and how the promises of evil and the promises of God have played out in the pages of history. We can remember the swastika and know full well what hate and racism can do to us. We can remember those who have been victims of violence and those who have lived under the weight of oppressive systems.
We can remember the cross and know the price that God paid to reclaim us from the wrong of this world. We can remember, and we can know that faith and life are inseparable. We can return to that special place in our hearts and know what God has done for us. Remember that Christ has won the final victory over death, evil and all its empty promises. We can remember how God comes to us in Baptism and gifts us with the Holy Spirit. With that gift we may know how important it is to look to God for strength in the face of struggle, renewal for the task of daily living and courage to speak God’s word and promise in the presence of evil’s empty promises.
In our remembering we stand with the faithful of all times and places in proclaiming, “God was with our ancestors, God is with me, calling me by his grace, comforting me in my affliction, restoring my lost hope, giving me courage in every temptation, and joining me to the family of God, a people of the cross. Do you remember?