Three elder men sit at a restaurant, discussing, what else, their health. One says, “You know, I’m getting really forgetful. This morning, I was standing at the top of the stairs, and I couldn’t remember whether I had just come up or was about to go down.” The second says, “You think that’s bad? The other day, I was sitting on the edge of my bed, and I couldn’t remember whether I was going to sleep or had just woken up!”But the third one smiles smugly. “Well, my memory is just as good as it’s always been, knock on wood,” as he raps on the table. Then with a startled look on his face, he asks, “Who’s there?”
Now that may be more than just losing your memory.
What I want to talk to you about this morning is whether you’re going to remember to remember the Lord. Now some may have a tough time remembering what was eaten at dinner last night but we’re not talking about the same kind of remembering, fortunately.
Proverbs 3:1-2 say, “My child, remember my teachings and instructions and obey them completely. They will help you live a long and prosperous life.” That’s more like what we’re talking about. We aren’t called to remember a distinct event, name or person. It’s more like we mustn’t forget where we came from, or who we are or who is important to us.
And still, this isn’t all that easy, since scripture, especially Hebrew Scripture, keeps trying to get Israel to remember who they’re forgetting. “Then take care lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” Deut 6:12
And Deuteronomy 8:17-19 reminds us that things can go really wrong when we don’t keep God in mind and heart. “Otherwise, you may say in your heart, ‘My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.’ But you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth…. It shall come about if you ever forget the Lord your God and
go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I testify against you today that you will surely perish.…”
When we forget God, we forget the direction we’re going in, and we take another road that leads to a far different place.
Our Christian faith has a special memory or remembrance at its very heart: Communion. “And when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me (or “do this to remember me”.” 1 Cor. 11:24 We eat and drink the Lord’s Supper, we break bread and drink the cup, to remember Christ Jesus, who we are because of him and what we are to be doing in his name.
But it’s so easy to forget, even easier to forget than where you parked a car in a Walmart parking lot, which I did when out Christmas shopping six weeks ago.
Leo Tolstoy tells the story of a man who wasn’t satisfied with his lot. He wanted more of everything. One day he received a novel offer. For 1000 rubles, he could buy all the land he could walk around in a day. The only catch in the deal was that he had to be back at his starting point by sundown.
Early the next morning he started out walking at a fast pace. By midday he was tired, but he kept going, covering more and more ground. Well into the afternoon he realized that his greed had taken him far from the starting point.
He picked up the pace and as the sun began to sink low in the sky, he began to run, knowing that if he didn’t make it back by sundown he’d lose this unbelievable opportunity. He ran harder and faster. The sun started to disappear beneath the horizon, but then he saw the finish line. Gasping for breath, heart pounding, he called upon every bit of strength left in his body, and he flung himself across the line just before the sun disappeared. He never rose from where he fell. Cardiac arrest. Done.
His servants found their shovels, dug into the ground that he now claimed as his own. They dug just enough to fit him into it—a grave not much over six feet long and three feet wide. The title of Tolstoy’s story is, How Much Land Does a Man Need? In the end, Tolstoy suggests, all a man
really owns is a 6 by 3 piece of earth, so we are better off putting our confidence elsewhere.
When we forget we are made of flesh and blood, we often also forget God is the one who from whom we came and to whom we must go.
I don’t know how to say it exactly because I’m not sure there is anything else like it on earth. Perhaps it’s most like a mother and the baby that grows for nine months inside of her, and then one day the umbilical cord is cut and the once tethered child is now free. Of course, she or he is free only physically because the child is completely dependent still for months and even several years. But after awhile the child grows up and becomes free entirely.
We’ve been freed to pursue life far from God or as close to God as we desire. When you bless the Lord, when you remember the Lord in your mind and heart, when you forget not all of the Lord’s benefits instead of filling up your mind with other thoughts, then you draw closer again.
Remember it is the Lord our God who alone claims us from birth through life and unto our passing. Forget not the one who is your Maker, Sustainer, Redeemer, Judge, and Forgiver.
I hear a lot of people praise the University of Florida or Florida State University, Syracuse or Ohio State or University of Michigan, their football or basketball teams. We get all excited about their best players or even their coaches. Stadiums are filled with almost 100,000 people roaring with praises of their team—people making fools of themselves with paint, silly clothes, screaming and singing. We might call this praising.
I don’t think we’ve gotten to this point with FAU, but they’re trying.
When we’re happy about something we tend to get louder, more expressive. Watch parents at their child’s soccer game. Praise expresses our enjoyment of something. In fact, we enjoy things more when we praise the things we’re enjoying. It’s as if our enjoyment of something is somehow incomplete unless we praise it, compliment it, and get excited about it.
Now about our worship here…. Seriously, I grew up among the frozen chosen myself. Many Protestants Christians could be called this. We don’t
really enjoy worship, certainly not like we enjoy other things. Why don’t we put more heart and happiness into this? Nothing really changes us here. Sometimes I tell a story that gets some rather tear-eyes, but when it comes to worship, singing, or thinking about God, nothing really makes us jump for joy, or cry for sadness. Is that the way worship of the Lord should be?
The thing is we don’t have to be exactly the same all the time. It’s alright to take some creative license with our personality. We don’t have to be on constant lockdown on who we are, how we act, and how we express ourselves. This always even keel stuff isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
We stay in the box of our emotions and expressions whether we are grateful to God, watching Andy Griffith on TVLand, listening to the National Anthem, or whatever. We will get a little moved, but let’s not go overboard, if you please.
I think we’re like this because we’re worry warts and responsibility overloaders. We let our troubles get to us a little too much. It’s like we always have to stay on guard.
I just wish we could just let our troubles and concerns go for awhile. We’ve got such a load on us, we feel so weighed down; we feel so responsible,like the world is resting on our shoulders. Sometimes, at some point, you ought to be able to take the load off, and let it go.
Someone made this point when she said: “We give our troubles a shaking for fear that they may go to sleep; run them around the block for fear that they may grow weak for lack of exercise; we constantly breathe life into them lest they die of oxygen; we massage them and train them to keep them fit; we bathe them, dress them, brush them and do all in our power to keep them presentable; whereas a little wholesome neglect is what they really need.”
There’s a story of a man riding down the road on a horse and cart when he sees a stranger struggling under a heavy load. He stops and offers him a ride that’s gladly accepted. But as they ride along together, he notices the stranger keeps carrying the huge sack on his back. The driver says, “Why don’t you take the load off and just lay it down?” “Oh no,” the stranger
replies, “It’s good of you to carry me. I couldn’t expect you to carry my load also.”
We can smile at this simple fellow, but that’s what we do if we don’t see how important it is to let go and let God.
You know what worship is? Worship is letting God be the Lord and us be grateful. How do we do that? We stop worrying so darn much. We stop focusing on our problems and how we don’t have enough of whatever it is we supposedly needed or need or will need or we aren’t going to be able to solve our problem or whatever has you all twisted up inside and incapable of breathing from head to toe, from heart to soul.
God is already carrying our burden, already has our load in his care. The question is whether or not we’re going to let go of it ourselves. Forget your troubles. Praise God. Give heartfelt, joyful worship a chance. Act at least for these minutes, especially when singing, in real belief that you are not alone and God is the one in control and in love with you.
We should try to create worship here that does a number of things: I want to help us be more expressive in our singing, praising, thanking God. That would be good. And also, it’s simply the truth that I can’t keep the way things have changed out of the church any longer. This is why we ought to and need to bring in contemporary Christian music.
I can’t thank our very talented musicians enough for how quickly and well they have transitioned into being a praise band as well as section leaders and soloists. This was not part of their job description when they began here. I also thank Wendell for coming on board to play his very cool bass.
I’ve got to say how impressed I’ve been at how immediately almost all of you looked up at the TV screens the very first time the words to the music were put up there. I thought I would look out there and see 60%, maybe 75% using the screens. Instead, it’s over 90%.
But I don’t want to throw out the baby with the bath water. Personally, for me I couldn’t go to an all contemporary worship service. It wouldn’t feed my soul. I want traditional elements of worship. I believe we will do well to keep the best of both worlds. It’s very good to have the energy and the
emotion, especially in the start of worship, of contemporary singing, even if at first it’s tough to understand how to sing these songs. If you’re having a hard time, then just sing the chorus, the repeated part. It’s usually the most moving and powerful anyway.
But it’s also very good to slow down at times, to let the Spirit have some down time with us. I believe our spirits have both these sides to them. We need energy, uplifting, powerful words and worship. We also need to worship with slower, calmer, and in more meditative ways, so the good stuff can sink down a little deeper. Very few of us are only one way or another, so why should a worship service be only one way or another, right?!
“Bless the Lord, O my soul,” says scripture. Well that’s what we’re going to do—just in more ways than one. And while we’re at it, this wider worship net will catch more fish!!
A passerby happened to stop at a farm to get directions and noticed that the weathervane on the top of the barn was made up of the words “God is love.” After the farmer kindly gave him directions, he couldn’t help but say, “I noticed your weathervane up there. I’m a little confused.” “How so?” asked the farmer. “Well,” the man said, “Does this mean that God’s love blows about and changes and is as fickle as the wind?” “No, no,” replied the farmer, “On the contrary. It means whichever way the wind is blowing, God is love!”
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget all his benefits: the Lord forgives all your iniquity; the Lord heals all your diseases; the Lord redeems your life from the Pit; the Lord crowns you with steadfast love and mercy; the Lord satisfies us with good as long as we live. And I promise you, this is true. Can anybody say Amen?