REMEMBER! (ALL SAINTS DAY)
November 2, 2014 by Ken Dale
We are an older congregation with a few exceptions ? and of course that all depends on your age when it comes to defining ?old.? A few years ago the pastoral care committee at the hospital hosted a program on dementia and Alzheimer?s. It was a panel that presented from their perspective or discipline to those gathered for the program. At the end of the program a woman in the back of the room asked a question that started something like ? ok ? this is what I?m experiencing and gave a list of how she was forgetting such and such and asked if she should be concerned. The doctor on the panel replied, ?If you can?t remember someone?s name ? you?re just getting older and that?s normal ? but if you start talking about something that you just finished talking about as if you hadn?t been talking about it ? you may have reason to be concerned.? I?m only 62 ? hear that? ONLY 62 so I?m still young right? ? And I forget people?s names ? and I forget other things and it kind of bothers me ? I need to remember that I am getting older.
Memory! It seems we don?t work it like we used to. Especially in church ? I have my string of perfect attendance pins and my memory of the little bookmarks or other tokens of accomplishment I would receive when I had memorized ? the Lord?s Prayer, the 10 Commandments, 23rd Psalm, the Beatitudes, the gifts of the Spirit in Galatians 5, and other passages of scripture, maybe a creed, that are still in there (well at least some of them) and they actually remind me of something of the God in whom I believe and the life I seek to live. I remember during a troubled time of transition years ago – sitting on a swing at a camp my brother owned on Sebec Lake up north. I put a swing up down by the shore ? I love to swing and have since childhood. But this particular day in my troubled state of mind I began reciting for memory the 23rd Psalm ? Psalm 121 ? followed by Psalm 139, one of my favorites.?? That one I was able to say not because I intentionally memorized it but because I had shared it at so many funerals over the years ? it was just there. They brought me comfort, put me in touch with God and reminded me of the faith out of which I lived.?? Simple phrases that were important came to mind ?like ?I am with you? ? and ?this too shall pass? ? which by the way is not in the Bible! It is sad that memorizing of scripture has been lost. It can be such a help in many ways in life?s journey. Those biblical stories and parables are the same way.
Think of the roots ? the foundation if you will ? of our faith. Israel was a people built on memory. Without question the stories we read in the first chapters of the Bible had been told around the campfire for hundreds of years ? imagine the feel of oral narrative ? hearing them – when you are telling a story, and then when you?re telling it again and again ? you only tell what is most important. Do we really hear the story and the stories when the Old Testament is read during worship on Sunday morning? The Gospel also has this quality ? we remember what is most important. And those oral narratives got written down so they would not be forgotten ? so we would remember what is most important.
Israel was taken off into exile with cities destroyed and their families split up. But Israel was wise enough to know that one of the worst things that happens in exile is that your captors want you to forget what life was like back home ? they tried to erase that memory. Memory tells us who we are and Israel knew this. It is believed that during the exile the synagogue was invented ? people would get together ? strangers in a strange land ? and tell stories ? tell their stories ? reminding one another that their primary identity was not Babylon but as God?s beloved and chosen people.
Mentioning that about synagogue how can we not think about church ? about local church ? about being here? When we gather here are we not here to remember who we are and Whose we are? If we forget these stories, we forget who God means us to be. Think about it ? we have just heard two readings from an ancient book ? that was composed beginning over 4000 years ago and the newest portions of that book were composed 2000 years ago. We read that scripture so we will remember ? and remember who we are and Whose we are. Those stories are our stories as people of faith ? in the same way we have family stories about grandparents and generations who came before. On Sunday morning we gather together and in worship we sing ? we are singing the stories of who God is and who we are called to be by God ? we are remembering. Do we hear what we are singing- do we listen to what we are singing? What a powerful opening hymn we sang ? today we remember John Price and Lois Thomas and Harriet Bridges and Annette Hollister ? ?God was their rock, their fortress and their might, God was their captain in the well fought fight; God, in the darkness drear, their one true light!? God back beyond this past year and remember others. There are so many stories ? faith stories that bear witness to the faith that we live.?? Our identity is strengthened as we remember. ?In our reading from I Thessalonians this morning Paul calls for the people there to remember the witness of he and his companions and reminds them that they too witness. And as Jesus speaks in our gospel reading our witness is more in the actions of our lives than in the words we speak. That faith is something we do ? something we live. The people we remember today experienced faith and church and the costs and joys of discipleship just as we do today.
Today we celebrate the sacrament of Holy Communion ? and what are we doing but remembering. The words of institution begin ? ?remember on that night when our Lord was betrayed? — and in the mystery of that sacrament ? in our remembering ? we celebrate a presence ? a real presence of God in Christ ? through the Holy Spirit.
Fred Buechner reminds us that ?the feet of saints are as are as much of clay as anyone else?s and their sainthood consists less of what they have done than of what God has for some reason chosen to do through them? The Holy Spirit has been called ?the Lord, the giver of life? and, drawing their power from that source, saints are essentially life givers. To be with them is to be more alive.? (Buechner) Yesterday was a wonderful day in the life of this church ? there are saints in our midst ? the Holy Spirit is at work in our midst. As we move forward may we be open to that Spirit and so become even more alive as this church.
At the close of worship today ? as we sing ? listen to the words ? hear them ? and hear whom it is that God calls to be ?saint? and remember.?? Amen.