Posted by: St. Mark Lutheran Church | December 31, 2012

Sermon on Psalm 98:3 (New Year’s Eve)

God keeps His resolutions

  • Order of Service:  Divine Service II
  • Lessons:  Genesis 17:1-7, Galatians 4:4-7, Luke 1:68-75
  • Hymns: 61, 247, 750 (1-3, 5-6), 593

Downloadable Version

In the name of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh. 

If we could list all the things we’ve forgotten, can you imagine how long that list would be?  From where we put something, to when we were supposed to meet someone, to what we were supposed to do for someone, we forget, forget, forget.  Forgetting must be one of the most dreadful consequences of sin.  To have this brain, and yet have it act so insubordinately so often as to forget things we want to remember.

Think of the various stages of forgetting.  There’s that terror when you first realize you’ve forgotten something.  Then you furiously comb through your memory banks. And then there’s the guilt, the guilt of facing what you’ve forgotten when you have to confess your forgetfulness.

Now go to the side of the one who feels that something has been forgetting by someone else.  You wonder, “Have they forgotten our appointment?”  You grant a few minutes in the assumption that they’re late.  As the clock ticks and they don’t arrive, or no phone call or text comes begging pardon for being late, you begin to think, “They have forgotten.”  Now it’s disappointment.  Now it’s anger.  “Do they care for me that little?  Do they respect me that little?  Do they feel that little?  What if I did this to them?”

Think of God as someone who forgets.  It’s hard to do, because it’s so ingrained in our minds that God is all-knowing and all-seeing, in other words, all-remembering.  And yet, when you come across the word “remember” in the Bible, especially in the Old Testament, and see how many times the subject of that verb is “God,” as in, “God remembered,” you stop and think.  “How can God remember?  It’s not as if He forgets.”

And He doesn’t.  And yet.  And yet think of Noah in the ark.  That hand of God shut the door as the rains came down and then nothing for weeks, for months, for nearly half a year.  Noah receives no more messages from the Lord.  He sees the rain come, the waters rise, the mountains themselves disappear.  He watches the animals get restless and his family get restless.  He fields the question, “Now what?” more times than he can count and replies, “Wait and see,” more often than he cares.

Think of Abraham begging the LORD to spare Sodom and Gomorrah.  The LORD concedes to spare the cities for ten righteous people, but Abraham hears and sees nothing until he sees smoke in the distance.

Think of Israel laboring in slavery in Egypt.  For four hundred years they’ve toiled and died.  For four hundred years the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob have cried out to the Lord for help and mercy and salvation.  And they’ve heard nothing.

Think of the barren mother, Hannah.  Mocked by her rival wife, she begs the Lord in prayer for just one son.  One.  Sure, she hears the priest Eli say, “May the Lord grant you your prayer,” but how many priests and pastors haven’t said such a thing?  What power do they have to grant it?  None.  If only the Lord had told her, “I will grant your request.”

Did God forget?  Does God forget?  It most certainly seems like it.  His silences are deafening.  His failures are colossal.  Where are his answers?  Where are his interventions?

What do you do when you want to remember something?  You write it down, don’t you?  I have my daily planner in which I make to-do lists and schedule events.  We have calendars, palm pilots, Blackberry’s, iPads, and notepads.  We use them to help us not forget.  Writing something down reinforces in our minds what we want to remember.  It also gives us something to look at later when we need it.  “What do I have to do tomorrow?”  “When was that doctor’s appointment?”  “When is her birthday?”

We trust these record-keeping things.  And sometimes that’s all we have.  Our brains may fail, but this written record saves us.  And what about God?  What about when I think He’s forgotten?

Those are dark and desperate times aren’t they?  When God stands silent.  When the pressure rises.  When the answers aren’t forthcoming.  When the waiting goes on.  “Where are you God?  What are you doing up there?  Are you late?  Are you on your way?  Have you forgotten?  What’s your plan?”

No.  He remembers.  God always remembers.  The flood stopped.  The ark came to rest.  Noah and his family came forth.  The smoke rose from Sodom and Gomorrah, but Lot and his daughters God rescued.  God raised up Moses and behind Moses Israel marched out of Egypt.  God heard the prayer of Hannah and soon she bore a son, Samuel.  More than that, God remembers you:   He has remembered his love, and his faithfulness to the house of Israel; all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God (Psalm 98:3, NIV84).  God remembered His holy covenant.  All those centuries of waiting came to an end when the time had fully come.  God sent His Son.  God redeemed us whom the law condemned.  God made us no longer slaves but sons through the sacrifice of His very own Son into death for us.  God rescued us from our enemies so that we can stand before Him all our days.  He remembered!

And wrote it down.  He recorded it on one vast canvass for us to look to whenever we’re searching for that thing we’ve forgotten, or which we think God has forgotten.  And He reminds us:  “I remember.  I remember my promises, big and small.  I act.  I carry out.  I do things.  For you.  Always for you.”  He gives our faith something to hold on to.  He gives us His Word.  He gives us His promises.  He says, “I kept the big one.  I gave My own Son into death for your sins.  I raised Him up from the dead.  Always remember that, and you’ll know that I never forget a thing.  I always do something.”  That’s the essence of the Sacrament you receive tonight.  God says, “I did it.  For you.  Here’s the flesh and blood of the Son I sent.  For you.”

In the darkest nights of despair, when faith ebbs, when that voice asks, “Did God forget?” Turn to the Word that says, “He remembers.”  Turn to the Word that shows you Christ crucified, Christ risen, Christ ascended, Christ ruling on the throne of heaven.  Turn to the Word and in confidence say to God, “Remember me,” knowing full well that He does.  Knowing full well that our God said to a dying thief once in answer to the request to be remembered, Today you’ll be with me in Paradise (Luke 23:43, NIV84).  Because when God makes resolutions, God keeps resolutions.  Amen.

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