Sermon- Remember to Remember

Jul 2011

Psalm 103
1  Bless the LORD, O my soul, And all that is within me, bless His holy name. 2  Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget none of His benefits; 3  Who pardons all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases; 4  Who redeems your life from the pit, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion; 5  Who satisfies your *years with good things, So that your youth is renewed like the eagle. 

Good morning, may The Lord Bless you, o my soul.

I asked Zach if he could play that particular song because it was part of what I felt God was leading me to speak upon. Sam had texted me last night, asking if I had any special needs for the sermon. I had replied, “Sermon, what sermon? Is that tomorrow?”

Really all ll I had was a small nudging that included Psalm 103. So lets start there, looking at this psalm on page xxx of the church bibles.

What is the point of the psalm? At first glance we see the promises of God, pardoning us for our sins, healing us from our diseases, even more, redeemingo our lives from the pit!!  And if that isn’t enough, He crowns us with lovingkindness and compassion and restores our youth like an eagle.  Wow, God is truly wonderful, worthy of multiple blessings. I think it is natural to see all the good stuff first.

But the point of the psalm is found at the end of verse 2- ” forget not His benefits”   The benefits were those things listed. Why on earth would we forget those things? Think about this for a moment, we receive all these benefits and somehow we can forget about it? Is this just an anomaly, or is this a genuine Godly concern.

First, let us be sure that God does know us, we are his creation, there isn’t a single thing about us that surprises Him. Take a look at verse 14 in the same psalm 103…

14  For He Himself knows *our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust. 

Well, apparently dust has the ability to forget.

I suppose we can go all the back to Adam & Eve

Genesis 2 :16 – God says- From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; 17  but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”  So later, when talking to the serpent, we have Eve saying…
Gen 3:2  The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; 3  but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.”

Eve forgets what God has said, it looks the same, but she adds the word fruit and that you can’t “even touch it”. Does it matter that its different? Maybe not, but it is risky behavior to rephrase what God has said, so why did she do it? Personally,  I think she forgot the details. Close but not accurate.

Up until Moses there are several examples of people “going their own way” and forgetting the commands of The Lord. One solution God had was the flood and Noah. It wasn’t a permanent solution, but God did create a memory aid to remind us of his promises.  Right, the rainbow!

With Moses God finally decides to fix this issue, once and for all. He will give the people Laws written in stone, but before that, there were several more troubling issues with forgetfulness.

In  Exodus 13:3 >>

Moses said to the people, “Remember this day in which you went out from Egypt, from the house of slavery; for by a powerful hand the LORD brought you out from this place. And nothing leavened shall be eaten. 

Exodus 20:8 >>

“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 

Exodus 32:13 >>

“Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants to whom You swore by Yourself, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heavens, and all this land of which I have spoken I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.'” 

So how did they do? Only a few weeks after crossing through the parted sea, the people complained and wanted to go back.

In Deuteronomy there are five verses that specifically make the charge “do not forget”. In Deut  9:7 The Lord says, “remember, do not forget”.  That’s a double.
The psalmist verifies this in Psalm 106

   7 Our fathers in Egypt did not understand Your wonders; They did not remember Your abundant kindnesses, But rebelled by the sea, at the *Red Sea.

   13  They quickly forgot His works; They did not wait for His counsel, 

The first time I read this, I said to myself. If I ever saw a miracle of God like the parting of the zxsea, or pillar of fire, I sure would not forget. I was certainly more faithful than those early Hebrews.  Hmm, I wonder.

Just looking at a single word search in the NASB version I found 163 verses with ” remember”. Most were admonitions about remembering The Lord and His Works.  In particular, right after God has done something remarkable.

The Lord next tries a another little memory aid…

Num-15:37  The LORD also spoke to Moses, saying, 38  “Speak to the sons of Israel, and tell them that they shall make for themselves tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and that they shall put on the tassel of each corner a cord of blue. 39  “It shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the LORD, so as to do them and not follow after your own heart and your own eyes, after which you played the harlot, 40  so that you may remember to do all My commandments and be holy to your God. 41  “I am the LORD your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt to be your God; I am the LORD your God.” 

We are also quick to spin a different reason to the things we see. It was a coincidence, a natural occurrence, or even the more prevalent, “I did it”.  If none  of these are used, then we just “forget”.

So, what can we do in the face of our terrible memory? Memory aids are good, tassels, keychains, strings on fingers, stones of rememberence.  But be careful, even that vast pile of rocks next to the Jordon is no longer there. We must face this issue as one of God ‘s major concerns, and try to get it done.

How many of you have read the Bible? Read it again. We read to understand the stories, we read to be comforted, we read to gain wisdom. All these things are good and wonderful, but I suggest God wants us to read and reread, so that we won’t forget.  It’s not like “Gone with the Wind”, its a good book, I read it once, might read it again, probably not. I don’t remember the details but I still recall the gist.

God doesn’t want us to remember the gist of His word. That’s why we read and re-read, yes, for comfort, yes for wisdom, yes for inspiration. But most importantly, ” lest we forget. ” I believe it is the single greatest tool to remember. Reread not just for the story or for the inspiration, read it because it is about you.

In Genesis 3:13

Moses said to the people, “Remember this day in which you went out from Egypt, from the house of slavery; for by a powerful hand the LORD brought you out from this place. ”

Do we remember this as scripture? as a story? as a historical fact?

We could say all of those things are true, but let me expand on this for a moment.

We all know, if you remember, that the end part of the days in Egypt, the ten plagues, was the slaying of the first born. That God had sent the Angel of Death throughout the land, and the first born in all of Egypt died that night. For everybody, except the Hebrews. They were to mark their homes with blood and the Angel of Death would Passover their homes. That was the first Passover, and every year since that time, a family ceremony has taken place in Jewish homes, charged with telling the story, lest they forget.  Can you imagine what that second, third, tenth Passover might have been like? I think it is interesting that the essential parts of the Passover Seder hasn’t changed nearly as much as our Christmas. We started to simply celebrate Christ’s birth, and now it almost seems that people are surprised that He is the reason for the season. We have reindeer, elves, trees, Easter bunny. Wait, wrong holiday.

So, Seder actually means “the order”, it means that there is a particular method of how the dinner is going to go, what food will be eaten, and why we are doing this in the first place.  I seriously suggest that at some point you attend a local Seder in the future. There is a Messanic Seder held each year that some of you have attended and I believe most of you found instructive. 

Passover  is all about remembering, and making the memories meaningfully. Let me briefly tell you about one part of the ceremony.  It is called “the Four Sons”, its one of the stories read aloud from the family “Haggadah”, I like the one from the 1950s, but the stories are all the same.

The Torah speaks of four sons, describing the four types of Jewish people.

The wise son, the wicked son, the simple son, and the young son.  The wise son asks, “what mean these customs that The Lord asks us to follow? ( meaning the Seder). He is considered wise because he includes himself as one who is obligated. The wicked son asks, “What mean these customs that You are obligated to follow?” He is considered wicked because he excludes himself from Gods commands. The simple son, with complete unconcern, simply asks, ” What’s up with that?”. He is answered that that Lord has done marvelous things and we are obligated to remember. The young son is not yet able to inquire, so he is told of Gods mercy and miracles and that it is because of what God did for you, when he took you out of Egypt.

The Seder personalizes the event, the retelling is active. It is what God did for me, not some nameless person thousands of years ago. It causes to you remember when you realize it is about you.

Jewish families use this as a tool to remember who they are, how they came to be free through God’s intervention. It’s a good model. Our family continues to do this. But there are other methods to try.

Bible studies have all the other benefits and it also helps us to remember.

Structured prayer time. I used my commute to work and home to pray. The Lord kept me safe and my prayers were heard. Now that I’m retired ill have to find another steady circumstance. The key is to be consistent, and be regular.

Another powerful tool is audible grace before meals. Particularly in public restaurants. I know that for some of you, this is a big step. It’s extremely awkward when you are with a group of people who might not be believers. At the very least, try to hold to a silent moment remembering God.

So, again, what is it that we are to remember? It’s really only two things.

1. Remember God. Remember all that He has done, all that He will do for you. His promises, His commands, His love and mercy and grace.  Gosh, everything about Him. There is a lot but we can do it together, by not forsaking meeting together. Church helps us to remember!

2. Remember who we are. It’s not about us. We are not all that. God got it right in Ps 103, “He is mindful that we are but dust.”  The worst of mankind actions, is when we act as if we are God, as if we control destiny, history, of who lives and who dies. We are dust that forgets we are dust, and because of that we live in five bedroom homes, three car garages, and a town home in Tahoe. We think we got all that we got all that and we really don’t need anything else, and if we did, we will buy it.

Remember the Four Sons of the Seder? Each typified the kinds of Jewish people. I’ll expand upon that for today’s Christian.

The first son remembers God, keeps His commandments, learns from His Word, and seeks to place Jesus in the center of his life. The second son has forgotten about God, maybe heard about Him once, maybe even called on the name of Jesus a couple of times, but it’s been years, and he really doesn’t need that stuff anymore. The third son has managed to be ignorant of the whole issue. When it comes to God he has selective hearing, it’s easier to do whatever I want to do, and religion doesn’t do anything for me. 

The fourth son? Well that’s the future, he is too young to ask, but also too young to be misled. Come along side that young person and tell him the truth.

So what specifically should we remember, this church, this body…

The church is here, on this ground, in this building. How unusual is that, how improbable? The story behind our two buildings is fairly remarkable. In our time it might even be close to a modern miracle. If we aren’t aware of this, then we risk being like the Hebrews crossing the desert. Remember the story, having witnessed the pillar of fire, the parting of the sea, the destruction of an army…the Hebrews complain that things aren’t going well, and perhaps they should go home. It was going to be over before it started. We could pass over how the buildings came into our charge fairly easily. We need to be awake to see what God is doing.

Conclusion:  He wants a church in Moraga! Hallelujah! Let us remember that.

So now what?  And why?

He gave us this church, He brought us this people, He made it happen here in Moraga, in this community. 

So our purpose is to gather like minded folks so we can encourage each other, put on events, eat great food, learn about the great diversity of culture and styles, even support the community, and help feed the homeless, fight human slavery, and wrap Christmas presents for needy children.

And you know something? We do all that, and more! We are a remarkable people, organized to be a force of good in a world that has an ever increasing need for positive action. Clearly this is a Godly thing, and God blesses our efforts.  And we are doing what the Elks clubs are doing, the Rotary, the Moose lodges, civic leagues and hundreds, maybe thousands, of other God gathered people, helping to better the world. 

So let us be reminded that we are not just a fraternal, social group of people. We gather in God’s house, not the Veteran’s Hall. 

So what are the differences of a decent social gathering of His people and that of a church gathering? Some social groups even meet in a church. Some church groups are very social. 

Social groups are often closed except for nominated people. 

Church is open to all God seekers. 

Social groups are sought after by successful community members. 

Church groups are often hospitals for people who are hurting and lost. 

Social groups follow law/rules made by people.

Church follows God’s law, God’s manual.

So given that, the logical conclusion is that the differences are spelled out in scripture,  look to God for the Why, and follow His manual for the How. 

And the manual? The Bible, not a book about the Bible, or a book about a book about the Bible. And to be clear, not a book that looks pretty much like the Bible. Remember that  Genesis 4:7 >>

“If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” 

So, remember to remember, or better. Remember not to forget!

May God richly bless you, may His face shine upon you, and give you peace.

You are dismissed.

The LORD bless you, and keep you;
The LORD make His face shine on you, And be gracious to you;
The LORD lift up His countenance on you, And give you peace.’

Adonai will kneel before you presenting gifts and will guard you with a hedge of protection, Adoni will illuminate the wholeness of his being toward you, bringing order, and he will beautify you, Adoni will lift up his wholeness of being, and look upon you, and he will set in place all you need to be whole