Sunday, March 29, 2009

“Memory Gone” (Jeremiah 31:34c).

S-1111 3/29/09 5SIL/3B Hymns: (O) #32 (S) #157; L.S. #315; 307; (C) #342

Texts: Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 5:1-10; Mark 10:35-45

Theme: “Memory Gone” (Jeremiah 31:34c).

Question: “How is your memory?”


Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen! Indeed! Alleluia! The text for the Fifth Sunday in Lent is from the Old Testament reading: “...For I will wipe away their iniquity, and I will not remember their sins again” {my own translation Jeremiah 31:34c).

Saints in Christ, one of the most memorable and gripping movies I have watched in recent years is “The Notebook” The Notebook is an epic love story centered around an older man who reads aloud to an older, invalid woman who he regularly visits in an Alzheimer institution. From a faded notebook, the old man’s words bring to life the story about a couple who are separated by World War II, and is then passionately reunited after many years. Even though her memory is gone, his words give her the chance to relive her turbulent youth and the unforgettable love they shared.

Anyone of us who has gone through this type of experience knows what I am talking about. Alzheimer and dementia is debilitating, destructive and demeaning. It rips your heart out, and tears roll down your cheeks as you consider the life of the person before you. At one time you knew them as vibrant and vivacious father or mother, grandfather or grandmother, but now they are simply a shell, a body that exists, but no memory to connect them to those before them. My heart aches for anyone who has/is dealing with a family member with this devastating disease.

In the text before us today, the prophet Jeremiah describes a God whose memory is gone. “...For I will wipe away their iniquity, and I will not remember their sins again.” God’s memory is gone, not because He has Alzheimer, dementia, or some other dreadful disease, BUT because He has chosen to forget. PAUSE.

As we grow older in years, our memory is not what it used to be. We begin to forget. Sometime we even say, “My memory is gone.” We call it, “Senior Moments.” Saying things like “I have hearafter’s disease”. When I get in the room I always ask myself, “what am I here after?” We joke about it, but it is not a joking matter, because we don’t remember all of the things we should remember. Oh, we try. How many times have you said, “Where did I leave my glasses…keys…wallet, and the remote control?”

In the days before cell phones many wives would ask their husbands on their way home from work to stop at the grocery store and pick up an item or two. And they always say, “DON’T FORGET.” The husband may write it down, or put a rubber band on their finger, or hold on to their ears in the hope that they remember.

He who made the universe and our brains to function as they do doesn’t have any trouble remembering our sins. King David wrote, “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me” (Ps. 51:3). He knows all of them. He sees all of them. Even the sins I attempt to hide from others, though are living in my heart; and the ones I don’t even remember. Not one single sin escapes His memory. Because of them, I deserve to die. Because of them, I deserve hell’s punishment. Because of them, I should be cast into the outer abyss of hell; through an eternity of burning fire and gnashing of teeth.

Why then does Jeremiah tell us that God will not remember our sins again? Is it because He is in some Alzheimer unit? Is it because He is getting older? Is it because He is forgetful? Is it because they slipped out of His mind? No! No! No!

To get the answer to the questions, let us listen to Jeremiah speak the words of the text: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be MY people(Jer.31:31-33).

With these words, we get the blessed answer. God chooses not to remember my sins. He chooses to wipe my slate clean. He chooses to remove every stain of sin from my heart. He chooses in love to send the One who can remove every sin that has colored the heart of man—His Son, Jesus Christ. His Son is the New Covenant. He took upon Him the sins of the world. Each of those sins; He nailed to the tree of the cross and cancelled the hand-written code against us (Col. 2). He paid for each of those sins with blood—His blood shed for the sinners—you and me.

God chooses to let go of the sins that separate us from Him. Indeed His memory is gone when it comes to our sins. Now we stand covered before Him NOT with the stains of sin, but with the garment of righteousness—the garment given us by our Savior in the waters of Baptism; and kept alive in the meal of forgiveness-His body and blood, given to us today on His holy table. PAUSE.

Saints in Christ, what a blessing it is for us to read and re-read the Words of God before us today. These Words should be studied and printed before us lest we forget them. Because by these Words, we know we are the forgiven, blood-bought and heaven-bound children of God.

St. Augustine, one of the 4th century Christian Fathers, on his death bed had someone write on the wall before him these words: “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit” (Psalm 32:1-2). That man, that woman is YOU. Our sins have been forgiven and God doesn’t remember them any more. He has chosen on account of His Son, to remove them from His memory forever.

Even though, we know what Scripture teaches, yet we doubt that is true. Sometimes we wish we can forget some past sin, some previous life we lived not in the presence of God, and yet the memory of the past event haunts us and hinders us from moving on. The devil keeps reminding us that we have not lived like a child of God and accuses us of our sins. And if that is not bad enough, how many times someone has hurt us and they asked for forgiveness, and we respond. “I will forgive you, but I will not forget.” That is not forgiveness. I call this sin “transference.” When we do this, the sin of the other against me becomes my sin against them. When you do that you are holding a grudge, you are keeping a score, you are not letting go of the past. We can’t live that way as the redeemed and forgiven children of God.

Jesus in the Lord’s Prayer teaches us saying, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” That is what God on account of Christ has done for us and continues to do for us even today. PAUSE.

The Red Cross was established by Clara Barton in 1881 to bring relief to suffering people not only in the United States but around the world. A story is shared about her. Someone had done a heinous act to her. When that person saw her, he reminded her of this act, but somehow she didn’t remember it. “Don’t you remember?” she was asked. “I distinctly remember forgetting that,” she responded. Thankfully God does the same for all of our sins. He remembers them no more. When it comes to sin, God’s memory is gone. And for that we thank Him now and always.

God forgets our sins, but we are not forgotten. We have the promise of God in the Words of Isaiah, “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me”. Why does God forget our sins, yet doesn’t forget us? Jesus is the reason for this memory loss. From the tree of the cross, we hear Him say, “Father, forgive them.” And He has, He does and He will. And that my dear friends, we dare not forget, not now, not ever. Amen.

Now the peace of God…

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