Am I Transmitting?

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I have not attempted to write anything for some time.  Writing on blogs is a funny thing.  I think I am growing more convinced it is an act of arrogance and vanity more than anything else.  We are not good enough writers by any means to be published, but still we think what we write is worth reading.  If our thoughts were any kind of coherent or we were any kind of writers we would be published many times over now.  So, i fluctuate.  I must be at a high point of Narcissism.

 

Sermon for Lent 4

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To say our story is the same as Israel’s is not true.  To say our story is similar to Israel’s does not seem strong enough.

Israel is brought out of Egypt by their God.  He frees them from their external bondage of slavery.  With mighty acts God brings his people across the sea and into the wilderness.  There Israel is tested.

I said a few weeks ago, “It is not IF we will serve a god with our speech, money, bodies, and minds, but WHICH ONE will we serve with those things?”  That might be the question of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.  The tense question that hangs over the people of Israel is, “will they remain faithful to THEIR God?”  You might say that tension extends until this very day—to all of You!  Will you remain faithful to this God?  To your God?

Your story is not different, not the same, but not different.  The historical fact is that you have not been in the actual bondage of slavery.  I have heard it said that the sweetest Gospel ever preached in America was by the Northern missionaries preaching to slaves in the south leading up to the civil war.  Those were people in bondage to slavery.  You and I have no idea what that is like.  But you are a people chosen by God and put into his Kingdom and given his story.

In (the Old Testament lesson) Numbers the sin of the people was rebellion against God.  They forgot Him and what he had done for him.  You might say they forgot their story.  They let their stomachs get the better of them.  “Oh if we could only have some better food!  At least in Egypt we got three square meals a day!  What I wouldn’t give for some powdered eggs!”  Israel forgot but God made them remember.  His way of making them remember was drastic, but no more drastic than his people’s forgetfulness.  But now you are God‘s people, and similarly you are bound to forgetfulness and rebellion too. 

It is no wonder, then, why this Lord’s Supper, this Sacrament, is full of the Words and Commands of Jesus.  He says: “This is my body and blood.  Eat these things. They are for the forgiveness of your sins.  Do this often in remembrance of me.”

Much sin happens because of forgetfulness.  Israel forgets their God and they sin.  We forget our God and we sin.  The question isn’t, “when will God stop forgiving?”  The question is, “how long will God put up with a forgetful people before he sends snakes among them or sends them into captivity?”

We are not unfamiliar with the power of Story.  I imagine many of you shape your lives around stories.  Some of you children know what it is liked to be formed by Harry Potter, or Twilight, or a certain video game.  You shape your likes, and thoughts, and vocabulary.  The same is true for your circle of friends.  Just notice that you laugh a bit differently, or use different words when you are around different groups.  You college students that are home are in the middle of a battle.  The University you are attending no doubt is attempting to liberate you from the story your family has given you.  But, rather than liberating you to another story, they just liberate you to yourself and leave you up to make your own story.  That is a sad and lonely prospect.  Many of you know what it is like to have other stories shape your thoughts and actions and speech.  Families are perhaps the greatest story force. 

Many of you know the blessing a strong family can be, especially one shaped by the faith and service to God.  It gives you direction and a mind to think.  However, many of you are also currently experiencing the bitterness family stories carry and their power.  Stories shaped by addiction, divorce, or violence, death, unbelief, or the economy. Yes we know the power story has over our lives.

You are the people of God.  You are to have no other stories shaping your life and thoughts and opinions other than the story of your God.  Another way of saying that is, “you are to have no other gods before Me.”  We are a people who have a drastic reminder of just how far Humans will go in our sin and rebellion from that command.

Jesus says, “The Son of Man will be lifted up like a snake.” The people were so forgetful, so rebellious, that they killed the Son of God.  What will happen next?  Will God wipe them off the earth?  Has he finally had enough of them?  No.  No, it is amazing.  He did not kill off his people, he raised his Son.  He is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

This is why the meal we eat here is so important for us.  The liturgy puts the reminders all over the place, “we proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”  We proclaim it, not to win over anonymous people out there—even though that might happen.  We do this to remind ourselves how far we might go in our rebellion and then also how gracious and loving our God is to sinners like us. 

This is exactly why I think it is the best possible thing for the church to celebrate the Sacrament each week.  Luther, as many of you are learning, had the Sacrament daily.  He knew the power of the devil and the world to change story first hand.   At that time the CHURCH had fallen victim to the traditions and stories of men.  Many days I wonder if is happening again?

The world would love nothing more than to have you believing that this body and blood only shape what happens in these walls.  Inside these walls God shapes life.  And in general I think we are fine with that.  But outside it is Ford and Chevy, Case IH or John Deere, Apple or Windows, Democrat or Republican, feminist or chauvinist, capitalist, socialist, communist, confessional or contemporary.  We are awash with such stories.  But remember where the people of God were in Numbers.  They were in the Wilderness.  No walls, no comfortable pews, not air conditioning; only the Word and Command of their God.

Our story is not different, not the same, but not different.  Will we be faithful to this God and his story above all else?  I have no doubt the idea of being faithful to God outside these walls presents problems for you.  No doubt there will be persecutions.  The World and the Devil hate when people serve the one True God and live their lives by his story. 

So for those of you who are weary by the World’s attacks, for those of you who are ready to leave all those other stories behind, you are in for a treat.  Your God and Lord will say to you again this morning, “You are forgiven my friend.  You are forgiven for living as if I were only the God of these walls.  Never keep yourself from me too long lest you forget me and your story.”  Amen.