Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Thanks for the memories. . .

Sermon preached for Easter C (middle and late services) on Sunday, March 27, 2016.

    Many's the time that we feasted, And many's the time that we fasted; Oh well, it was swell while it lasted; We did have fun, and no harm done, thanks for the memory. . . so an old song sang it...
    Memory is a wonderful gift from God but it is not perfect.  It fades, our minds become confused – lost in the wrinkles of time.  Memory is skewed and slanted by the lens of the person.  It can be a prison for those filled with regret or guilt or shame.  Memory is a gift from God but it is no consolation prize for death nor is it a substitute for living.  God gave us memory but He created us for life, life with Him, together as His creation.
    In Eden Adam and Eve traded life for a memory, a happy dream as they chose to see it.  Then today became fragile and life fleeting.  It was instantly seen as a foolish and regrettable exchange but they did not know how to fix it.  So they taught us to make peace with death.  Until today we call it natural and normal.  We live each day as if it were our last and console ourselves with faded photo albums and Facebook galleries, Instagram images and digital glimpses of a cloud reality. 
    We were meant for more but we settled for what we had.  No where is this more true than the funeral has been replaced by celebrations of life – note that – life in the past tense.
When death ripped today from us, without confidence in a future, we contented ourselves with old stories, a few laughs and a body made up to mask the reality of death.  We were meant for life but settled for as big a today as could make it.
    Thanks for the memory.  But therein lies the rub.  Death ends memory; it leaves silence where voices once spoke and all our stuff becomes the possession of others.  Through time and eternity the prophets were sent from God to remind us that we were meant for more.  We were meant for life.
    Now even memory must compete against preference and choice.  We don’t both to recall or esteem the past.  We define life by the range of choices and preferences we have now.  We try to make life unique but even that cannot stave off death.  We can pursue the moment as much as possible but it cannot erase the fact that you were made for more.  God made you for life.
    More than anything else, sin is the ache to live only in the moment, to make ourselves gods of our own little universe, doing what we please to get as much happiness as we can. Death is normal and sins don’t count.  This is also our prison.
    But God entered our world of lives to shatter its grip over us and over the whole world.  Jesus lived not for Himself but for us.  He died for a past full of sin to deliver to the dying a life stronger than death, a future the grave cannot claim.

    Now He lives.  Not to seek revenge on those who killed Him or lord His victory over His enemies.  No, He lives to restore you and me to life, to give to the unworthy the precious gift of tomorrow.  We made peace with death but God did not.  We judged sin not so bad but He exposed sin for the wretched evil it is.  And then He rose.  He rose to end death’s reign to announce forgiveness for every sin and every sinner who desires it.
    We were created for life, to live under Christ today in His kingdom, to live in community as brothers and sisters, and to live forever.  We screwed it all up by choosing to play god.  Discontent to be creatures, we traded life for a living death.  We learned pain and sorrow, we learned suffering and death.  But Christ lives now and has prepared and ending for our torment.
    God took our flesh to live in our world of death to carry the burden of our sin and to die the death that kills death once for all.  Our Lord rattled death’s cage and awaken us to what we were created to know and enjoy.  LIFE!  We were created for life.  Christ rose to give this life back to us.  He lives now to speak the voice of life into our dead ears, to drown the dead and raise the living from the baptismal waters, and to feed us the bread that we eat and life forever.  He gives us His Spirit so that our hearts may confess this and believe it and live transformed by its good news, now and forevermore.
    Christ is not in the grave.  He is here.  Not in memory but living in bread and wine, in Word and absolution, in baptism and in the baptized.  Christ is no longer alone but has rounded up the dead to be with Him.  Those we laid to rest in Christ now live in Christ awaiting us and the eternal future that began Easter morning.
    Christ was not raised a spirit to a spiritual life but in the glorious new flesh and blood you and I shall wear.  He lives not some vague spiritual notion of life but real life without limit or constraint.  He lives not for Himself but to restore the dead in trespasses and sin and the dead waiting for these bodies to give out.  He lives to steal the pain from angry words and to heal the division of hurtful actions.  He lives to bestow on us memory and more – a future in which God remembers us in love and reaches into the dust of the earth to bring the dead to live with Him for all eternity.
    Christ has died, Christ is risen.  Christ will come again.  This is the mystery of the faith, the framework of our hope, the bold confession we make before the world, and our peace at the grave.  He has given to us what we could not do for ourselves.
    Now, when you leave here today, do not surrender this new life to the death of sin.  Do not exchange what Christ has given you here with the prison of only a yesterday or today. 
Do not replace the words of hope with angry and bitter words.
You were created for more.  You were created for life.  Now Christ has given to you, what you were meant for.  Because He lives, You live in Him, right now this life and the life which is to come without end.
    Many's the time that we feasted, And many's the time that we fasted; Oh well, it was swell while it lasted; We did have fun, and no harm done, thanks for the memory. . .  Nope.  Not thanks for the memory.  But thanks for the victory!  Christ is risen!

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