Sunday, July 24, 2011

Psalm 105 - Just Making Memories Grounded in God

Sermon - Psalm 105:1-11, 45b
Topic: Just making memories grounded in God - give thanks. Call on God’s name. make known God’s deeds, sing, and tell of God’s wonderful works.
Today will last 86,400 seconds. How many of those seconds will you remember? It’s likely very few.  
Yet, without memories, who are we?
It’s interesting to think about how are memories made?

In our family we use a nice concept pasted down from Trasie’s parents.  Whenever anything doesn’t go according to plan...which is a lot in life....we say: “Just making memories”
When you’re on a road trip, and you realize you’re driving the wrong way and are hours from your destination - Just making memories.
When you get stood up for a date...just making memories.
When you stub your toe while trying to get to the bathroom in the middle of the night, and find out you broke it! Just making memories.
When I got beat up in the sixth grade in a fight that I instigated...Just making memories..ouch.
Memories come from joyous moments -  like the birth of a child.  Getting that first job.  
Memories come from unusual occasions - Like when it rained this summer. June 30.  It rained hard and we danced!  Just making memories
Memories come from tragedy. The loss of a loved one. A terrible fight.   The falling of the twin towers.   
Memories shape us into who we are and what we are about. Just making memories.

(this exegesis draws upon Texts for Preaching, Brueggemann, Cousar, et. al. pp 419-420)
The Psalm 105 calls anyone who reads it to an act of passionate remembering.  The remembering, however is not an act of nostagia - it’s not a Garison Keilor monologue.  It is a remembering in such a way to define the present in a way different maybe from how we are currently defining it, because it is a present grounded in God; because the memories are grounded in God. It is a remembering that invites the community to a future that is given only by God who is being remembered.  

It is  written for a community - Israel - who had been rescued, chosen, redeemed.  But, those wonderful things... were a long time ago. Israel was forgetful.   This psalm is trying to help that  community, “which cannot remember anything important,” to claim its true identity, its true self.  Remembrance is crucial in any biblical community of faith.  When we forget what God has done for us - not only in our lives as individuals - that time when you first fell on your knees and sang amazing grace; but also our lives as a faith community - Westminster Presbyterian Church; When we forget what God has done for us:  We can slip into a pattern of self-sufficiency, even apathy or worse despair?

When we forget God, we become anxious, fearful, and unstable.   If we don’t seem to care about the past of this community of faith, its past gifts and miracles--or if we forget them... will we not “surely misunderstand, misread, and misconstrue the present?”

And really we are quick to forget.  How many seconds of today will we remember?  This psalm is seeking to battle for a concrete past and at the same time advocate for a different present.  It is calling for the redeeming of our memories, so that our present may be filled with hope.  God - Yahweh - so central and prevalent in the past.. appears to be irrelevant for these people of Israel... So the Psalm calls them to remember: “Deeds...wonderous works...miracles...judgements.”

Yahweh is our God.  In our very identity we are partners with God in covenant, God has made covenant, abiding, persistent, which is the overriding reality of our life. This covenant, to which we are bound, defines the relationship between GOd and God’s people. This is a promise that God will never leave us in our darkest hour. That we are in the care of God’s arms. And that God will help us to resist temptations.
So that we might remember...and be made free to be a blessing for others in our lives.

How do we remember God?  How do we remember God’s presence with us at this present moment?
At every moment...  We are a forgetful people.

As I thought about this passage, I thought about how memories are made. We have memories in our minds, yes. But we also hold memories in our hearts...those deepest sentiments of both joy and pain.
And we hold memories in our riding a bike, or brushing our teeth.  Memories are present with us in different ways...and I think this Psalm invites us to capture memories in our minds, hearts, and bodies where God is at the center....

The psalm begins in “an enthusiastic summons to thank and praise.“ The first few verses simply repeat and reiterate in various ways the central act of Israel’s life: praise, and gratitude.  It says: “O give thanks to the Lord, call on his name, make known his deeds among the peoples. Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wonderful works.” Habitual and genuine acts that make memories.  

Give thanks -   If the only prayer you say in your whole life is ‘Thank You’, that would suffice. said Meister Eckhart.  Wake up and say thank you.  Leave the house say thank you. Get to where your going, say thank you.  Get home, say thank you. Go to bed say thank you. Memories of thanksgiving are formed.  

THe next phrase says call on his name - We do this quite well in our society. We call on God’s name a lot. What about when someone does something unbelievable. Oh. My. God!  And you remember that stubbing the toe episode in the middle of the night: Jesus. Christ!  I was trying to think of how calling on the name of God can be a positive practice: Not like calling to a pet in the evening before locking up the house...?  Jesus.
What about calling on the name of God like calling on the name of someone we love who is somewhere in a large crowd and we spot them but they don’t see us, so we’re trying to get their attention: God!
Or it could just be, Holy Spirit, come and fill this place!  We can work on that one.  

The next section: make know God’s deeds among the people.  This is evangelizing.  This is witnessing, this is testimony. Each and every moment, we can make known God’s deeds, by sharing love.  By working for justice. By living upright lives.  A saying attributed to St. Francis goes: “Preach the gospel constantly, use words if necessary.” Making known God’s deeds is about walking the walk. How do our actions show love.

The next ones are sing. Sing!  Sing!  The wonder and gift of song.  If I’m not in a good place, I can sing.  
African american slaves gave the world a gift of songs that were sung from a place of oppression in order to lift their spirits -
“I'm gonna sing, sing, sing,
I'm gonna shout, shout, shout,
I'm gonna sing, I'm gonna shout
Praise the Lord
When those gates are open wide,
I'm gonna sit at Jesus' side
I'm gonna sing, I'm gonna shout
Praise the Lord”

I’ve got this great image, when I called Monica and she answered and her radio was blaring..Sorry Chester, I was just jamming out to a WOW CD.  WOW is a compilation of christian music.   There are so many good Praise songs out there now. There are old hymns we remember.  There’s the doxology. which is basically what we’re trying to get at here.  Praising God. A Dios al padre celestial.  
songs make memories...

And the last tell. The people of Israel were commanded to tell the story of God’s redemption in their lives.  Over and Over.  Passover Feasts. Tell the story. We repeat the story as we celebrate Communion.  Jesus’ life, Death, and resurrection. It’s vital that we tell our own stories.  Whenever we can.  How has God redeemed you? How has God brought you up and set you free?  Look for an opportunity this week to tell your story of how God has been part of your life....   

The Psalm gives us good practices for just making memories grounded in God:  Thanksgiving, Calling on the name, making known deeds, Singing, Telling our stories. Our memories are redeemed, and our present reality transformed.

Just making memories grounded in God:
“Israel remembers in order to hope.”  We remember in order to Hope.
“Israel praises in order to imagine.” We praise in order to imagine!
“Israel learns” and we learn “that the truth of life consists not in security and achievement and power,
but in miracles remembered, in promises trusted, and a future that is given.”

By Just making memories grounded in God we become a  more present people, and in that presence we can rest in the assurance of that given future.  A given future full of old promises:  “Land...portion...inheritance.”  
With redeemed memories we remember God’s promises and we can “move beyond wilderness to land,
beyond exile to homecoming, beyond death to life, beyond marginality to well-being.  God intends that none shall live as displaced persons, none shall live without belonging in full membership.  And chosen people of God that belonging comes by just making memories grounded in God.  

I was with Sidney Brown before he died.  He had been suffering from memory loss for a long time.  
He didn’t know who I or anyone else really was.  As he lay there on his couch, fading away, did he know who he was?  I prayed with him before I left, and then began to recite the words of the Our Father.  His mouth began to move, and words were uttered as he joined me in saying that prayer:  He remembered so little, but somehow, in his mind, heart, body...he remembered. Who he was and whose he was.

That was just making a powerful memory grounded in God. Thanks be to God. Amen. 

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