Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Amazing Grace - Weekday Lenten Service 3, Psalm 25:6


Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.

I once was lost but now am found,

Was blind but now I see.

“I once was lost…”, left behind, ignored, abandoned, forgotten. I’m not sure that’s what the hymn writer had in his mind when he penned those words, but that’s how it seems to fit with the Psalm verse we read with it at the beginning of the service. “Remember me! O Lord.” It says.

"Remember your mercy, O Lord, and your steadfast love, for they have been from of old." (Ps 25:6, ESV)

Have you ever felt forgotten? A birthday that came and went without a card or letter, or phone call or even an eMail? Sitting and longing for that phone to ring bringing news from a living-away-from-home child? Wanting someone, anyone to visit you after an absence from church? It happens all the time. People get forgotten. People feel lost and alone. There is no fear like being forgotten.

There is a movie that’s a few years old now, called “Toy Story.” It’s about toys that live in the room of a child named Andy. In the movie, Andy and his family are moving. The toys are all very concerned about being forgotten and left behind when the family leaves. So to prevent the worst thing that can happen to a toy, they pair up into “moving buddies.” “The last thing I want is for a toy to be forgotten,” one of the toys says. No toy wants to be ignored by a child.

Human beings do lots of things to try to prevent being forgotten. Some donate money to hospitals, Sanford Health was Sioux Valley. Some donate money to the church. Others build networks of friends and colleagues, the more the merrier. The idea is that the more people you know the less likely it is that you’ll be forgotten. But no matter what people do there is still the risk of being forgotten; there is the risk of being alone and lost.

But the Psalmist is asking for something more than just to not be forgotten. The toys didn’t want to be lost because they didn’t want to be ignored. That’s really what the Psalm is saying, too. “Pay attention, God. Don’t forget your mercy and love for me. Look on me.” It’s like that last phrase we use every worship service here. The “Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make his face shine on you…. Turn your face toward me,” we say. “Don’t ignore me God. Remember me!” And we say it to remind us that God promises to pay attention to us; to remind us that we are not alone; to remember that we are remembered by Him.

But there is a danger in having God remember us. When God turns His face toward us He sees everything. He sees all the good we do, and He sees all the bad we do. He hears all the good things we say, and all the lies we tell. He even knows the good things we think about, and the awful things in our mind. And in fact, God is the one who sees everything we do in relationship to himself. He sees straight into our hearts and sees that in reality everything we do is sinful.

We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. (Isaiah 64:6, ESV)

John Newton understood what that means. ‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear…” He wrote in beloved hymn. When we consider God paying attention to us, and our sin, we realize that we have good reason too fear. King David was a man who struggled with sin. He was boastful and proud. He was led astray by adultery. He paid the price for his sinful nature with the death of his beloved children. When David thought about God remembering him and his sin he said:

"For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight." (Ps 51:3-4a, ESV)

And our text has that in mind too, because it goes on to say, "Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions." (Ps 25:7, ESV) “Remember instead, your mercy. Pay attention to me in mercy.”

God has a track record of doing just that. When the Noah, his family and all the animals were loaded into the ark and God had closed the door. They were afloat in the water of the flood for 150 days. The bible tells us that “God remembered Noah and all the animals in the ark.” (Gen 8:1) He paid attention to them, cared for them and had mercy on them. While He destroyed every other living thing on the earth, because of sin, He had mercy on the eight humans and the animals. It’s not just that He thought about the from time to time He protected and directed and cared for them.

Where guilt is great and sin abounds,

There God’s great grace is poured,

And fervent prayer from saints resounds,

“Remember me, O Lord.”

So, how do you know that God remembers you, in mercy, instead of seeing your sin?

In the movie “Toy Story” one of the toys that is almost lost comes to his senses and remembers that he belongs to Andy because Andy has written his name on him. The toy remembers who he belongs to because a big “A N D Y” had been scribbled on his foot in big bold letters.

And you have God’s name scribbled on you in big bold and wet letters. That’s how God promises to remember you. A little over a week ago we gathered together to begin our Lenten journey at this rail by receiving a sign in ashes. Those ashes weren’t only a sign of our sinfulness, but they were put on us in the shape of a cross. That cross was just the same as the sign of the cross made upon your forehead and upon your heart to mark you as one redeemed by Christ the Crucified. That’s the same sign of the cross given to you in baptism, and it’s shorthand for the name of God.

“But that’s too simple to be sure, it’s too ordinary. I’d really like God to do something really spiritual. Like a glowing face, or lightning or thunder or a warm fuzzy feeling deep in my heart. Water in a man’s hand is too simple to really be God remembering me.”

That’s one of the great things about Baptism. It just doesn’t leave any doubt about who God is dealing with. Do you want to know if God remembers you, if God is paying attention to you, and looking upon you? Ask yourself this: Did make me promises in Holy Baptism? Was it water connected to God’s Word that made my head wet? Was God’s name spoken over me? You can’t get any more specific than that. In Baptism God is working through His Name and water. And were God puts His name He promises to be. He put His name on you and He promises to be with you, and look upon you and remember you.

And what about those sins? That’s what the water reminds us of. They are washed away because of Jesus. When God puts His name on you He gives you everything Jesus earned for you. He remembers you in mercy and love because He turned away from Jesus and allowed Him to suffer and die on the cross in your place. It was a very real and physical death, a very real and physical punishment for sin. It’s God’s name on you that makes that punishment yours. It’s simple really. His death in your place. His name on you makes it yours. Oh yeah, don’t forget that He didn’t stay dead. Not only did Jesus die a real physical death He also rose again in a real physical body. And when the time comes, when Jesus comes again, He will transform your lowly body to be like His glorious body (Phil 3:21). And that’s yours through Baptism, too!

It’s simple and easy to identify because God knows how simple and easy we need it. Just think, God uses water and His word to make you His, and remind you that He remembers you and because of Jesus He has taken away your sin. He has used water to put His name on you. Every day you turn on the tap to get a drink of water, you can say “Remember me, O Lord.” Every day as you wash in the shower as and see that dirty water going down the drain, you can say, “Remember me, O Lord.” When you wash the dog and you pour the dirty water out on the ground, or you wash the dirt from your hands in the sink, you can say, “Remember me, O Lord.”

God remembers you. He has put His name on you, and with His name comes everything Jesus Christ did for you.

For all my sins Christ did atone,

That I might ransomed be.

Now leave me not, my God alone;

In love remember me. Amen.

Amazing Grace? Yes, not lost but found, not forgotten but remembered. Amen.

The Peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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