Sermon – Pentecost 25 – November 11, 2018
1 Kings 17:8-16 ‘Remembering’
CT: We easily forget about God’s provision when all is going well, yet He does not forget about you. God’s remembering of you shapes who you are what you do.
Intro: Remembrance Day; we remember all those who have given their lives in service to our nation, and honour those who came home from conflicts abroad never the same. As time marches on we remember little about the individuals. Our memory of them fades into an array of white crosses, names, and poppies, but they have more than that in common: they are remembered for what they did. ‘Lest we Forget’ is the slogan used, and rightly so because we do forget. In the busyness of our day to day lives it hard to conceive of what they went through and connect their sacrifice to the lives we live now.
Overlooked: In a similar way, as we read the Old Testament lesson, it’s hard for us to understand what the widow of Zarephath went through; it seems far from our daily lives, disconnected from our existence. Both she and the widow in the Gospel could be easily overlooked and forgotten. The widow of Zarephath was just one more mother and child dying of starvation in the harsh realities of our world, and the widow Jesus observed added little to the temple coffers; she was pretty much invisible to those around her. The widows lived centuries apart from each other, but they have much in common. Neither of them is remembered by name; they’re known only for their poverty and their desperate situations. But they are remembered for what they did. Yet this is not a case of ‘see what they did and go do likewise’; it’s more of where will you turn when all seems lost; when everything looks hopeless.
Illogical: Think closely on the widow of Zarephath’s response to Elijah’s request of making some bread for him ahead of her own needs. She told him there was barely enough for herself and her son! But her words are telling: “As the Lord your God lives.” She didn’t call Yaweh her God, yet she knows that Elijah’s God lives. We’re not told where her understanding and trust in God came from; just that God had commanded the widow to feed Elijah.
But would you give your child’s last meal away for the sake of stranger? If didn’t have two nickels to rub together would you offer your last loonie up in service to God’s house? Such actions seem irrational to us; we’d hunker down, baton down the hatches, pinch every quarter twice, and make sure it was there for me. Let others fend for themselves, and the church can survive quite nicely without my offering…thank you very much! Our human nature is very much geared toward self preservation.
Close to God: Unlike today, the people of those times were much more in tune to the idea that someone bigger than they was in control. Our sense of independence and affluence affects our relationship with God; it distances us from Him. The people of Israel had a huge directory of laws that governed every aspect of their lives, from what they ate, when they rested, to how they cared for other people in their midst, especially those in need. All of it was a constant reminder that they were a people completely and totally dependent on God; His treasured possession. It was a lifestyle with God in view.
Martin Luther explained the 1st article of the Apostles’ Creed highlighting our dependency on God. “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth,” means that our bodies, senses, health, family, country, and wealth; everything we have and are, is a gift from God; not because of any merit or worthiness of our own, but out of His fatherly divine goodness. All we have is a trust from God, and He is a generous, extravagant Giver! He withheld nothing from us; not even His only Son that we might be called the children of God. This message of God’s love for us shapes our lifestyle—our doing—our caring—our giving as we acknowledge the Lord of our lives and our dependence on Him.
Both the widows expressed their complete dependence on God for everything; their very lives were in the balance. And so is yours!
God Remembers: God remembers our spiritual poverty and our dire need; we come to Him empty handed; we’re dead broke. (“Nothing in my hands I bring; naked to Thy cross I cling.”) And we are completely lost in our sinful condition! You can try to sweep your sins under the rug and pretend they’re gone, but eventually we trip over the lumpy carpet and come face to face with what we’ve hidden. And then death comes to all, and we are most certainly without hope!
Yet when we were as good as dead in our trespasses, God in His mercy gave us life through the Word made flesh; Jesus Christ. Out of the mystery of the Trinity, God sent His Son, who lived, died and rose again to give you life; a jar of flour that will not be spent and a jug of oil that never empties—the forgiveness of all of your sins. And because we are utterly weak and unable to even take up this Good News on our own, He reaches out to even the smallest; those completely unable to answer for themselves and delivers His promise of forgiveness, life, and salvation in the waters of your Baptism.
Remember: And God is not blind to our memory problems. He knows our ability to remember what He has done for us is compromised daily by our own sin, our stricken consciences, and the devil. We need to be reminded, daily and weekly, of what God has done for us; reminded of who Jesus is and the sacrifice He made that we can live in and out of the confidence of God’s love for us. Each week we’re called in worship to remember our Baptism (the invocation: “In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”). Yet your Baptism is meant to be remembered daily, living it, dying to sin and rising to newness of life in Christ Jesus. And every time we gather to receive the Lord’s Supper you hear the words, “Do this in remembrance of Me.” This is not a simple request to bring Jesus to mind; it means you are participating in His death and resurrection, receiving the true Body and Blood of Christ for the forgiveness of your sins—really—by faith trusting in His Word of promise that this is so—giving you life and the assurance that the jar of flour will not be spent nor will the jug of oil be emptied till Jesus returns.
It’s in hearing again the Good News of God that we are not only reminded of how God has remembered us, but we are shaped to live as His people; that the message of the cross—God’s Word of promise for you in Jesus Christ becomes relevant to our living.
Today as you remember those who gave their lives for our freedom; our ability to enjoy the quality of life that we do have in Canada, take a moment to remember the sacrifice God made for you that you would be free from your greater enemies of sin and death; freed by His bountiful gift of forgiveness to live by faith in His Son.