Dear People of God,
I have always been amazed at the difference between what I say in sermons, write in articles, and what people hear. When I was in seminary at Yale Divinity School, I worked on Sundays in the Congregational Church in Branford, just east of New Haven. The Pastor appointed me to preach on the Sunday after Easter. So I diligently worked on my sermon, which I hoped would be one of the great sermons in Christian history! (not J) After the service, I stood with the Pastor at the rear of the church to greet people leaving. The first woman out the door, shook my hand vigorously and said, “I love your hairdo.” That was probably what a puffed up seminarian needed to hear, but it was startling nonetheless.
Years later, when I spent 6 weeks as a Fellow at the College of Preachers in Washington, DC, on the grounds of the National Cathedral, writing a paper on preaching in cathedrals, I found a prior Fellow’s study of the impact of the Myers-Briggs personality typology on preaching and listening to sermons. It was obvious, that just our personalities affect how we listen and hear.
Last Sunday, on the First Sunday in Lent, I preached about Noah. I said that the eighth chapter of Genesis begins with these words: “But God remembered Noah….” I went on to speak about the power of remembering and the promise of this season. I was not prepared when one parishioner said, on leaving, that it was hypocritical to speak of remembering, when we have removed the stained glass windows in the National Cathedral that honored Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.
You know, as well as I do, the ongoing controversy about appropriate ways to remember and memorialize things, persons, events in our history. The impulse to take down statues to confederate leaders is justified, it is argued, as the right thing to do: to not valorize those who committed treason and took up arms against their country. Those who oppose this “revision” speak about honor and bravery, and way of life, etc.
But if we look to the Bible – which is always a good thing for Christians – we find both remembering and forgetting. The prophets and other Bible writers are always beseeching God to remember them. When the people languished in exile, or in slavery, they hoped that God would remember them. Remembering was an act of hope.
But there are times when the people say “remember not” our sins and offenses. There are times when remembering just perpetuates the darkness and suppresses hope.
So, in this Lenten season, think with me about how we remember. Every Sunday, we gather at the Lord’s altar, to remember Jesus’ own words: Do this in remembrance of me. And we do it yet again; and yet again, our remembering is a cry of hope and the Lord is present with us. Yet – and especially during Lent – we confess our sins and beseech God not to remember them, to forgive us, to let us make a new beginning.
I suspect we will forever battle over how we tell our national story, what things we remember, which things we forget. But let this season of Lent draw us closer to the promise that God always remembers, and especially remembers those who are in need, or who are oppressed, or who feel forgotten. That God remembers us all is the promise that gives us hope.
In the name of Jesus,
Allen W. Farabee
Posted in Newsletter
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