Such a lovely room

Such a lovely room

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Luther 500 Festival, Wittenberg, Germany

Luther 500 Festival, June 2019
Exodus 33:14-23
Romans 6:3-5
Luke 23:39-43

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Remember your baptism.  Has anyone ever said that to you before?  Remember your baptism?  Maybe you do remember, if you were baptized as an adult.  But given that most of us here are Lutheran (with an occasional Episcopalian thrown in for seasoning), I’m guessing that most of us were baptized as infants.  Without going into the theology behind the justification for baptizing people who have no idea they are being baptized, I just want to raise an obvious question.

We are told: Remember your baptism.  Great.  But can you remember a thing you never saw?  And what is it to remember a thing anyway?  Although we tend to  connect remembering to memory, there are other aspects of the word.  And we can see that by separating it into the prefix “re” and the root word “member.”  In the simplest terms, to remember something is to put it back together.  To re-member something, which is the opposite of dismembering something.  Which is a gross thought, so let’s not dwell on that.  To re-member a thing is to bring it back into being.  Give it form. Bring it back to reality.

In the United States, there was a time when people said, “Remember the Alamo,” in order to inspire the troops.  And, here in Germany, during the 30 Years War, people said, “Remember Magdeburg,” for a similar reason, and to create a similar reaction.    In those cases, calling people to remember something meant reminding them to consider the implication or the danger being faced, and inspire people to violence and vengeance.  Bring the previous slaughter of our people to mind, and see how that makes you feel.  Now go and do likewise.  Remembering is powerful stuff.

For Jewish people, being remembered is life itself.  As long as you are remembered, you are alive.  The Hebrew scriptures are full of references to being remembered by God.  Since God is eternal, being remembered by God is to have eternal life.  Forget me not, oh God.  So many of the psalms talk of seeking God’s face, of asking that God would not forsake us, or turn away from us.  Remember me, oh God, turn your face toward me, and do not forget me.

We want the face of God turned toward us, and not away from us.  And yet, no one can see God’s face and live.  The only one to have seen God was Moses, but from behind, and through a bush, and shielded by a rock.  (Ex. 33:18-23)  We cannot see God’s face, but we still want it to be turned toward us.  Because to be remembered by God is the pathway to everlasting life.

Remember your baptism.  Having memory of your baptism is impossible if you were an infant at the time  But the act of re-membering it—to bring it back into being, bring it back to reality, give it form and purpose—that we can do.  And we do it in this way:  By reminding ourselves that God remembers your baptism.  God’s face was turned directly toward you as you passed through the water.  Not through a bush behind a rock from the back.  No God’s face was turned fully toward you as you were baptized by name—and in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  On that day you were claimed as God’s own.  Forever.

And for that reason, like the thief on the cross, we too can turn with confidence to Jesus and say, “Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom.”  And Jesus does, will, and always will, and you too will be with him in paradise.

May God give us each the strength to remember that our baptism is remembered by God, the same God who will never leave us nor forsake us.


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