This sermon was proclaimed in the community of Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Holladay, UT on May 9, 2021. It can be viewed on our YouTube channel: Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church SLC.
The texts were:
Acts 10: 44-48
John 15: 9-17
Young Friends message: Helping each other remember: What do you remember about the two bible stories that were just read? (Have the children/youth work together to piece the story together-solicit assistance from the congregation if necessary.) Great work! It’s sometimes hard to remember each part of a story on our own, unless we’ve heard it many times or wrote it ourselves. Even if it’s our own story, sometimes when we retell it we still forget some pieces of it don’t we? Well, that true for us all and it was true for the disciples in our Acts and John stories today. Jesus was trying to give his disciples ways to remember not only himself, but how God loved them, and everyone no matter what. But the disciples continued to forget. In the Acts story, Peter had to be reminded by the Holy Spirit, God in action, that the people whom Peter didn’t know and didn’t have anything in common with, were part of God’s beloved people too. It’s really hard for us to remember that people we don’t know, we don’t like or who don’t like us, get the same love and care from God that we do. And if we’re honest, we sometimes purposely forget that don’t we-when we decide to be mean to someone, or ignore them when their hurt, or whatever. This is what we’re going to talk about today, human rights. Human rights is when we all remember, all people, that all people deserve God’s love and care no matter what. It’s really hard, and it’s why Jesus kept telling the disciples and us different ways to remember that and how we remind each other of that fact. Human rights means that each person, each body, is sacred and should be allowed to live as such, with food, housing, safety, able to make their own decisions for their own body, etc. And Jesus wants us to remember this. We’re going to talk a little more about that and wrestle with some questions about it. I want you to talk with us.
I’m noticing that as I get older, my memory isn’t as good as it used to be. You know, you walk into a room and can’t remember why? Or remember the name of someone I’ve known a long time or even just met? Or the pesky question for me, where is my phone? So I sometimes go through an elaborate thought process or even physical process of retracing my steps, trying to jog my memory to remember this allegedly important thing. What was I doing before? What was I doing or thinking that made my mind move on from why I came into this room, what task I needed to do or object to find. Our memory, what our brain records or chooses not to record, is a fascinating subject of study. You can google it and find enough research to read that will keep you busy the rest of your life. How our brain records traumatic memories, happy memories, how all five of our senses contribute to memory, with smell and sound, it turns out, activating our memories the most effectively. Most of the time, what I forget is non-essential, but you all have known me for two years now and yes, I do occasionally forget “important” things, like a meeting or to do a certain task that then holds everyone else up. My bad! Often times, it’s because I’ve stretched myself too thin and have overestimated my capacity. I’ve put doing things above how I relate to people. I need to be reminded of what truly matters, reminded of who matters and why.
In reading through the social message on human rights this week in tandem with the Acts 10 and John 15 passages, I was at first overwhelmed with the enormity of the implications of it all. And I guess I still am, as what I constantly wrestle with is the question: “why do we even have to name that all people, each and every person on this planet, deserves to have dignity, worth, agency and autonomy?” It’s maddening and that question can lead me to despair. But then it struck me this week, we have to name this because we forget. And let’s be clear, it’s not that only some world leaders whom we might label as despicable or evil forget, or corporations only after money forget, I forget, you forget. I forget that when I buy something that is inexpensive off the internet, that I am taking advantage of someone’s right to a living wage. I forget that not everyone has the access to healthcare that I do, and I’m denying their human right to care and wholeness. I forget that what I assume is my success because of my intellect, or skill, and I’m negating the powers that have privileged me and oppressed my neighbor. I even wonder when I forget to not offer a smile or a hello to a stranger on my walk or run if I’m denying their connection to me and humanness. I forget that small actions matter. I forget that my decisions affect other people around me, I forget that it’s not about me.
Peter had quickly forgotten that the good news of Jesus wasn’t just for him and others who were like him. He heard Jesus say it over and over and would get it and remember it for about three seconds before he’d forget. But God reminded him over and over. The Holy Spirit interrupted him, interrupted his perhaps sanitized and clinical retelling of the good news of Jesus and messily poured out grace, love and mercy to all gathered there, jogging Peter’s memory that God’s presence doesn’t stay in human order. These alleged outsiders (no one is an outsider to God, that’s a term solely based on human faulty memory of connection) received God’s promises BEFORE they were baptized! God’s promise of flourishing and abundant life for all people always is a something that God never forgets.
Jesus tries to give the disciples images, metaphors, prayers, anything he can to help them remember that they are attached, connected to God, the life source that never forgets. Jesus calls them friends, which means being attached to someone. People will remember that we are attached to Jesus when we remember this too. We can jog each other’s memory by lying down our life, which here in the Greek, doesn’t necessarily mean our physical life, it can, but just like there are different words for “love” in Greek, so there are different words for “life.” The life Jesus wants us to remember here, is our soul, our ego, our being. We lay down our need to be right, our forgetfulness that we’re connected. Our forgetfulness that when we look at any other human being, we are looking at Christ, himself. Our forgetfulness that when we look in the mirror, we are looking at Christ.
We’re going to take a few minutes in small groups to ponder this with the following questions. If you don’t get to them all, it’s ok:
- How can we as Church (God’s witness on earth), use our voice, actions and finances to promote and ensure human rights and flourishing?
- How do you define solidarity? Give an example of solidarity from your own experience or what you’ve witnessed.
- How might we be proactive to ensure that human rights abuses don’t manifest to begin with?
We are indeed a forgetful people. But God always remembers this. God sent Jesus to jog our memories back to the garden when we dwelled with God. Jesus wants us to remember that we live together, we are interconnected whether we like it or not and whether we remember it or not. We must be each other’s memory of every person created in God’s very image. We must use every gift, skill, effort, time that we have to jog the memory of Church and community leaders, neighbors, that we are not strangers, we are all friends, attached to each other, attached to the planet and creation. We can’t forget that we are attached. It’s why gathering as God’s people each week matters, not for us, but for God to remind us through water, wine and bread, that as we go back to our daily lives, we’re attached, for the sake of reminding the world of who and what matters: The good news of Jesus that interrupts our amnesia, that pours this love out on people whom we’d never suspect, who don’t share our backgrounds, status or beliefs, and we are invited by the love, grace, and mercy of Jesus Christ, to stay with these new friends, be connected, not through what we do or say, but through who God is, our memory of love and life for all. Our memory that can spur us to ensure that all people remember and live in unity, dignity, and worth. Amen.