Posted on Mon, Apr 9, 2012
Rev. Dr. Merritt's Sermon for March 25, 2012
Now is the Time
Rev. Dr. Jim Merritt
March 25, 2012
Have you ever suffered with amnesia? Perhaps it was just momentary when you went from one room in your house to another and upon arriving there couldn’t remember why you were there. Perhaps you encountered a very good friend and suddenly could not remember her or his name. Those moments are embarrassing and yet we all experience this them. I thought about amnesia when I began reading the lectionary reading for today from Jeremiah that says, “this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, "Know the Lord," for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord (Jer. 31:33-34a). The opening words of the gospel lesson also reached out and grabbed me when I read, “Now is the time.” Here’s the thesis for my sermon today: We have the opportunity to benefit God’s love induced amnesia that allows us to turn away from the negativity in our lives and right ourselves with God and NOW IS THE TIME. Would you pray with me?
God we open our lives to you right here and now. We ask you to make our lives living examples of those committed to you. Make us wholly acceptable and pleasing to you this day. In Jesus’ name we pray. AMEN.
Professor David Lose, whom I also quoted last Sunday, shares a story. He writes, Just under two years ago I was at a family reunion, visiting with cousins that I hadn't seen in years because of our move from the East Coast to Minnesota. One of my cousins brought greetings from her father, a favorite uncle on mine. He is in the far stages of dementia, lives with the support and care of the staff of a long-term care facility, and was not able to come to this reunion. His daughter brought this greeting: "Tell my family that, although I do not remember them, I still love them."
Let me be clear about what I am preaching this morning. God is not suffering with dementia, nor is God suffering with amnesia. God is, however, absolutely consumed with love for you. God is not focused on what you did last night, what you did last year, what you are planning to do just as soon as this service is over and you can get on with your life. God is focused on the fact that you are God’s beloved. God is focused on the opportunity you and I have been given to align our lives with the message of scripture and God has a very clear and simple word for us this morning. NOW IS THE TIME. Scripture speaks to us when it says “though your sins be like scarlet, they shall be as pure as snow.” I want to be pure as freshly fallen snow this morning. As we approach the end of this Lenten season I want God to see my heart pure as I stand before God and the world. I want God to see a person who is doing his dead level best to make his life match with the message of Jesus and the all inclusive love of God even when I fall short of that goal. I want to be known as one who has taken full advantage of this season of preparation for the blessing of Easter when even death and the tomb did not overcome Jesus, my friend, my savior and the one upon whom I depend for every moment of my life. How about you?
It is a fact that sometimes we suffer in ways that make us question God. Sometimes we suffer, even as the people of God we suffer and I confess to you, I do not like it at all. I don’t like it when I suffer and furthermore, I don’t like it when you suffer. I don’t like it when people are sick and suffer with illness. I don’t like it when people are denied the opportunity to work at a job that pays them a living wage so they can provide for themselves and their families. I can hardly even imagine the shear agony and suffering experience by families like the family of that murdered little boy over in Sanford chased down and gunned down by a modern day vigilante while carrying nothing more than a can of coke, a cell phone and a bag of Skittles. I can’t stand it when people suffer like that. AND, yet I know that during times of suffering in my own life, I have been led into a valley where I can re-evaluate me. As my colleague the Rev. Dr. Mona West said this week, “my experience has taught me that it is often in those places of 'exile' or 'dying' to old attitudes, habits, my need to be perfect or right ...it is in those places that I hear the 'voice of the divine' in me. It is through those experiences that my covenant with the Divine is planted deep within.”
Hear me, my sisters and brothers. God has not forgotten about you. God has not turned God’s back on you. Even when you suffer, God is right there beside you. And it is in these times of suffering that we are given the opportunity to hear the voice of the Divine in ourselves. These are times when we can plant the presence of God deep within our own lives both emotionally and spiritually. Sisters and brothers, I have a question for you; Why wait? Now is the time. Now is the time for you to hear the voice of the Divine one inside of you. Now is the time for you to plant God’s presence deep inside the very core of your being. Now is the time for you to know that you know that you know that God has never walked away from you or turned God’s back on you or, as the Bible says, forsaken you. God does not have amnesia about you. God loves you and is always with you. Now is the time to experience that, to embrace it and to align our lives with the callings of God.
“Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself,” is the word of God. Now is the time for you to hear the voice of God drawing you to God’s self. Can you hear it? Will you allow yourself to hear it and more importantly, will you allow yourself to respond.
Henri Nouwen has written a wonderful little book called Life of The Beloved and in it he speaks of the ways we listen to all the voices outside of us that tell us we are not good enough, successful enough, thin enough, smart enough. But there is at our center a voice that says "you are my Beloved and on you my favor rests." Nouwen claims, "Every time you listen with great attentiveness to the voice that calls you the Beloved, you will discover within yourself a desire to hear that vice longer and more deeply. It is like discovering a well in the desert. Once you have touched wet ground, you want to dig deeper."
In closing, remember the words of this old Fanny Crosby hymn, “Jesus is tenderly calling you home, Calling today, calling today, Why from the sunshine of love will you roam, Farther and farther away? Calling today, calling today, Jesus is calling, is tenderly calling today. Jesus is calling the weary to rest, Calling today, calling today, Bring Him your burden and you shall be blest; He will not turn you away.”
Now is the time. Hear the Divine voice of God in you. Plant that message deep within the core of your being. And run to Jesus, live with Jesus, live for Jesus, and hold on to Jesus wherever you are.
God bless you. AMEN.