A Church for Amnesiacs

 
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There are few things more frightening than the loss of memory. I have cried with many spouses who watch as their loved one slowly fails to remember important times in their lives, the names of their precious children, or even the identity of the one they’ve spent years with building these memories.

Memory loss can be isolating and lonely. Not only are the amnesiac’s memories stolen, so are his or her identity and relationships with others in the present. Recent research shows that amnesia also makes it difficult for the individual to imagine the future. Past, present, and future: it all goes together.

We don’t have to look very hard in the Bible to find examples of memory loss - they are everywhere. The whole drama began when Adam and Eve forgot both God’s commands and His very identity. Next, we find God repeating His promise to Abraham, usually because Abraham forgets the promise and acts accordingly. Then, of course, the Israelites suffered daily memory loss as they continued to forget how God saved them from slavery, parted the waters, fed them from the sky, etc.  

Even after Jesus made it clear in His actions and commands that God’s grace is for all sinners, the apostles forgot the promises they received from their Savior. Instead, they huddled in a dark room without memory of the hope of His resurrection. Later, even after receiving the vision of God making all foods available for eating, Peter chose to continue to sit with Gentiles (Acts 10:9-15). And the first churches continually forgot the basic teachings proclaimed to them by Christ; in turn requiring Paul to remind them of the Gospel in his letters.

Even after Jesus made it clear in His actions and commands that God’s grace is for all sinners, the apostles forgot the promises they received from their Savior.
— Joel Hess

How many times have I sat with a long-standing member of Christ’s body as they express, through tears, their forgetfulness of God’s promises of salvation, forgiveness, and resurrection? Yet surely I am the worst amnesiac of them all.  Scared by the news of the world, the darkness of the culture, the illusions of temporary pleasures and successes, I daily live as if Christ had not died and risen for me and the world.

Our world is a frightening place when we forget what God has done for us, is doing and will do in the future. This amnesia robs us of our memory, our identity, and disconnects us from our neighbor and the One who loves us.

Thank God, He remembers when we forget, and He sends us friends in Christ to remind us. When we are staring at the grave of our spouse or terrorized by consequence of our sins, we need someone to wake us up and to retell the story of our past and our future in Christ. Every message I preach, I partly assume I am preaching to amnesiacs like myself. Perhaps every Sunday morning and every pronouncement of forgiveness seems like Ground Hog day. Many may say, “Haven’t I heard this before?” Yes, you have, and by God’s grace you will keep on hearing it. Jesus died for sinners. Jesus rose for the dying. You are forgiven, and you will rise too. You have been adopted into God’s family by the blood of Christ. You have a heavenly Father who provides for you. You have brothers and sisters in Christ. You are not alone. It will be ok.

Though we may forget, God does not. Though our memory may fail us, God remembers.
— Joel Hess

Though we may forget, God does not. Though our memory may fail us, God remembers. He remembers His promise to you. He is faithful. Yet oddly enough, He also forgets! Jesus death and resurrection for us render God an amnesiac in a very specific way. When He looks at you through His Son, He does not hold our crucifixion of Jesus against us, let alone our angry words, lustful thoughts, even our weak faith! When our memory fails us, God remembers. He remembers so He can, in turn, forget our sin.

Welcome to the church for Amnesiacs.

Rev. Joel Hess is the fortunate pastor at Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Cadillac, MI, where God’s reality pierces through our illusions by His Word, flesh and blood and gentle waters.  He is the author of many half written projects; a talented musician and artist.  His contributions to the Jagged Word deal with the intersection of theology, culture and the arts.




 

 

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