22nd Sunday after Pentecost – C (Proper 27) LSB #’s 802, 611, 727
Text – Exodus 3:15
God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac & the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, & thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.”
Failure to Remember
Three older men are undergoing a memory test at the doctor’s office. The doctor asks, “What is three times three?” The first man answers, “274.” The 2nd man answers, “Tuesday.” The 3rd man answers, “Nine.” The doctor, pleasantly surprised at the 3rd man’s correct response, says, “Great! How did you get that answer?” “Simple. Just subtract 274 from Tuesday.”
It can be the elephant in the room, when an aging congregation like ours gathers together on Sunday morning. Failure to remember your multiplication tables, what you’re doing or where you’re going causes frustration in the least & fear at the worst. Dementia is one of the harsh realities of aging in a creation that has been corrupted by sin.
Sadly, it is not only physical illness that causes failure to remember. The spiritual illness of sin causes us to actively forget who created us, who redeemed us & who will raise us from the dead. And even when we remember who God is, we often confine Him to a tiny little box. We allow Him to influence only a small portion of our hectic lives.
For example, when it comes to Holy Communion, people like to explain that it is a personal matter directly & only between themselves & God. They do not acknowledge God’s ability or even desire to work through anyone else outside their own narrowly defined boundaries. It’s an attempt to limit God’s will to their comfort zone.
Each of us is guilty of that – trying to limit Yahweh to our own safe space. It’s something our sinful nature does effortlessly. The Exodus reading gives a clear example. The Lord said, “‘Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.’ But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh…’” Things were getting way out of his comfort zone. He did not appreciate how God was working outside the narrow boundaries in which Moses was trying to contain Yahweh. You & I understand how Moses felt because the Holy Spirit also works outside of our comfort zone.
Have you been asked to teach Sunday School, serve on the board of elders, count the offerings, volunteer in the school, lead a home group Bible study? Were any of those outside your comfort zone? I’m certain you could add to that list. Sin closes our mind in upon itself, taking away our God-given freedom to serve others wherever His Spirit calls.
We feel pressure instead of joy. We feel anxiety instead of peace. We are so familiar with fear yet we are unacquainted with heavenly confidence. We live puny little lives because the spiritual illness of sin causes us to actively forget Who created us, Who redeemed us, & that Yahweh Himself will raise us from the dead.
“The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac & the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.” (Exodus 3:15 ESV) Like Moses, your pastor has been sent to tell you that repenting of your sins & believing that Jesus has forgiven them will set you free to love others as you already love yourself. As sinful beings we actively fail to remember that.
“The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac & the God of Jacob,” has created you, redeemed you & He will raise you from the dead on the Last Day. He is not a puny little god who can be tucked away into the narrow confines of your selfish comfort zone. He is not simply your own personal God.
That’s why He reveals Himself to Moses as He does, “…the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac & the God of Jacob.” Yahweh is not simply our puny little personal God, whom we can manipulate or control. He is the God of Abraham, Isaac & Jacob, which means He is the God of all Creation & the God of thousands of years of history. Yahweh transcends anything that human beings can discover, & He is fully aware of every single thing any of us will ever do. Failing to remember such a God is the epitome of foolishness. In fact, failure to remember the God who saves is a direct result of sin.
Failure to remember Yahweh is an accurate diagnosis of how our nation got to where we find ourselves today. After the people of Israel had been rescued from Egypt, before they enter the Promised Land, these words were given to them by God:
“Make certain that you do not forget the Lord your God; do not fail to obey any of His laws that I am giving you today. When you have all you want to eat & have built good houses to live in & when your cattle & sheep, your silver & gold, & all your other possessions have increased, be sure that you do not become proud & forget the Lord your God who rescued you from Egypt, where you were slaves.” (Deuteronomy 8:11-14 GNT)
A majority of the people in our nation are suffering from a failure to remember the Lord, & all that He has done to grant us blessings. God instituted the Passover so the Israelites would remember that Yahweh rescued them from Egypt. Jesus instituted Holy Communion, not only to forgive our sins, but that we might remember how Jesus rescued us from slavery to sin.
Our failure to remember God destroys the blessings that He gives. Our failure to remember God can destroy the lives of other human beings in addition to our own life. Look at our nation – something like 70% of us feel that we’re headed in the wrong direction, & there’s nowhere near 70% of Americans today who truly follow Jesus. Almost everyone sees it.
When Jonah was sent to the city of Nineveh, to warn them of their coming destruction, miraculously, they repented. They confessed their sin & turned back to God, demonstrated by putting on sackcloth & refusing to eat or drink.
That clearly is not happening in this country, & there are no obvious signs of mass repentance. Instead, our leaders are doubling down on their immoral & godless policies. In the reading from Exodus, God’s people in Egypt were also suffering under a pagan religion & government. Then the Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt & have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, & I have come down to deliver them…” (Exodus 3:7-8 ESV)
When the fullness of time had come, God came down, through Moses, to deliver His people. He did that in the Exodus from Egypt. He did that when He was born in Bethlehem. He will do that again on the Last Day, when the trumpet sounds & the dead in Christ will rise. Then, all the evil of this world will be separated from those who trust in Jesus.
The problem we have is that human beings are completely incapable of remembering Yahweh as we should. The evidence is everywhere in our world. We are not able to save ourselves. Our Creator is fully aware of that, so He remembers us, just as He remembered the people of Abraham, Isaac & Jacob. He inspired the OT prophet Jeremiah to write, 31:19-20:
“‘Is Ephraim My dear son? Is he a delightful child? Indeed, as often as I have spoken against him, I certainly still remember him; therefore, My heart yearns for him; I will surely have mercy on him,’ declares the Lord.” Ephraim is just another name for the people of Israel. To be Israel was to hear God & to do what one heard, but Ephraim never found his way.
So Yahweh sent a new Israel, a new Son, one who would remember in our place. A Son who would hear God & do what He heard, again, in our place. This Son would remember the deeds of Yahweh, most especially the salvation that He brings. Even while hanging on the cross Jesus trusted in God for salvation, “Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit.” (Luke 23:46 ESV)
And the NT apostle John wrote, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, He will teach you all things & bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (14:26 ESV) All that we need to remember is that Yahweh has called us to be His child, & that is enough to be saved. Yet, we have the opportunity to do far more than merely being saved. God’s heart longs to work through us to share the love of Jesus Christ in our thoughts, words & deeds. He even prepares those deeds in advance for us to do.
Looking at the state of our nation, & another election, how inadequate we feel, like Moses, when confronted with what appears to be an insurmountable task. And yet, what joy we receive when we recognize Yahweh’s hand guiding us as we pray & as we work.
The text in Exodus begins the account of God’s great act of liberation of His people Israel in the OT. It is also a foreshadowing of His much greater act of redemption of all people through His Son Jesus in the NT. Followers of Jesus, throughout history, have heard God’s Word & experienced His love & compassion. His salvation is real no matter what we are afraid of.
You & I have received His body & blood in the Lord’s Supper & been washed in the waters of Baptism, yet our actions constantly return to self-focus & away from Christ-focus. Daily, we fail to remember the name of our God & what He has done. Our comfort & our confidence is that Yahweh never ever forgets us.
Our spiritual dementia, we could call it original sin, has already been overcome by Jesus. Yahweh hears our cries of suffering. He sees our oppression. He understands & He came down at Bethlehem to deliver us. Our failure to remember is not a good or pleasant thing, yet it does not mean the end of us. For that we thank Jesus. Amen.
Oh, the height of Jesus’ love, higher than the heavens above, deeper than the depths of sea, lasting as eternity! Love that found me – wondrous thought! Found me when I sought Him not. O my Savior, help afford by Your Spirit & Your Word! When my wayward heart would stray, keep me in the narrow way; grace in time of need supply while I live & when I die. Amen. LSB 611:2, 5.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet