23 October 2008

Wednesday Night Reflection: "Remember"

Jeremiah 31.31-36: The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 32It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, master');" onmouseout="return nd();"> says the Lord. 33But 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. 34No 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; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

I had a terrible day with my girls yesterday.

Since I'd been out of town at our Synod Theological Conference Sunday night through Tuesday afternoon, I stayed home yesterday to watch the girls and catch up on some home chores. But the catching up didn't really happen until our nanny came at 2:30, and here's why. First, Ainsley refused to sleep at naptime. She decided, instead, to jump off her bed onto the floor for a few minutes, then empty out a drawer onto the floor. Wash, rinse, repeat. For 45 minutes. Why, one might ask, would Daddy allow this to go on for 45 minutes? Because Alanna has suddenly developed an aversion to heretofore-beloved swing. She fell asleep in my arms three times, and each time I put her into the swing, she promptly went into "meltdown" mode and was screaming bloody murder by the time I reached the top of the stairs to check on Ainsley. I wound up holding one screaming three month-old and consoling a screaming toddler who wanted to be held but couldn't be. For 20 minutes. Not fun.

Today? I don't remember yesterday. I don't mean that I've forgotten what happened: what I mean is that it doesn't have anything to do with how I treated our girls this morning. We love our children, and in that love their less-than-stellar moments aren't what we remember.

This coming Sunday is Reformation Sunday for those of us in the Protestant vein of the Church. While I have a deep love for all things Luther, and while we will indeed celebrate Dr. Martin's part in the incredible events of his time, Reformation Sunday is not about the reformers. It isn't even about the period we commonly call "The Reformation," although of course that time does figure into what we say and do each week in worship. What we celebrate, primarily, is the ongoing reformation of God's church: the continuing revelation of the gospel in ways that surprise, transform, and equip us for the times in which we live. We do not celebrate a period that ended 400 years ago: we celebrate the work of the Spirit which continues to reform the church today.

Our reading from Jeremiah is one such example of what it is we celebrate. In Luther's time, the church (and by that I mean "WE the church") had come to believe that God was continually angry at sinners, and our primary means of grace was propitiating our angry God through acts of penance and, frankly, superstitious practices like buying indulgences and donating huge gifts to the church (which would earn grace in return). But the Spirit revealed to the reformers that God is indeed merciful, beyond our understanding. One of my former seminary professors says that Jeremiah's words reminded him of being told not to play ball in the house as a child. Of course, he did play ball in the house, and soon a vase that was a wedding gift to his parents lay at his feet, shattered beyond repair. God looks at the pieces of that vase, at the damage we have done to ourselves and to our relationship with God, and chooses grace for our future. "I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sins no more." These are not the words of a furious tyrant who must be appeased: these are the words of a loving parent who knows full well the sins of the child - but God our loving parent chooses grace and forgiveness, and we, God's children, can do nothing to earn that love or make it more than what it already is.

Instead of our sin, God remembers the love in which we were created. We do not fear an angry, judgmental tyrant who must be appeased. We are loved by our Creator, who calls us to remember the ways in which we have been loved in the past. This is the great gift of the ongoing reformation of the church: the call of God to remember, always, that in our baptism we are the children of God, and if children, then heirs according to God's promise.

Remember, always, that God remembers you: not because of the sins you've committed, but out of love for the child of wonder, the child of God, that you are. Amen.

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