Outdoor Worship Service

Preached: September 9, 2007

Precious Memories
Selected Passages

Proverbs 22:6

Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it. (NIV)

This is the Word of our Lord.

Dear friends in Christ, fellow children of God:

A smell can bring a long past memory vividly to life. Maybe the smell of chalk and books takes you back to your days in school. Or the smell of dry leaves brings up a fall afternoon long ago playing in the yard, jumping in the leaf piles. What precious memories of childhood!

But far more important is what you learned on your father's knee and in your mother's lap. “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6 NIV).

What a vital role God gives to parents! How you start your child in life sets them on the path for good or for ill. No wonder after the first three commandments that direct us to fear, love, and trust in God, God commands: Honor your father and your mother. For they are his instruments to train and bless us.

What a debt of thanks we owe our parents for the good they trained us in! Often we failed to appreciate or understand the training at the time. But now give thanks to God for the good he brought you through them and let your parents know your thanks. And even though our memories may include times our parents failed, for they too were sinners, learn from Jesus to forgive them. For Jesus has forgiven you and me countless more wrongs we've done against him than our parents could ever have done against us.

“Train a child in the way he should go” (Proverbs 22:6 NIV). This is not just mother's work. God holds fathers responsible first. Ephesians 6 says, “Fathers, do not exasperate you children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4 NIV). And to help parents in such vital work, he gives you your fellow believers as he tells his church: “Feed my lambs.”

And what is this training in the Lord all about? Yes, we want to train our children to know right from wrong and to be good citizens. But that's not what this training in the Lord is all about. Aesop's fables, pagan philosophers, and even the Berenstain Bears, Barney, and Sesame Street can teach good behavior.

Train the child in the way he should go, that is, in the path of faith that trusts in Jesus as his or her only Savior from sin. The path of faith trusts that Jesus is our Lord who ransomed us to be his own. That's training in the Lord. That's why we bring our children to Jesus, isn't it? We bring them to Jesus, not so he can be a second law-giver to lay down the rules for them. We bring them to Jesus to wash away their sins. Isn't that what you did when you brought your child to be baptized? That was the beginning of that training in the Lord, that training in the path of faith.

You may have many memories from years of growing up. But cherish most the memories of what Jesus has done for you to save you from sin and death. Whether your parents or someone else trained you to trust in Jesus, cherish those precious memories. For he hung on that cross bleeding for you. He conquered death to give you the victory. Then with child-like faith trained to trust in Jesus, you can sing, “Jesus loves me, he who died, Heaven's gates to open wide; He has washed away my sin. Let this little child come in.” Amen.

Romans 5:6-8

What a friend we have in Jesus! But what a different kind of friend! He's not our buddy to chum around with or our pal to goof off with. Those kinds of friends are drawn together because they like each other. That's how we choose our friends. We choose people we like or that share interests that we like. We form memories of pleasant times together, enjoying each other's company.

Jesus is a different kind of friend. “What a friend we have in Jesus, All our sins and griefs to bear!” (Christian Worship 411). That tells us the difference. We are sinners. What was there for Jesus to like about us? Nothing! We were dirty, stinking sinners; he is the holy One. We were rebels; he is the obedient Son. We were God-haters; he is God incarnate. There was nothing likable in us. And we didn't share any common likes. We began life filled with evil desires, hating whatever God liked. We were empty of all good. Other sinners may find us likable, since they are like us. But our sin made us a revolting, stench in God's nostrils.

But nonetheless God's love reached out for you. While we were still ungodly sinners, dirty and stinky, loveless and unlovable, God loved you. The Father opened his arms and gave you his only-begotten Son. The Son opened his arms and was nailed to the cross for you. And now that he has taken up his life again, he opens his arms and carries you close to his heart in his nail pierced hands. The Good Shepherding carrying his sheep.

A little boy, dirty and stinky from a hard day of play, once asked his mother, “How much do you love me?” “A whole lot,” she answered. “Do you love me this much?” he asked, reaching as high as he could. “More,” his mother said. “Do you love me as tall as the tallest tree?” “More,” his mother said. “Do you love me as high as the highest cloud?” “More,” his mother said. “How much do you love me?” he asked once again. She opens her arms and hugs him close to her heart. “This is how much,” she says.

Look to the cross and know how much Jesus loves you. See him open his arms for you. This is what he did for you, before you were his child, while we were still stinky sinners.

Romans 5: You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6-8 NIV).

This is the Word of our Lord.

1 Corinthians 10:13

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. (NIV)

This is the Word of our Lord.

Dear friends in Christ, fellow pilgrims traveling through this desert dreary:

Not all memories are precious. We have all gone through traumatic experiences that we cannot forget no matter how much we would like too. Sometimes time lessens the trauma or even takes it away entirely, changing it to a better memory. For example, imagine the trauma of a little boy in a crowded room running up to Dad's pants leg and holding on. But as he looks up, it's not Dad. As traumatic as that may be for a three-year old, later in life we laugh at that.

But many traumas don't go away. Their memory haunts us. The guilt from a past sin tempts us to doubt God's forgiveness. The trauma of losing a loved one tempts us to be angry with God. The trauma of a financial setback tempts us to worry. The trauma of sickness tempts us to question God's fairness. And it may not be a single, major trauma that tempts us but simply the ongoing stresses of life that wear us down. What are you struggling with now? What might you face tomorrow?

Listen to what the Holy Spirit says to you through the words of the Apostle Paul, “God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear” (1 Corinthians 10:13 NIV). That's God's promise to you. He keeps his promise. He is faithful.

“But pastor,” you might say, “you just don't know how hard it is for me.” And in a way you're right. I, too, have struggles. I, too, am a sinner. I listen and try to understand where you're coming from as best I can. I can empathize and sympathize with you. But in the end I cannot fully know your heart and mind and life, your struggles, hardships and sufferings. But God does. He knows you inside and out. He is the one that had Paul write for you, “God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear” (1 Corinthians 10:13 NIV).

Paul certainly knew how traumatic life could be. He writes in 2 Corinthians, and this doesn't even include the later part of his ministry, “Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea. I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the country, in danger at sea, and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have gone without food; I have been cold and naked” (2 Corinthians 11:24-27 NIV). But he who suffered so writes, “God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear” (1 Corinthians 10:13 NIV).

Yes, God is faithful. “He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Corinthians 10:13 NIV). He provides a way out. That doesn't mean you won't have to go through the trauma. The way out may be right through the middle of the trauma. But God's way out always brings you closer to your Savior, Jesus. He gives you the strength through his promises. Yes, through his promises in the Scriptures and in the Sacraments, he gives you the strength to stand up no matter how great the load. His promises provide the way out.

Go to Jesus. Find him in his Word and Sacraments. His promise of forgiveness drives away guilt and despair. His promise of care and help drive out worry. His promise of love, peace, and joy drive out the frustrations and angers of life. And his promise of heaven reminds us that the ultimate way out is when he takes us from this vale of tears to our heavenly home. There he wipes away every tear from your eyes. No more trauma. His gracious promises are our precious memories. They are your strength. Amen.

1 John 4:19

We love because he first loved us. (NIV)

This is the Word of our Lord.

Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints of God:

Pictures record our precious memories. How true that is especially for weddings! Most couples have many pictures of that day, often at least one on display in their home.

What a special day that is! Over the years that celebration has grown. The church records indicate that years ago couples often got married in a private ceremony at the parsonage. How different today! Guests are invited. A celebration planned. No expense is spared. The couple wants everyone to know their love for one another.

But as great as the love of a bride and groom on their wedding day is, Jesus love for you is greater. He is the groom. He took you and me, harlots and prostitutes to sins that we were, and gave himself up for us. He washed us in the water and word of Baptism. He dressed you and me in the wedding gown of his righteousness. He presented us to himself as his church, a radiant bride, without blemish, stain, or wrinkle. What a love he has shown to you!

Because he loved you first, respond to his love. Love your groom, Jesus Christ. Show that love as you love one another. Yes, love one another just as Jesus loved you. By this all will know that you are his bride.

And what better way to share his love than to tell others about him! Just as a bride and groom want all to know their love celebrated on their wedding day and recorded in pictures, so all the more we want others to know the love of our groom, Jesus Christ, recorded in his Word. Then they, too, can share in the precious memories united with us to the groom, awaiting the heavenly wedding banquet. So tell that true, true story of Jesus and his love.

Pastor Gregg Bitter

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
859 5th Street
Hancock, MN 56244
(320) 392-5313