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Knoxville, TN, United States
Interim Pastor of Evergreen Presbyterian Church (USA), Dothan, AL.

Sunday, May 10, 2015


2015-05-10 Remember

Psalm 98


The assigned scripture for today has nothing at all to do with Mother's Day. The Bible does not mention Mother's Day even once. I find that very disappointing. God should correct that in the next edition. Because just after Christmas Eve and Easter, Mother's Day forms the third point in the church's Axis of Attendance. Even if you're only at church today to prove to your mom that you're not a worshiper of Satan, I'm glad you're here. Your mother and I are always happy to see you, whatever the reason. Of course, it would never hurt if you stopped by or just called a little more often so we wouldn't worry something had happened to you. But we're not trying to make you feel guilty. We're just happy you haven't completely forgotten us.


Forgetting. That IS a problem. For all of us. Even for God.


The Bible says to honor our fathers and mothers. Mother's Day is about honoring our mothers, or at least trying to make up for the days we didn't. Americans will spend $20.7 BILLION dollars on Mother's Day - that's combined, not individually. Ironically, when moms were asked what they'd like to receive for Mother's Day, you know what the number one answer was? Something homemade. Lucky for you, churches keep lots of construction paper. You know what was way down at the bottom of the list of what moms want? Electronics. I just don't get women. (http://www.statisticbrain.com/mothers-day-statistics/)


$20.7 billion dollars. It's a sign. It's a sign of how much we love our mothers. It's a sign of how guilty we feel for not saying so or acting like it the rest of the year. The cards are a sign. There are two extremes on Mother's Day cards. There are the ones with no pictures, just those long, long poems that go from the outside to the inside that not one male has ever completely read. At the other extreme are the funny ones. The funny cards say seem to say more about the person sending them. With hip expressions and embedded apologies. These are some real examples.


It's mother's day,

So thank you Mom

You ought to know

That you're da' bomb!


Or this one.


Roses are red,

Windex is blue.

Thanks for keeping everything clean,

I really appreciate it.


Or this.


I'm glad that you're my mother,

kind and caring and strong.

Coz surely no-one else,

Could have put up with me this long!


Probably not.


Mother's Day is a day of honoring. But to get to the honor, we have to wind our way through a funny little bit of confession and guilt and remembering.


Which brings us – finally – to today's scripture. Psalm 98. It's not an entirely different kind of poem.




O sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things.


So, no, the scripture isn't about mothers, it's about God. About singing to God a new song. About making a joyful noise unto the Lord. About playing musical instruments, like handbells, like the piano. And not just about people, but the whole earth singing praise to God. Seas roaring. Waves clapping their hands. Hills alive with the sound of music. For God has done marvelous things.


The scripture today isn't about mothers, but it IS about celebrating. It's about celebrating a very special day. A new day. A day on which we pay attention, on which we remember, when we look back on all the marvelous things God has done in the last 364, back in all the days and years before.


The Psalm says, sing a new song, a joyful song. Think about that. What does that mean? That our old songs weren't so joyful? Does it mean that our old attitudes were careless, unobservant, rote? Does it mean that those old songs, those old patterns of behaving have taken God for granted, just as for granted as we often take members of our own families?


Or does it mean even more? Look carefully. It says:


O sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things…. The Lord has made known his victory; he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations. He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness….


Wait a minute. Did you catch that? It said, "He has REMEMBERED." "HE has remembered." What's that about? What's it saying about God?


It's saying that NOT the GIVER of the card, but the RECEIVER is the one who forgot. God forgot his own steadfast love and faithfulness. GOD forgot.


Maybe God took his people for granted. Maybe God got tired of putting up with these ingrates, of cleaning up their messes, of reading old, worn-out cards once a year about how much we love you even if we don't show it and by the way here are some flowers what's for supper?


Or maybe God just got distracted. For whatever reason, the people, the earth itself, felt as though God had forgotten them. It felt like God had gone away.


Have you ever felt as though God has forgotten you? Have you ever felt as though God needs a nudge, or a push, or a yell? Show yourself, you forgetful, invisible deity. Wake up! Because it feels like the whole world is swirling down the flushing drain and you don't care. Have you ever felt that way? About the world? About yourself?




The closing lines of this celebration-day poem never really seemed to me to fit.


Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills sing together for joy at the presence of the Lord (that part is fine)… for he is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.


Judge the earth. Judge the world. Judge the peoples. Maybe I've got too much of my own confession and guilt to wind through before that much judgment sounds like cause for singing. Because this forgetting thing goes both ways.


See, I'm forgetful. But God remembers. God remembers the earth. God remembers the world. God remembers the peoples. With righteousness and a huge equity boost, God DOES show himself. Remember? That's why we made such a big deal about Easter. God DOES show himself, in truth, in fullness, in Christ. God remembers. But we forget.


We forget – that God so loves the world. We forget – that the seas do roar and the waves do clap their hands and that we can see it and hear it if we wake up and pay attention. We forget the strangers we'd rather ignore. We forget the loved ones we accidentally take for granted. We forget they're both signs of God's revealed, restored memory. We forget that life itself is such an unlikely, improbable, almost impossible miracle of countless resurrections. That we're here at all is such a celebration of creation's relentless tenacity and of God's willingness to think twice. Oh sing! Sing! Sing a new song because nothing else is enough. Make something up. Make some noise. Make joyful noise – not because you should and you feel guilty if you don't, but because, you, can. God is coming to judge the earth, to judge the world with righteousness, to judge the peoples with equity – so you – don't – have to. Remember. Remember how free God has set us. As free as the waves. As alive as the earth in spring.


Sing a new song unto the Lord. We call this Mother's Day. And that's good. But even better: this is the day that the Lord has made. Let us remember. Let us rejoice in it. Because God remembers, and God rejoices – in us – and in all this fragile, forgettable, and forgiving song of creation.