the fifth sunday in lent

Reflecting on the Journey
It’s not church that’s never forgotten; it’s Christ!

For three or four months, now, each time a third Sunday rolled around, my thoughts would go to the same place. Not – as usual – to a verse or two of the bible, but to a piece of Americana. I’d think about it, a day or two, and, then, move on to something else. Something a little more … churchy! But each time, every time, the next thirdSunday would come along. There it was, again. Waiting for me.

For those of you not familiar with our routine, here at Midland Lutheran, a couple years ago, we set aside the day – like this one – to focus our attention on the journey we’ve been taking. The journey through the pandemic, to be sure. But even more so, the one we’ve been on – through the valley and the shadow of starting over. And for the past few months, it’s been a line from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address that’s haunted me. Not the part about four score and seven. Or a government of, by, and for the people. But a line somewhere around the middle. So, this month, for better or worse, I figure I’d, just, follow my instincts. Trust my intuition. The line is this …

“The world will little note nor long remember what we say here …”
“The world will little note nor long remember what we say here …”

Those are the words that keep playing and replaying through my mind. The line that echoes, over and over, among my thoughts. Like one of those songs that have no end.

The world will little note …
The world will little note …
The world will little note …

Not exactly something we’d cross-stitch and hang on the wall. To motivate. To inspire. And definitely not something to make the multitude stand up and shout, “Amen!” But over the last few months, I’ve realized that there’s a lot of truth to it. And truth seldom provokes, rarely prompts, the masses. “The world will little note nor long remember what we say here …” Sounds like a t-shirt I bought and wore only once. “Preach the gospel. Die. Be forgotten.” It may be truth. But I soon realized people didn’t want to see it.

But think about it. Midland Lutheran is just one congregation in a denomination of thousands! We’re two-to-three dozen people among millions. And me? I‘m just one of sixteen thousand pastors. To make matters worse, we’re out here on the frontier. Isolated on the plains of West Texas. Insulated from most people like us. So, it’s probably an understatement. “The world will little note nor long remember …” Shoot! Truth is, the world doesn’t even know we’re here! We’re like the baptizer! Only without the crowd! In the wilderness, crying out! And if a voice cries out in the wilderness and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? The world will little note nor long remember what we say here. What we do here. What we dream, what we dare.

It’s kind of a depressing thought. Discouraging. Disheartening. Why bother? Why make the effort? Last one out, turn off the lights. Close the door. Call it quits. After all, that would be the smart thing to do. That’s what most small, struggling congregations do. Wash their hands of the whole thing and walk away. So, who are we? What are we? Compared to so many others. We’ve had our brief, our shining. That’s more than most. Besides, the world will little note nor long remember. Sure, we’ll have our moment. But then, we’ll be forgotten. Like millions of other congregations, like billions of other believers, before us. And this would be when I’d start thinking about something else to preach. Something more upbeat, more optimistic. But this time, I decided to read the whole line, one last time …

“The world will little note nor long remember what we say here …
but it can never forget what they did here!”

Lincoln, of course, is speaking of those who gave their life on the battlefield. But it struck me, it could just as easily – for us – to mean Christ! The world will little note what we say here. Nor will it remember much about us. But it will remember Christ! It will never forget what he has done! Even if – when – we’re long gone, Christ will be remembered! Remembered in the promises proclaimed! Remembered in the love given! Church isn’t about us! None of this is about us! Not even before the pandemic! It’s simply our moment on the stage. Acting out our parts. Being little noted … long forgotten … is just a part of living! Sure, we might remember a generation … or two … or three … before us. And we might, for a while, be remembered. But with time, like everyone before us, we, too, will fade away. We, too, will be forgotten. But Christ! Christ is remembered! Christ is remembered and the church remains! Just as the gospel was, once, handed to us, it will be handed on to others. And the ones to whom it was handed will, eventually, do the same! To the next! And from the next to the one after! That’s the heartbeat, the breath, of believing! Yesterday to today! Today to tomorrow! Forever and ever, amen!

If we’re noted or not isn’t what matters … If we’re remembered or forgotten isn’t important … What matters is Christ! What’s important is the cross! What will be remembered is the gospel! What will never be forgotten is the love! God won’t let him ever be forgotten! God will make sure he’s always remembered! In the words spoken, over and over! In the sacraments given, again and again! God always calling! God always gathering! Always enlightening and setting apart and making holy! Even at times and in places! Just! Like! This!

Face it. The church has been lasted for two thousand years. The church has been around for a hundred generations. And the church will be here for a hundred more! Resilient! Enduring! Rising more times than we can number! Because its life isn’t in itself. Its life is in Christ! Always! Forever! In Christ! Christ behind us! Christ beside us! Christ before us! That’s how Patrick put it! Leading! Drawing! Driving! Into god’s future! Towards god’s new day!

“The world will little note nor long remember what we say here.” But, that’s okay. Okay because the world will always remember! The world will never forget! God won’t allow it! And my friends, neither … neither will we!

amworship 3.21.21

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Posted by Midland Lutheran Church on Sunday, March 21, 2021