"If Only We Could Remember"

Sermon Preached By Rev. Richard E. Stetler - 9/3/2000

Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23; James 1:17-27

     Recently I was talking to a couple as they were planning their marriage. When our moments together concluded the young man said, "This evening's experience reminds me of a number of management seminars I have attended. We receive excellent insights and helpful advice, but as soon as I leave, I cannot remember much that was said."

     All of us experience this. The Redskins play this afternoon. At half-time, try to remember what my message was about this morning. You may find it difficult. Memory experts tells us that we retain about 5 and 7 percent of what we hear. We are creatures who are bombarded by constant stimulation as we move through each day. Following our worship this morning, we will experience one event after another until it is bedtime. An activity we will remember, however, is that we celebrated Holy Communion this morning.

     Today we are going to discuss the relationship between hearing and doing. Jesus said, "Each time you break the bread and drink the cup, remember me." Jesus knew how quickly what we hear leaves us unless the insight becomes anchored to some form of activity.

     In a letter from James, the author wrote, "Do not deceive yourselves by just listening to God's words; instead, put them into practice." Jesus and James both linked memory to activity. James continued his thought, "If you look closely into the perfect law that sets people free, and keep on paying attention to it and do not simply listen and then forget it, but put it into practice -- you will be blessed by God in what you do."

     During this summer's course on Spirituality, we were discussing how what we value shows up constantly in our personality. Our behavior always reflects what we value. For example, if we worry a lot, we value worry. If we are easily frustrated, we value that response. If we are easily offended by other people's comments, we value being fragile. We do not typically view our behavior in this light, but the truth stands that what we value we display constantly.

     Any time we wish to change old responses, we can. The only reason any response appears "natural" is that we have energized it through constant use. But there are clearly other choices. Jesus taught us many other responses if only we could remember them during the moments when life confronts us.

     One of the women in our summer study told the class of an episode at work that was an on-going cause of frustration for her. She said the next time it happened, rather than reacting with her classical response, she remembered our class discussion and brought a different response. She said, "What happened was amazing! I felt as if a giant weight had been taken off my shoulders." This is the way God intended growth to work.


     We thank you, God, for allowing Jesus to come among us. You have given us total freedom of spirit and we become what our thoughts create. As we live, we quickly discover that not all thoughts serve to reveal the person you created us to be. The physical world can fool us with its many images. We easily forsake the substance for the shadow. We forget that where our treasures are, there will our hearts be also. Lead us, instead, to reach out to others so that the mountains confronting them might be cast into the sea. May we allow our friendship to bring peace to their troubled waters. May we serve to teach others how to smile and laugh, how to dance and celebrate life, and how to remember to live lives of gratitude for your daily presence. Amen.


     We enter worship, O God, eager to further develop our relationship with you. You are the mover of mountains. You are the one who calms the storms in our lives. You are the one who heals us during some of life's more frightening and fragile moments.

     We thank you for St. Matthew's. Our church represents a gathering place for those of us who need encouragement, for those of us who seek to be in mission, for those of us who want fellowship where love is present, and for those of us who want to learn how to refine the art of living.

     With Labor Day upon us, we are reminded that what we do extends our opportunity to practice what it means to serve one another. Teach us to view our work as the stage where we demonstrate our faith, our values, and our faithfulness. May the spirit by which we live become so contagious that our work places are transformed into an atmosphere similar to that which surrounds a loving family.

     Guide us in the coming weeks and months ahead. Encourage us to refresh our minds with remembrances of whom it is Jesus called us to be. We pray these thoughts through the spirit of Jesus, who taught us to say when we pray . . . .