Unforgettable - A sermon about Overcoming being Forgotten - Wellington First Assembly

Wellington First Assembly

326 W Botkin Lane, Wellington Kansas ........Family Faith Lessons - 9:30 AM........ Sunday Worship - 10:30 AM


Sunday, July 30, 2017

Unforgettable - A sermon about Overcoming being Forgotten

In today’s society, people are connected in dozens of ways.  For many younger people, every minute of their life is chronicled through a constant stream of photographs, videos, or quick comments – aggregated on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or whatever the latest social media app craze there is.  You’ve seen the images of people’s heads buried into their smartphone as they walk across the intersection on a red, fall down an escalator, or into a fountain.  Experts have raised concern that a generation is emerging who have forgotten what interpersonal communication is – some no longer have the social graces or skills to conduct a simple conversation without a gadget in their hand.  Fascinating enough, those posts stay on for eternity.  Even after you are deceased, your page becomes an eternal memorial – for friends, loved ones, and others to glance at in order to remember who you are.  People do not want to be forgotten.  Many hate lives of isolation.  The crave contact and meaning and purpose.

Some act out in order to be remembered – to get attention – to have that deep-seated need of relationships fulfilled in some manner.  Other’s hide in the background, frozen in fear, afraid of rejection.  Understandably so, because many have had a lifetime filled with rejection – neglected by parents, classmates, used and abused by those who ought to have shown love and compassion.
In this planet, there are 7 billion people, none who want to be forgotten – but who have questions as to their purpose.  They wonder what difference will they make.  In a day when suicide is a concern not only among mental health advocates but for every teacher and legislator and friend, we must address why the underlying question that many have on their lips.  Have I been forgotten?  Have I been isolated?  Is there a purpose for me?  Do I have gifts, something to offer this world?
I’m not talking today about those who enjoy some privacy, occasional down time, or those who may prefer to listen instead of speaking.  I’m speaking to those who have been forcibly denied a voice, shunned to the side, pushed under the bleachers, told they are worthless.  The ones who are anonymous, not by choice, but by society.  The forgotten ones.

Our text today is about a forgotten one.  This isn’t someone who ran off like the prodigal son did and have a downturn in their luck.  This is not someone who had even half of a choice in the matter.  Our text is about a person for whom the laws that were meant to give life were used to bring about death.  This is about a person who is alone, destitute, poor, thrown out on the street.  A woman who once was a young girl, full of life and joy.  A person who once had their own dreams.  A person who once laughed and had a family. A person that enjoyed the conversation around a dinner table, the company of friends, and the life in the village.

Yet due to circumstances beyond her control, compounded by the actions of others, and even justified by the legal and religious authoritarian structure of the day, and for 12 long years, she was no longer Unforgettable.

Luke 4:42-48
As Jesus went, the people pressed around him. 43 And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and though she had spent all her living on physicians, she could not be healed by anyone. 44 She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, and immediately her discharge of blood ceased. 45 And Jesus said, “Who was it that touched me?” When all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the crowds surround you and are pressing in on you!” 46 But Jesus said, “Someone touched me, for I perceive that power has gone out from me.” 47 And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. 48 And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”

Twelve years is a long time.  In twelve years, a child goes from learning their ABC’s to writing 5000-word essays.  In twelve years, a student moves from counting 123 to calculating advanced scientific equations.
In twelve years, memories fade and newer experiences take their place.  People grow up and change, they move one.  Institutions change.  Governments turn over, and even churches change.  Keeping hope alive for 12 years is hard.  Remembering the promise is difficult.  But one key to living with an Unforgettable promise is demonstrated by this woman.

Forget that you are Forgotten
She forgot that she was forgotten.  No, this wasn’t dementia.  This was intentional.  This was an act of insolence.  This was an act violating the code.  This was an act that marched her out of the shadows and into the light.  It took courage, perhaps forged in desperation, but inspired by words she had heard and taken to heart.  

She was not used to crowds.  She wasn’t allowed to be in public.  And here she is in the middle of a Black Friday rush, pushing forward to see her promise.  There’s effort on her part.  Even subterfuge.  But she’s desperate enough to want to make a real connection.  She’s not content on hearing the stories that are gossiped up into the hills.  She doesn't want to know things second hand.  She desperately desires a personal encounter.  She hopes beyond belief that there is something to these magical reports.  She’s not withdrawn to the point where she no longer cares.  She hasn’t given up yet.  Something deep inside her spirit kept motivating her on.

After 12 years, this is not just pulling herself up by her bootstraps.  This is not just making a resolution to change things.  How many of our new year’s resolutions last more than a month?  This is the Spirit of God working in her life.

Ever used an old water pump?  You can huff and puff moving the handle up and down and nothing comes out.  Until it you give it just a little bit of water… and then suddenly it works?  Before you put in some water, the handle is just moving air around.  There’s no way to really compress the air…it’s not dense enough.  But water is dense.  You can push it.  Its properties fill up space and its molecules attract like molecules.  Just a little water to wet a dried-out pump can generate a rushing flow.
Every time this woman heard a story about Jesus healing somebody, it was like another drop of water.  And slowly, every drop trickled down, turning into a torrent, until her hardened impenetrable heart had just enough of a crack in it to think that there was more to life than being a forgotten one.  Each drop of living water gave hope to her memories, spark to her dreams, that maybe, just maybe this Jesus did not mean for her to live in isolation the rest of her life.  That maybe, just maybe, she could actually use the gifts and talents that she once had.  That maybe, just maybe, she might be reconnected to her family, reconnected to society, reconnected to laughter.

And for a moment she forgot.

Those are sacred moments.  Those are moments when we encounter God in a personal way.  Those are the moments we might discover around a prayer altar at church, or in a retreat setting away from the pressures of daily living, or in our personal devotions.  The question is, what do you do with those moments?  Do you collect those moments and turn them into a timeline? Or do you discard them on the floor of life?  Is the excuse used that God is present at church, but not relevant to what goes on every day?  Do we fall into the temptation that the sacred moment cannot carry over into the rest of our life because God isn’t powerful enough for that?  Do we listen to the enemies whispering into our ears – that just because God said it doesn’t mean he’ll remember it.

For a moment, this woman forgot.  

She forgot all the excuses.  She forgot the reasons’ why it could not happen.  She forgot the limitations that society and the enemy had placed upon her and she moved forward, reaching out, and touching just barely, the edge of the garment as Jesus passed by.
This was no ordinary garment.  But it was not a magical one either.  The piece of clothing itself had no power in it.  But it did represent something and it was worn by someone.

The outer tunic that she touched was the prayer shawl of Jesus.  In ancient Jewish tradition, this four-cornered cloak had tassels tied at the corners.  According to tradition handing down in the book of Numbers, the prayer shawl is covered with fringes, representing the 613 commandments of the law that observant Jews were to follow.  Malachi 4:2 speaks of healing in the wings of prayer.  And a man, praying with his arms lifted high while wearing a shawl looks like the very presence of God.
By touching Jesus, the woman ostracized from worship self, demonstrated her prayer, her hope, her faith that she would not remain forgotten forever. 

The prayer shawl did not grant her request.  But the one wearing it did! The one who came to proclaim good news to the poor, liberty to the captives, freedom to the prisoners, recovery of sight to the blind, and released the oppressed, brought it all that day and gave it to her.  The one who had been forgotten was remembered!

Remember, that you are remembered.

It’s nice to be remembered.  It’s enjoyable to hear stories told again of escapades long ago.  I recently attended by 30th high school reunion.  The hours flew by as we caught up with each other and then quickly turned to the stories we had of the other person.  I find it fascinating that the subjects of many of the stories didn’t remember the events by the others did. The little things, the kind things, the daily examples of our character. They weave a story greater than any other event. To be sure, we were probably all jerks to each other at some point or the other – that’s the nature of young friendships – but greater than that was the times that we had been there for each other, even when we didn’t realize it.  Every single person had contributed to the formation of another.  We would not be who we are without their input.

And just as at a reunion, where someone recounts the impact one had on a life, so too Jesus stopped and remembered someone. Oh, Jesus was busy.  In case you didn’t recall the surrounding events, he is rushing through the crowds to save a dying child of an important community official. There is no time to stop and take care of the needs of another right now.  Or is there?

Because Jesus remembers.  He remembers every single dream of every 12-year-old, including the ones that are now old and ostracized.  By the way, there was no surprise to Jesus that this event would happen.  The timing was ordained from the creation of the world.  The circumstances had aligned so that the opportunity would present itself.  The only question had been, would this woman reach out in faith, and she did.  Jesus knew exactly where she would be on that route.  He remembered her.

The question rang in the air.  “Who Touched Me.” 

·         A rhetorical question.  Jesus knew exactly who. 
·         A bold question, because they were crammed like sardines and everyone was jostling each other. 
·         An inciteful question, because it revealed that there was one who remembered who Jesus was.

The woman saw something from her position of inferiority that even the closest disciples of Jesus had not yet seen.  They saw a healer, a rabbi, a revolutionary.  She saw the Creator, who had touched the dirt in the garden, taken the clay, used his hands to shape it into the image of man, use his lips to blow the breath of life.  She saw the master potter who, carefully touched the clay, shaping it into a useful vessel and called it good.  She saw the one who could create out of nothing and take something worthless and call it precious.

Who touched me?

Not just a question, but a call to discipleship.  Not an accusation, but a promise of more.
When we examine this passage and compare it to other narratives, we quickly see a pattern.  There are those who come to Jesus for immediate physical healing.  And then there are those who come to him for spiritual restoration.  Yes, I believe that Christ absolutely will provide physical healing when it is in his purpose and plan for the best.  Yet Christ came to offer something even greater than physical healing that may only relieve pain temporarily or last a lifetime at best.  He brings the promise of a restored relationship that lasts forever.  There were many that received physical healing – but never asked for more. 

Who touched me?

Not a query, but a request.  Do you want more?  I remember you and I have more for you… do you want it?

It’s not an easy question to answer.  There is no anonymity left.  The crowd has frozen in place.  Anger at the delay is mounting.  To identify herself is risky.  What will people think?  What will they do?  If they see who I am, they could punish me, shun me, maybe even kill me for violating the law.
The question gnaws at the women.  Her answer can either move her back into the place of the Forgotten, or it can double down, and take a chance that Christ will continue remembering her.
Twelve years of habits.  It would be so easy to disappear back into the crowd.  But when you remember that you are unforgettable to God, then the soft timid voice can speak in confidence.
The answer, to the astonishment and disdain of the crowd, the stabbing glares as the others around her gasp and pull back, she boldly proclaims her faith in the promise of remembrance and declares, “I did.  I touched you”

Proclaim that you have found Peace
This women’s proclamation was both instantaneous and ongoing.  In the moment, she declared her full dependence on God’s grace, Jesus granted her peace.  His words brought salvation and restoration.  The peace of Christ enveloped her entire being.  She was made into right relationship with God.  He declared her clean and worthy to worship with the community.  Jesus accepted her fully into His Kingdom.  His command of peace undoubtedly sent ripples across the crowd.  Because this rabbi had just done something only the temple priests representing God could do – announce her full restoration into the life of the community.  They were no under obligation to welcome her back into communion in their town, community and regular social life.  To not do so was considered unrighteous. 

This women’s proclamation was ongoing.  I guarantee she retold this story, over and over.  When Luke diligently recorded, verified, and double checked every story of Jesus so he could write his exhaustive account, this story kept showing up.  We don’t even know this woman's name, but now thousands of years later, billions of people come and gone, and we continue to read this story, proclaiming that Jesus can and does remember you and me no matter our background, situation, or sin.

Remember This
When no one else knows your name, Jesus remembers you,  because you matter to God.

I don’t remember everybody’s name.  It’s difficult to remember a face after a dozen or thirty years go by.  There are times where even if I do recall the name, I don’t remember the stories behind that person.  Unfortunately, our human memories are faulty and limited.  But God’s memory never fails.  There are those that are afraid his memory only remembers the things that he should punish you for.  That’s absolutely wrong.  God remembers your name because he wants to restore you.  Each and every person hearing my voice today matters to God.  Christ desires to make a connection with every single person – no matter your story, in spite of your hang-ups, because he cares for you that much.
For Jesus, his salvation and healing is not just for the politically connected, rich young ruler’s daughter – but also for the person who life has chewed up and spit out.  Jesus doesn’t care what you have or don’t have – he cares about you, all of you, especially the messy you.  You are unforgettable.

Think This Through

As a former forgotten one, who is Christ calling me to remember?

We are a community of forgotten ones that Christ remembered.  As a church, we are called to remember.  The moment we forget that we once were forgotten, and we no longer accept those who need acceptance, we become like the crowds that followed Jesus who never experienced what he wanted for them.  I guarantee this woman was not the only one to be jostled into Jesus.  But she didn’t want fame and power and prestige – she wanted him to remember her.
Christ is calling us to remember.  Look back at your life.  See where God has taken you.  Meet people where they are.  Go to the places forgotten and remember Christ with them.

As a church, we are called to do that in our community.  As individuals, we can do that at school, at the doctor’s office, or at work.  This week, you are the message of hope.  This week, Christ in you will help make someone else unforgettable.

Shall we pray.