A Time to Remember

By Rev. Heidi L. Barham |  September 12, 2021

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2 Peter 1:12 – 15
This weekend our nation paused to remember the events of a day that changed our lives forever.  For those of us who are old enough to recall what occurred on September 11, 2001, we can all probably tell you just what we were doing that morning when the first reports came out about what happened.
I was at work in downtown Cleveland at Fifth Third Bank when my coworker, Dave, came to the door of my office and said that a plane had just crashed into the World Trade Center.  I was surprised at the news but in that moment, life still felt reasonably normal.
But shortly after that, when I went downstairs to the banking center and waited in line, the manager came over and said that he just heard the news report that a plane had struck the second tower and another one had hit the Pentagon. 
My initial response was that the report had to be some kind of a hoax … although, I could not believe someone would be so cruel as to make a false report like that in light of what had just happened.  But Terry assured me, it was no hoax.
Then my thoughts went to the book of Revelation, and I began to wonder if this could be the end of the world.  I had recently read several books from the Left Behind Series, and I remember getting on the elevator to go up to my office and praying, “Lord, if this really is the end, can you come get me now?  I don’t want to see what comes next.” 
Well, as we all know now, it was not the end of the world… but it was the end of life as usual as we had come to know it. 
Just think about it… As we sit here today, two decades later, there is an entire generation that has never experienced what it was like to go to the airport and walk your loved ones to the gate to say goodbye. 
They have never known life without security checkpoints and without having to take off your shoes and belts and coats just to get on an airplane. 
They have not had the luxury of walking into a large venue for a concert or a sporting event without having to show the contents of their purses or bags after going through a metal detector.
And they have not known the privilege of living in a country that was so strong and so powerful that no one believed that anyone would dare wage an attack on our precious soil…
However, since September 11, 2001, we have had to face the harsh reality that the invisible, invincible force field that we thought was protecting the United States of America was just like those shields surrounding the Starship Enterprise or the Millennium Falcon… it was all fictional.
In the wake of the attacks of 9/11, we have been confronted frequently with the realization of just how vulnerable we truly are.  And lest we forget those hard-fought lessons of the past and let our guard down, each year we continue to set aside A TIME TO REMEMBER.
As I was preparing for the sermon today, in light of all the events calling us to a time of remembrance and reflection, I decided not to follow the Lectionary in selecting our text from the New Testament.  Instead, I chose a passage of scripture that comes from the Apostle Peter’s second letter which he wrote just a short time before his death. 
Peter’s letter was written as a word of warning to the church at large, cautioning them against false teachers and urging them to grow in their faith and knowledge of Christ.  Now it is important to note that this second letter was somewhat different in tone than Peter’s first letter. 
His first letter provided words of comfort and encouragement to the believers who were facing attack and suffering from persecution that came from external forces.  However, his second letter was written to address the internal threats of complacency and heresy.
Peter explained the critical need for the believers to hold fast to their faith and to grow and mature in that faith… and to reject all those who would distort the truth. 
Now, I must say that I could not help but notice the parallel to what we are seeing play out in the United States today.  Where we once were focused on threats coming from outside adversaries from other countries around the world, we must now be on guard against the attacks of those from within our own country… from those who would distort the truth and literally put us in harm’s way.
And so, this morning, as we take just a few moments to look at these words from Peter’s letter, I want to suggest that they are in actuality an invitation to join in A TIME TO REMEMBER.
Listen again to our New Testament lesson as it is found in the Message Paraphrase:

Because the stakes are so high, even though you’re up-to-date on all this truth and practice it inside and out, I’m not going to let up for a minute in calling you to attention before it. This is the post to which I’ve been assigned—keeping you alert with frequent reminders—and I’m sticking to it as long as I live. I know that I’m to die soon; the Master has made that quite clear to me. And so I am especially eager that you have all this down in black and white so that after I die, you’ll have it for ready reference.
And just what was it that Peter wanted his readers to take TIME TO REMEMBER
He wanted them to remember the truth of scripture, particularly as it relates to the return of Christ who is the Son of God and the only One who fulfills the prophecies contained in the Old Testament.
No matter what we may hear to the contrary from the false teachers Peter warns against, Jesus is the Christ… Jesus is the One who gave His life as the perfect sacrifice to save us from our sins… and Jesus is the One who truly is the Way, the Truth and the Life…
Now, there are some who would suggest that all roads lead to God and that is something that I have come to understand in a way that is probably different than what the proponents of that theory may have intended. 
While it would seem that the basic premise is that it ultimately does not matter what faith tradition one follows or what path you may be on, they assert that path will take you to God.
And as I thought about that notion, I was reminded of what Paul wrote to the Philippian church:
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
So, whatever path someone may have chosen to take, Paul tells us that at some point the day will come when there will be a recognition and acknowledgement from all of them that Jesus Christ is Lord and that He is the only way to come to the Father. 
That is what the scriptures tell us… that is not simply something that Pastor Heidi came up with… it is what Jesus said Himself when we look at John 14:6 which reads,“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). 
To refute that is to refute the basis of scripture which unquestioningly points us to Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior… and guides us to salvation and eternal life.
And this really is A TIME TO REMEMBER that when all is said and done, spending eternity with the Lord is the ultimate goal.  It is the prize that we should all aspire to win some day.
Now, throughout many of his writings, the Apostle Paul makes references to running a race and to winning the prize.  In 1 Corinthians 9 (24-25), we read:
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.
While in Philippians 3 (13-14), we read:
Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
And in his farewell letter to his beloved protégé, Timothy, Paul writes:
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
 And if we look at the book of Hebrews (12:1-3) we read:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
 This morning is A TIME TO REMEMBER that we are in a race for our very lives, our eternal lives to be exact.
But here is the good news, we have already been assured of the victory! 
Now, I have to confess, I did skip ahead to the back of the book to see how the story ends… and for all those who have accepted Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, we win!  It’s as simple as that.
It is all about acceptance – accepting Christ’s invitation to be Lord of our lives. 
It is all about inclusion – understanding that everyone is included; the invitation is extended to all, without exception. 
And it is all about love…  the love that God has for us and the love that we have for God and for one another.
And today is A TIME TO REMEMBER that love… even as we do our best to forget about anything and everything that threatens to distract us from focusing on and sharing that love.
With that thought in mind, I want to share a poem with you that I came across the other day which simply says:
Forget each kindness that you do as soon as you have done it.
Forget the praise that falls to you the moment you have won it.
Forget the slander that you hear before you can repeat it.
Forget each slight, each spite, each sneer, whenever you may meet it.
Remember every promise made and keep it to the letter.
Remember those who lend you aid and be a grateful debtor.
Remember all the happiness that comes your way in living.
Forget each worry and distress; be hopeful and forgiving.
Remember good, remember truth, remember heaven is above you.
And you will find, through age and youth,
true joys and hearts to love you. (www.mwdouglass.com/favorites_forget_each_kindness.htm)
The world offers plenty of distractions that are designed to draw our attention away from God but rather than be pulled in by those distractions, now is definitely A TIME TO REMEMBER that “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
And it is certainly a time to forget about anything else other than sharing that good news with others. 
You know, it is funny how quick we are to tell someone about what we heard someone else saying while we were in the grocery store or Drug Mart… or to let them know about the great sale we caught while we were at Kohl’s or Target… while at the same time, we can be really hesitant about sharing our testimony of God’s love for us.
Our text is a reminder that we need to change the narrative.  This is A TIME TO REMEMBER what we have been called to do individually and collectively as the church… and that is to tell a dying world about a living Savior. 
And let me just say this, time really is of the essence.
Twenty years ago, yesterday, roughly 3,000 people in and round New York, Pennsylvania and Washington DC, woke up on an ordinary Tuesday morning… just like they did every other morning, likely giving no thought to the idea that it might be their last day here on earth.  
And the reality is that no one knows for sure when that day will come for any of us… but we can know with 100% certainty that the day will come eventually… without regard for religious tradition, gender expression, socio-economic status or political party affiliation… that day is coming for each and every one of us. 
But until that day comes, it is up to us to make the best use of whatever time we have left … doing what God would have us to do and saying what God would have us to say.
Before we move to the Communion table, I want to share something that I read in a devotional just yesterday that was entitled “Father Mychal’s Prayer.”  The devotional offered encouragement to pray a prayer that a Franciscan priest named Father Mychal Judge prayed daily.  Father Mychal was a chaplain for the New York City Fire Department who was killed at the World Trade Center while ministering to a fallen firefighter.
The prayer simply says this, “Lord, take me where You want me to go.  Let me meet who You want me to meet.  Tell me what You want me to say and keep me out of Your way” (https://www.franciscans.ie/mychal-judge-s-prayer/). 
May that be our prayer as well.