Bad Memory, Type C
|Job, by Léon_Bonnat (1833-1922)|
Romans 8:14–27 (ESV) For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
On Sunday, I preached about “Bad Memory, Type A,” when we forget God; yesterday, I wrote about “Bad Memory, Type B,” when we are dishonest in our spiritual and moral self-assessment. Today we move on to “Bad Memory, Type C,” which is more beyond our control than the others.
Our forgetting of God and forgetting of the sins we have committed aren’t our only type of bad memories, as all of you know. You also remember the many sins that have been committed against you, the abuse you have received at the hands of others. You also remember all the sufferings you have experienced as a result of this world being held in bondage by sin and decay. And these bad memories are tools that the devil uses to incite anger against your neighbor and against God.
Satan magnifies the sins committed against you and tempts you to hate those who have hurt you, even though Jesus has told us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, even though we pray each day, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Satan also points to the seemingly random afflictions that you and your loved ones have experienced and taunts, “Where was God when you really needed Him? If He really remembered you and loved you, He’d never let that happen to you. ”
Since we are plagued by bad memories of abuse and afflictions, the Holy Spirit, the Helper, also comes to deal with these bad memories. The Spirit inspired St. Paul to give us the classic statement of our Lord’s intercession for us and presence with us in the midst of our sufferings. In Romans 8 he writes, “The Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:26-28).
For those who have been redeemed by Christ and given a share in His redemption by Holy Baptism, the Spirit intercedes before the Father, and because of this, we know that everything that has ever happened to us or will happen to us in this life is a gift from God, for our blessing. Even though we can’t see the big picture when the cross is laid upon our backs, the Lord’s promise is sure: if God has given His beloved Son over to death for your sins, then surely He will also work all things together for your good, for the highest good, your salvation.
And this means that even if one day you lose your memory completely and don’t remember how much God loves you, that doesn’t change anything, since He never forgets you. The Holy Spirit not only calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies us through faith in Jesus Christ, but He also keeps you with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. His grace is strong enough to overcome the bad memories of your past and the deterioration of your mind, for His grace covers more sins than you’ve got and the righteousness of Jesus Christ covers you completely so that when the Father looks at you, He sees His beloved Son.
In our Pentecost Sunday Gospel reading, Jesus tells us that the Holy Spirit will bring to our remembrance all the Words of Jesus, but the Words that He speaks right after that promise are some of the most precious He ever said. Always remember that Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” Since you are justified by faith, you have peace with God through your Lord Jesus Christ, and He’ll never forget you. So like the thief on the cross, we pray to the Lord Jesus, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your Kingdom.” And His promise is always sure: “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” In the Paradise of God’s Kingdom, peace and joy reign forever.
Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, You reign among us by the preaching of Your cross. Forgive Your people their offenses that we, being governed by Your bountiful goodness, may enter at last into Your eternal paradise; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.