A number of years ago, something very good happened in my family. I told my teenage daughters “I will remember this day forever…..” and then I said “…. Unless I get dementia….” My girls burst out laughing from the incongruous juxtaposition of the tender words that began my communication and the stark though precise and true words that concluded it. “That’s what you get when your mom is a doctor,” they said to one another. And the funny thing is, I remember our laughter (maybe because they still tease me about it), but for the life of me I can’t remember what ‘good thing’ happened that day!
We humans tend to use superlatives like ‘forever’ when we feel strongly about something, even though we in this mortal life are not forever.
How many times do “BFF’s – best friends forever” – find that they have drifted apart?
How often do lovers write vows that promise “I will love you forever”? (Because words matter, churches traditionally suggest vows of faithfulness “until death parts us.”)
I have 1024 great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandmothers. (So do you.). I like to imagine that one of my 512 great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandmothers wept over her mother’s grave and said ‘she is the best mother ever – her name will be remembered from generation to generation forever.’ But I don’t know the name of even one of my 1024 ninth-great-grandmothers, nor where she was born, nor what were her great deeds worthy of memorialization, nor where she is buried.
Once upon a time, I visited a church which had been raised up in the 1300’s. I imagine people looking on and saying, just as the disciples did to Jesus outside the temple: Look! What great stones! I imagine the people, beholding the magnificence of the sanctuary, thought it would stand forever as a testimony to the majesty of God. But on All Saints Day 1755, as the people were at worship, an earthquake shook the foundations of the church, causing many stones to rain down on the heads of the faithful.
A row of Gothic arches framed by blue sky reminds us that sanctuaries built by human hands do not last forever. Nations and empires do not last forever. Human bodies and human memories do not last forever.
And, thanks be to God, pain and suffering and evil and death don’t last forever either!
But God is forever!
God’s steadfast love endures forever. (2 Chronicles 5:13)
God’s praise endures forever. (Psalm 111:10)
God’s name endures forever. (Psalm 135:13)
God’s word endures forever. (Isaiah 40:8)
Jesus said, “I AM the living bread that came down from heaven …whoever eats of this bread will live forever, and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” (John 6:51)
There is one more thing that is forever. In your baptism, you are marked with the cross of Christ and sealed by the Holy Spirit – forever.
Holy and Forever One, thank you for your forever love. Amen.