Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed! I hear those words and they stir memories. I remember hearing the pastor say those words when I was a child at Diamond Lake Lutheran Church. And it draws me back to memories of getting up really early for that sunrise service, the Easter lilies, and of the smell of French Toast from the annual youth Easter breakfasts throughout the entire church. sAnd I remember family, and food, and Easter baskets. Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed! Ah yes, I remember these things.
Human memory is a strange thing. Why is it that there are some things that are memorable, and others that are not? In 12th grade English, we had to memorize, and then recite the introduction to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales….in old English, and I still remember that today. (Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote,
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote, And bathed every veyne in swich licóur, Of which vertú engendred is the flour…and so on). Why can I remember that gem from 36 years ago, but I struggle to come up with my Mother’s birthday? (It’s in June, by the way.)
Why is it that I could quote to you verbatim, almost every line of the movie “The Blues Brothers,” (“We got both kinds of music…country and western”) But at the same time, if Lori sends me to the grocery store, and I have to buy more than 3 things, I have to write them down in a list because I can’t remember them? Why is that?
Memory is a strange thing! And memory plays an important role in our Gospel story this morning.
It was the first day of the week, early in the morning, when a group of women went to the tomb. They were carrying spices, which means that they were returning to finish the embalming process for their teacher, their friend and their Lord, Jesus.
When they arrived, they found the tomb open, Jesus’ body missing, and then suddenly, two strangers appeared, who had an aura about them…literally the Bible says that they “gleamed like lightning.”
The women immediately dropped to the ground, covering their faces, and the two strangers asked them: “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you that on the third day he would be rise again.’” Then the women remembered Jesus’ words.”
Now I’ve probably read the resurrection story about a thousand times in my life. But this week, as I was studying this scripture, I noticed something that I’d never really paid attention to before.
The angels say “remember.” “Remember.” “Remember how he told you that he would be crucified and on the third day rise again.”
“Remember.” As in, do you remember what he said? Do you remember what he told you?”
I think the angels are maybe chiding the women just a bit. The tone feels to me like when I say to our boys, “Remember? Remember when I told you that leaping from that piece of furniture over to that piece of furniture was going to be a bad idea? Remember? So quit bleeding on the carpet!” Of course, the sub-text of a reminder like this is really: “See, I told you so!”
What the angels are saying sounds a little bit like “See! I told you so!” “Remember?” they said, “when Jesus told you this was going to happen? So why are you here? Duh! Jesus told you so!”
These women, and I’m guessing, the rest of the disciples as well, didn’t remember. They had lost track of what Jesus promised.
Which is kind of surprising. I’m just going to take a guess that if you’d spent three years following Jesus around, living with and learning from him, and he mentioned to you that he was going to die, but not to worry, he is coming back from the dead to live again; well, you might remember him saying that. It’s unusual enough that it might be worth remembering.
But the disciples forget.
And let’s be honest: we all forget.
Not at a cognitive, rational level. I mean we have heard the story. We remember it. But sometimes I think that we forget to believe it. We forget that it has meaning for us.
So let’s remember together, shall we?
Remember that before the events of Holy Week, Jesus had stood in front of the temple, in Jerusalem. It was this massive, gleaming brick, stone and gold house of God, and Jesus pointed to it and said: “destroy this temple, and I will rebuild it in 3 days.” The people asked, “how are you ever going to do that, it took 46 years to build this temple?” But Jesus wasn’t talking about the temple. He was talking about himself. He essentially says “I’m going to be killed. That is where this is headed.” Because you don’t confront corrupt systems of power without paying for it, sometimes with your own life. So, Jesus is headed to his execution; and he knows it.
Pastor and author, Rob Bell writes that: “If you had witnessed this divine life being extinguished on a cross, how would you not be overwhelmed with despair? You would have to ask, “does death have the last word?”
If that’s the case, if death does have the last word, then despair is the only reasonable response. It’s easy to be cynical. But Jesus says “destroy this temple and I will rebuild it!” He says that his execution would not be the end. He says that something new and unexpected would happen after his death. He’s talking about resurrection.”
Resurrection announces that God has not given up on the world, because this world matters. This world that we call home. This world that God is redeeming and restoring and renewing. Greed, and violence and abuse, they are not right and they cannot last because they belong to death, and death, Jesus is saying, does not belong.
Resurrection says that what we do with our lives matters.
- So every act of compassion matters
- Every work of art that celebrates what is good and what is true, matters
- Every fair and honest act of business and trade
- Every kind word…they all belong, and they all will go on in God’s good world
Nothing will be forgotten. Everything has its place.
Jesus invites us to trust resurrection.
Jesu promised that he would die and be resurrected at least three different times in this Gospel.
But we forget these promises.
We may or may not forget his promises here, in our minds. But we forget them here, in our hearts.
We forget to believe that they are real.
And this loss of memory has huge implications for us:
- When we sit in front a pile of bills, and we despair; because we’re not certain this month which ones we’ll be able to pay, and which ones we might need to stall on, we forget that Jesus says “I am with you in the hard times.”
- When we sit across from a doctor, and we hear the words of the diagnosis that we have been fearing, we despair. And we forget the promise that Jesus is with us…and that Jesus heals; sometimes our bodies…but always our Spirits.
- When a relationship you care about is broken, and you’re not sure how it can be repaired, you despair. But in those moments, you’ve forgotten that Jesus is right there, in the middle of that relationship, even when it is fractured…Jesus is there. And while restoration may or may not be possible, grace always is.
- When you’ve done something, hurt someone, disappointed someone, and you feel the guilt and pain, and it almost overwhelms you, you have forgotten. Jesus forgives… unconditionally.
Like those women at the tomb that morning, who knew Jesus, who spoke with him, we too forget that when Jesus promised resurrection, he meant it.
There are days that we forget.
Last year, one of the children in Trinity’s Sunday school asked me “Why do we do Easter every year? Jesus was only resurrected once. Why do we do it every year like it’s a new thing?” It’s a great question.
I said the same thing to this 5th grader that I’ll say to you now: I don’t know about you, but I am forgetful; and I need to be reminded. I need to be reminded every year…no, every week…no really, every day…that Jesus is alive. We all need to be reminded that the resurrection was more than an event 2000 years ago. The resurrection fulfills promises and brings life, today, tomorrow and the next.
You need to be reminded here, in your hearts, that Jesus is alive, and this means everything is different. That no matter how you feel separated from God and from each other, there is grace for you. Enough grace. More than enough grace.
You need to remember that resurrection always overcomes death, for Jesus, and for you.
Remembering is hard. But cling to Jesus’ promises. Today. Tomorrow. Everyday. Cling to these words:
Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed!
Thanks be to God!