Rev. George Miller
March 27, 2016; Easter
If you’ve been attending Emmanuel UCC since September, you may remember that there’s been a theme that has been threaded through many of the sermons.
It’s a theme you may remember if your memory was jogged just a bit.
Of course I can’t be hypercritical and expect you to remember as far back as September, since I don’t have the best memory of things that happened the day before.
But, who here can remember the theme that we’ve been remembering since as far back as I can remember?
If you recall, it started with a sermon given on Sept. 27 which stated “Once we were slaves in Egypt.” If you remember, we said that this simple statement is the very basis of Judaism and the truth that propels the Biblical narrative forward.
“Once we were slaves in Egypt.”
This quote starts the celebration of Passover, in which people gather to remember what God has done.
The ability to remember is what binds the Jewish community together. This shared memory of freedom from bondage, means they are free to serve God and they are free to live as if heaven is at hand.
This shared memory reminds them of the humble beginnings from which they came; to ground them when they got too big for their britches and to encourage them when they are feeling used, abused and forsaken.
To remember is a powerful thing. Why?
Because the ability to remember can ground one in hope.
When one is grounded in hope, their roots go deep, their core is strong, and they can endure almost any storm that comes along.
It is not just the Jewish community that remembers all the good that God has done. We as Christians remember as well.
We remember how God gave Abraham and Sarah a promise that their family would be limitless and bless the entire world.
We remember how God called Moses who said “Who am I?” How God called Gideon who said “But I am the weakest member of the weakest tribe.” How God called Jeremiah who said “But I am just a boy.”
We remember how God sent one prophet to care for a foreign widow and how God sent another prophet to heal a Syrian soldier.
We remember how 2,000 years ago, a couple named Mary and Joseph welcomed a baby boy into the world named Jesus.
We remember how that baby boy grew into a man. A man who claimed he came to bring good news to the poor, release to the captives, and restoration to the blind.
We remember how Jesus turned water into wine, reminding us that there is an abundance to be found in God.
We remember how Jesus called Zacheaus down from a tree to dine with him; how he forgave a woman who had committed adultery; how he spotted Nathaniel all alone, seeing, perhaps, the 13-year old child that dwelled with each and every one of them.
We remember how Jesus told stories about stray sheep and lost coins, reminding us that if we are ever lost, if we ever go astray, God will search us out, God will find us, and God will carry us back upon God’s shoulders.
We remember that even as the nation was falling apart and feeding into a frenzy, Jesus found time to be with his best friends and to speak and to share the languages of love.
We remember that during a time of political, economic, and religious corruption, the angry world sought out a scapegoat, choosing for Jesus 2 rugged pieces of wood, and hammer, and a set of nails.
That is a lot for us to remember.
And if the ability to remember gives one grounding, if the ability to remember gives one hope, how much grounding or hope can be found when a good man is crucified?
And that is where we find today’s story.
Within 8 days Jesus has gone from sitting at the table with best friends Mary, Martha, and Lazarus to sharing his Last Supper with the Disciples.
Jesus has gone from being greeted by the crowds with palms and cheers, to being scorned with lies and jeers.
He has gone from talking about fig trees, to being silenced and laid dead in a tomb.
And as the sun rises, the women journey to his tomb. Mary the mother of James, Joanne, Mary Magdalene, and other women.
Women who had been there for all the stages of Jesus’ ministry. They were there when he taught. They were there when he ate. They were there when he healed. They were there when he forgave.
They were even there the times he spoke about how the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, be rejected, and killed.
They were there when Jesus said he was going to Jerusalem, to be handed over, mocked, and spat upon.
Since the women would’ve been there, they would’ve also heard Jesus say how the Son of Man
Sadly, horrifically, all those things came true, and with them the chaos and confusion, that comes from observing such a crime.
When the women got to the tomb, Luke tells us the stone was rolled away, and the body of Jesus was not there.
They were perplexed. They were confounded. They were discombobulated.
Bad enough their rabbi has suffered. Bad enough their teacher had died. But now their friend’s body is gone.
Two mysterious men greet the women, terrifying them. The men say “He is not here. He is risen. Remember how he told you…”
Remember: the key word of our messages since September; the key word of our sermon; the key word of today’s scripture.
Not an easy thing to do when you have watched your rabbi-teacher-friend be rejected, arrested and mocked.
Not an easy thing to do when you have watched your rabbi-teacher-friend be insulted, flogged, and crucified.
Not an easy thing to do when you have watched your rabbi-teacher-friend cry out in a loud voice, take his final breathe, and his body placed in a rock-hewn tomb.
It’s hard for anyone experiencing stress, trauma, grief, or fear to remember.
So it takes the words of another to jog the memory of Mary, Joanne, and Mary. It takes the words of another to begin the process of restoring hope.
Remember how once we were slaves. Remember the promises to Abraham and Sarah.
Remember the call of Moses and Gideon and Jeremiah.
Remember the widow who was fed; remember the soldier who was healed.
Remember the water into wine, remember Zacheaus being called down from the tree.
Remember the good news to the poor, the captives set free, new sight given to the blind.
Remember the stories of lost sheep and missing coins.
Remember the languages of love Jesus spoke to you.
Remember how he told you that bad things were going to happen, but on the third day the Son of Man will be raised.
And in that moment, on that Sunday morning, in that empty tomb, that is exactly what the women do.
In that moment the stress, trauma, grief, and fear subsides and the women recall what Jesus had said.
In that moment the women remember, and by remembering, they act. They leave behind the tomb and they return to the world, telling people of what they have experienced, and what they have seen.
And in doing so, these women, this Mary, this Joanne, and this Mary, mother of James, have given us a new memory.
Not a memory rooted in slavery. Not a memory rooted in a childless couple.
But a memory rooted in an empty tomb. A memory that said when the world said “no”, God said “Yes.”
A memory that our Creator sent us someone who proclaimed the Kingdom of God, who ate with sinners, and who offered healing to all.
A memory that while the world’s response was to kill him, God’s response was to raise Jesus from the dead.
A memory that because of God’s wild and mysterious actions, the world now has the eternal presence of Christ, who will exist into eternity.
A memory that while the world tried to create a scapegoat, God gave us a Savior.
A memory that faith may not always make sense, faith may not always be easy to understand, but faith allows us to endure our present and to move into our future.
Today we join a long line of people who remember. We remember what Christ has done. We remember what Christ had said.
We remember that Christ was raised, and we remember that it was God who raised him.
By remembering we find ourselves grounded in hope.
And when one is grounded in hope, one’s roots go deep, one’s core is strong, and one can endure almost any storm that comes along.
Amen and amen.