Posted by: skokiecentralchurch | March 27, 2016

2016.03.27 ” A Tomb Called Remember” – Luke 24: 1 – 12 – Easter Sunday

Central United Methodist Church
A Tomb Called Remember
Pastor David L. Haley
Luke 24: 1 – 12
Easter Sunday
March 27, 2016

The Risen Christ

At the crack of dawn on Sunday, the women came to the tomb carrying the burial spices they had prepared. They found the entrance stone rolled back from the tomb, so they walked in. But once inside, they couldn’t find the body of the Master Jesus.

They were puzzled, wondering what to make of this. Then, out of nowhere it seemed, two men, light cascading over them, stood there. The women were awestruck and bowed down in worship. The men said, “Why are you looking for the Living One in a cemetery? He is not here, but raised up. Remember how he told you when you were still back in Galilee that he had to be handed over to sinners, be killed on a cross, and in three days rise up?” Then they remembered Jesus’ words.

They left the tomb and broke the news of all this to the Eleven and the rest. Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them kept telling these things to the apostles, but the apostles didn’t believe a word of it, thought they were making it all up.

But Peter jumped to his feet and ran to the tomb. He stooped to look in and saw a few grave clothes, that’s all. He walked away puzzled, shaking his head.” – Luke 24: 1 – 12, The Message, by Eugene H. Peterson


Several years ago, while preparing an Easter sermon on Luke’s Gospel, I came across an story by author and preacher Frederick Buechner about a dream he once had. Listen to his dream:

“I dreamt that I was staying in a hotel somewhere and that the room I was given was a room that I loved. I no longer have any clear picture of what the room looked like, and even in the dream itself I think it wasn’t so much the way the room looked that pleased me as it was the way it made me feel. It was a room where I feit happy and at peace, where everything seemed the way it should be and everything about myself seemed the way it should be too. Then, as the dream went on, I wandered off to other places and did other things and finally, after many adventures, ended back at the same hotel again. Only this time I was given a different room which I didn’t feel comfortable in at all. It seemed dark and cramped, and I felt dark and cramped in it. So I made my way down to the man at the desk and told hirn my problem. On my earlier visit, I said, I’d had this marvelous room which was just right for me in every way and which I’d very much like if possible to have again. The trouble, I explained, was that I hadn’t kept track of where the room was and didn’t know how to find it or how to ask for it. The clerk was very understanding. He said that he knew exactly the room I meant and that I could have it again anytime I wanted it. All I had to do, he said, was ask for it by its name. So then, of course, I asked himn what the name of the room was. He would be happy to tell me, he said, and then he told me. The name of the room, he said, was Remember. (A Room Called Remember, 1984, pp. 2 – 3)

A room called Remember. Interesting, because as we know, all of us have a lot to remember. Buechner reminds us of all that is there:

“Every person we have ever known, every place we have ever seen, everything that has ever happened to us; it all lives and breathes deep in us somewhere whether we like it or not, and sometimes it doesn’t take much to bring it back to the surface in bits and pieces. A scrap of some song that was popular years ago. A book we read as a child. A stretch of road we used to travel. An old photograph, an old letter. There is no telling what trivial thing may do it, and then suddenly there it all is . . . What it felt like, say, to fall in love at the age of sixteen, or to smell the smells and hear the sounds of a house that has long since disappeared, or to laugh till the tears ran down our cheeks with somebody who died more years ago than we can easily count or for whom, in every way that matters, we might as well have died years ago ourselves. Old failures, old hurts. Times too beautiful to tell or too terrible. Memories come at us helter-skelter and unbidden, sometimes so thick and fast that they are more than we can handle . . .” (p. 4)

Me&MyDadOn holidays such as Christmas and Easter, our memories may especially be more than we can handle, as we remember these holidays earlier in our lives. I remember early Easter pictures such as this one with my Dad: new clothes, Easter basket, my grandmother’s purple irises. (When my daughter-in-law Lynne showed my grandson Logan this photo, he would not believe me that the little boy was not him, but Grandpa David.) My grandmother and grandfather – in whose yard this picture was taken – are gone, as is my Dad, and the house and land now belong to someone else. Whether the irises are still there, I do not know. I am certain that every one of us here today have such memories of people and places that we remember on days such as this.

On Easter Sunday, we may remember many things, but what we especially remember is the story of what happened that first Easter morning. This year we remember the story as told by Luke’s Gospel, in which we find that it is not a ROOM to remember but a TOMB to remember.

That’s where it happened for the women who followed Jesus, when they returned to the tomb early on Sunday morning to anoint Jesus’ body. So familiar are these female disciples of Jesus that they are not even initially introduced; not until later are we are told they are Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the “other” women with them.

At first, it seems more like a case of un-remembrance than remembrance, like when we forget where we parked our car in a large parking lot. When they arrived at what they were sure was the tomb they had placed Jesus’ body in on Friday, they found nothing. “Wait?” they said, “Where is the body?” “Are we at the right tomb?”

As they stood there, checking the GPS on their iPhones, suddenly out of nowhere, two men appeared in radiant garments, by which I assume they were either Elvis impersonators or angels. That would have freaked me out, as it did the women. Fortunately they did not mace them, but were so awed by them that they bowed before them. Then – as if scaring them to death wasn’t enough – the “two men” mildly rebuked the women: (1) “Why are you looking for the Living One in a cemetery? He is not here, but raised up.” (2) “REMEMBER how he told you when you were still back in Galilee that he had to be handed over to sinners, be killed on a cross, and in three days rise again?”

In a flash – like the notes of a song long forgotten, a faded photograph long lost, or a face from the past – they remembered Jesus’ words, how he over and again he told them he would be betrayed, killed, and on the third day arise. Could it be? Was this what he meant?

You have to think they could not get out of there fast enough! Surely they ran to report this to the Eleven and the rest of Jesus’ disciples, who – when they heard the news – didn’t believe a word of it, “thought they were making it all up.” In the men’s defense, wouldn’t men bringing such a message have been met with the same unbelief? Shouldn’t this remind all of us celebrating Easter, what a burden the resurrection of the dead places on faith, even among those closest to Jesus?

The scene ends with Peter running to the tomb, looking in to see only the grave clothes that remained and walking away puzzled, shaking his head. Surely this tells us that this Easter story is not the end, but the beginning. What would convince them of Jesus’ resurrection was not the empty tomb – itself inconclusive — but their ongoing experience of the life-giving presence of Christ in their midst; the same as for us.

Like the women at the tomb, on Easter we remember many things, but let us especially remember what they learned in the tomb called Remember.

Remember not to seek the Living among the dead. If that is a rebuke to the women, it is for most of us too, because we do it all the time. We tend the corpses of long dead ideas and ideals. We cling to former visions of ourselves. (How many here today think you are still young? Raise your hand! It’s a fantasy; give it up!) We cling to the golden days of our churches as if – if we just hold them long enough – they will come around again; about as likely as going back to using flannel graphs. We grasp our loved ones too tightly, refusing to allow them to grow or change or become more independent. We choose to stay with what we know in our hearts to be dead, because that is easier than imagining new directions beyond our control. Remember the words of the angels: stop hanging on to the dead and move on to new life! (Nancy Claire Pittman, Feasting on the Word, Year C, Volume 2, p. 351)

“Remember what Jesus said,” the angels said to the women, in the tomb called Remember: “Remember how he told you when you were still back in Galilee that he had to be handed over to sinners, be killed, and in three days arise?” How many hope to be resurrected? Me too! But we tend to ignore the first part: which is, that in order to be resurrected, first we’ve got to die. And I’m not just talking about physical death. The phrase “you must die before you die” is found in almost every religion. Before we can be raised to new life, we must die to our ego, die to our manipulated and inflated sense of self, which is our False Self, in order to find our True self, the authentic person God created us to be. Yes, it’s painful and it hurts and it involves grief and loss, a necessary part of dying. The Franciscan priest and author, Richard Rohr, calls this True Self the “Immortal Diamond,” which is forged out of the sufferings and death that we must go through in life, just as Jesus had to, in order to become the Christ. (Richard Rohr, Immortal Diamond, 2013)

Ultimately, to live a resurrected life is not some other-worldly, after-life dream. Rather, it is an invitation such as that given to the women at the tomb, to remember not only what Jesus said and what he did, but how he lived and how he died, and then to live and die in such a way ourselves, trusting in God. To live in such radical love and trust as Jesus did, is the invitation to live a life in which meals are shared with enemies, healing is offered to the hopeless, and prophetic challenges are issued to the powerful. Only now it is not Jesus who does these things, it is us. Can we do it? Amazingly, even today, some do.

Last Wednesday evening Michele and I went to North Park University to hear the Vermeer Quartet do their celebrated Seven Last Words of Christ, by Franz Joseph Haydn. They have performed this since 1988, with celebrated speakers providing the commentary. I wanted to go because one of those speakers was my former professor, Martin E. Marty, now 88. I was able to visit with him, and told him to add my name to the long list of those thankful for his life and teaching. Talk about memories!

DorisHernandezAnother of the speakers Wednesday evening was Manya Brachear Pashman, Religion Reporter for the Chicago Tribune. Every year for Easter Ms. Pashman goes in search of a real-life story demonstrating real-life Resurrection. Last year’s story (which she shared in her comments) was the story of Doris Hernandez, who lives in Little Village in Chicago.

Three and a half years ago, at a vigil in memory of her 20­year­old son, Freddy Cervantes, on the day after he was murdered (November 17, 2012), Doris Hernandez stunned a crowd of young mourners by telling them to let go of their anger and forgive her son’s killer. She asked them not to continue with the story of ‘I need to find out who murdered my son’ or ‘There should be vengeance’ or ‘I’m angry at the person who did this,’ because that was only going to create further violence and animosity in the community.

Just as Easter celebrates Christ’s compassion and victory over death, her decision to forgive set her on a path to help others — people involved with drugs, people who like her son had fallen into gang life or were resorting to violence, as well as the parents of their victims. She decided she will do whatever it takes to let them know they all are loved, so she launched Padres Angeles (Angel Parents), a ministry inspired by a movement in Mexico in which young people spotlight murder and corruption in the violent border city of Juarez by braving the streets dressed as angels.

“I never met anyone like Doris before,” said the Rev. Tom Boharic, associate pastor at St. Agnes of Bohemia Roman Catholic Church in Little Village. “She can see things the way God sees things and step back. The mystery of Easter and the Resurrection is that when you’re up close to something, you don’t understand what’s happening. It doesn’t make any sense. She could see the bigger picture — that God had a bigger plan through all of this.” (Manya Brachear Pashman, Little Village Mother Forgives Son’s Killer, Forms Ministry To Combat Gangs, The Chicago Tribune, April 5, 2015)

This is what happens in a tomb called Remember. We remember Jesus – his life, his death, and resurrection –  we understand God’s bigger plan, and then we live accordingly. We let the old life go – we die – trusting God to raise us up – as God raised Jesus – into our resurrected self, our True Self, an Immortal Diamond.



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