Easter Sermon for April 16, 2006 / Title: Remember How He Told You
Message by Pastor Carol Kniseley / Text: Luke 24: 1 – 12
We learn everything that is important for life by the time that we are two, wrote Robert Fulghum (author of All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten). From then on, he states, it is just a matter of remembering.
If we take seriously what the two men in dazzling clothes said to the women at the tomb…’Remember…how he told you…’ then we in the church had better listen up. Of all the days that we need to be paying close attention, surely this is the day. ‘Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.’ But quite honestly, they did not remember.
How can one forget the events that occurred just days before? How can one just wipe from one’s memory the excruciating humiliation and torture of a crucifixion? Nails driven through hands and feet? A crown of thorns pressed down on the head? All preceded by a lashing that stripped the ribs of their flesh? They had seen it all. They had seen it happen to Jesus himself, the one whom they loved. The one who talked with them and not down to them…the one who worked along side of them…even gave them power to cast out demons and to perform miracles. The one who had changed their lives forever. The one who had taught with such authority that even the wind and the sea obeyed him. Having seen all of that…perhaps they didn’t want to remember…when he told them that he would be crucified.
And so they came here…on the first day of the week…not remembering what he had said about the crucifixion…and certainly, not remembering the resurrection. It wasn’t until two angels reminded them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember?” It is then that Luke says…”They remembered his words.”
Words can be very important. The old saying…’sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me’…is not exactly true. On the night that Jesus was betrayed, it wasn’t so much a word that was spoken but a kiss from a friend that dealt the fatal blow. And then when Peter tried to deny that he even knew the man…not once, but three times…it wasn’t until the cock crowed that he remembered the words of Jesus. How often have you and I done the same?
Remembered for even just a moment what it might be like to be on the other side. Distanced from God…not sure of the meaning of life…totally oblivious to the signs along the way. The truth is…signs of the Resurrection are all around us…if we have the capacity to remember what they mean. And the first sign that you and I need to recall…is the one that the women encountered on that first Easter morning.
As Luke says: ‘…on that first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb.’ To us, the tomb would resemble a cave hewn out of rock. The only difference being that in order to seal the cave shut, a large stone would have been rolled in front of the entrance assuring that no one could go in…and no one could come out. At least that’s what everyone had been led to believe including the disciples of Jesus. And so to come to the tomb that morning expecting to see anything other than a dead body, would not have been natural. Death is natural. Loss of a loved one is natural. Grief is natural. But…those stones have been rolled away to reveal the highly unnatural truth of the Gospel. By the light of this day, God has planted a seed of life in each one of us that can not be killed…and if we remember that, then there is nothing that we can not do. By the grace of God, we can move mountains…banish away all fear…love our enemies…even change the world.
The first sign of the resurrection…the empty tomb…also serves to remind us of the one thing we can not do: hold onto him. Try as they might, those early followers would have loved nothing better than to have Jesus simply walk back into their lives and continue with life just the way that it had been. What they hadn’t fully realized was that Jesus himself had changed.
Yes, he still bore the marks of the crucifixion in his hands and in his feet. And yes, they recognized him when he later appeared in their midst. But on this morning…all they had to go on…was the fact that the tomb itself was empty…and the body that had been wrapped in strips of linen…was no where to be found. So where is Jesus today?
Now, it is our turn to remember. Remember what Jesus said, on the night in which he was betrayed? How he took the bread from the table…gave thanks…broke it…and with tears streaming down his face, he said…’ Take and eat…this is my body…given for you. Do this, in remembrance of me.’ And again, after the supper, he took the cup…gave thanks…and gave it for all to drink. Saying…’this cup is the new covenant in my blood…which is shed for all people for the forgiveness of sin. Do this, in remembrance of me.’
If you have come here this day, looking for Jesus…then in all honesty I have to say to you what the angels did not say on that first Easter: ‘He is here.’ And because he is risen…he is very much alive and at work in the world around us…including here at Resurrection Lutheran. Our task now…is to remember.
Remember that every time we dare to open our mouths and speak words of forgiveness…another stone rolls away from the tomb. Away from the tombs that surround us all. Even tombs of guilt that we make for ourselves. The Good News of Easter (and don’t you dare miss it)…is that God has opened our tombs…and we can come out. On this Easter Day, with the Risen Jesus…we are forgiven and free. As Jesus said, ‘Because I live, you shall live also.’ That is the Easter message. Remember: He is Risen! To which the people of God remember and respond: He is Risen, indeed! Amen