Remember How He Told You…
Based on Acts 10:34-43, 1Cor 15:19-26, Luke 24:1-12
Christmas and Easter celebrations are times when churches like this one see the greatest attendance. Families gather together and spend time recollecting important bits of collective history. Funny stories and time-honored memories are shared across generations and these actions help to form a collective memory. Churches have collective memories as well. Look at the commemorative plaques and windows as an example of the honor with which important people from the past continue to live with us into our future. Some families occupy the same pews that previous generations sat in, and it is just not the same if someone else has already taken up residence in that “memorial” spot.
Easter is a time of remembrance of the great act of God’s love in the resurrection. You have heard read once again the first Easter story from the Gospel of Luke, and we have celebrated the fact that Christ has risen, he is risen indeed! You have heard the writer of Luke/Acts tell of the gospel of Christ converting the Gentiles through the witness of Peter – a truly memorable event for all of us sitting here today. The Apostle Paul was helping the Corinthian believers remember that the resurrection is important because if the Christ was not resurrected then our “faith has been in vain”. Paul writes, “…But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died….”
I suspect that this truth is the real reason you have come once again to hear the stories and to sing the hymns of our faith that God through Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit made something happen that first Easter that has transformed the world through the lives of believers ever since. You have come to remember and to participate in the collective memory of our faith – and the hope that it brings to all that death is no longer the final answer. Let us go to God now in praise and thanksgiving that Christ has been raised for all of us.
In our reading from the Book of Acts today, Peter and a Centurion named Cornelius, who was a God-fearing and alms giving man, are brought together via the Holy Spirit. Cornelius asks Peter to begin to teach and preach to a gathering of close friends and relatives. As Peter is speaking about Jesus the Christ and the forgiveness of sins through His name, the Holy Spirit came upon the whole house and then all were baptized. The Jewish Christ believers who accompanied Peter were amazed that the Holy Spirit would come to those not originally of the faith. But we just have to remember that at the end of the Gospel of Matthew, Christ commands the disciples to “…go and make disciples of all nations…”.
Paul is reminding the believers in Corinth of all that he had taught them while he was there. Basically he is saying, remember how I told you about Jesus and how I met him on the road to Damascus and how He changed my life? Remember how I, Paul, told you that He had been resurrected to forgive all of our sins? So, if I have told you all this, his rhetoric goes, then why are you stating something other than what you learned? How can you have been baptized into the faith and still not get how this resurrection thing really works, he asks. Other teachers of the faith have asked their believers the very same question over and over again for the last two millennia. It is a difficult miracle to get our rational minds to understand.
It has always been this way with our faith. Look at the report of that first Easter morning when the women went to anoint Jesus’ body in the tomb. They found the stone rolled away and the body missing. The text says “…they were perplexed about this…” Then two men in dazzling white asked them a question, “…Why do you look for the living among the dead?…” The men then made the statement, “He is not here but has risen. Remember how he told you…” Remember how he told you…the scripture then says that the light bulbs went on and they “remembered his words” and went off to tell the eleven and all the rest who were gathered what they had seen and heard.
Remember how he told you – told us. The men in white did not speak a question, rather they uttered a statement meant to stir the women from their perplexed and fearful mindset and get them to think about the truth that Jesus had told them while He was still in the Galilee. It is a good statement for us in our time on this Easter Sunday morning as well. It’s a good statement for us because we seem to only remember a bit of all the things we have ever learned. For our faith journey, it is an important statement because it points us to the place where we can jog our memories about Jesus and what He said so long ago and then apply those sayings to our place and time.
Case in point, let’s remember together some of the things that Jesus told us. If you need some help finding these statements of Jesus, that’s what those handy “red letter” New Testament editions provide. From the beginning of His ministry, Jesus told us to repent of our worldly ways because the kingdom of God had come near. He told us also that this was really good news. He told us to follow Him and we would learn to fish for people. He told us (and the Temple leadership) over and over again how to interpret the Torah, Prophets and Wisdom scriptures (what we now call the Hebrew Bible) to benefit the people – not the institutional Church. He told us that we should spread the gospel far and wide so that some seed would fall on prepared soil and return 30, 60 or 100-fold what was sown (one only has to look at 2.3 billion believers in Jesus today to see how this parable came true). He told us that it is not what goes in to a person that is unclean, it is what is said and done to defile others that is the root of the problems in our world.
Since it is Easter Sunday, let us also remember that He told us that he had to die and in three days be raised again. Peter rebuked him the first time he said this openly and Jesus told us to have our minds set on divine things not on our own needs. Let us remember that, because it is the reason we gather together en masse today and every Easter. Let us remember how He told us that living as Easter people is how we are all called to live everyday – not just on Easter Sunday each year. He told us that there were really only two commandments to remember, love God with all you are and all you have and neighbor as yourself. In John’s Gospel he adds a third, love one another as I have loved you. In this way all will know you are my followers.
He told us that after that first Easter He would send the Holy Spirit to guide and counsel us. That through God’s grace and the power of that Holy Spirit we would have the ability to raise those who are spiritually dead, cleanse and return to right relationship those that society has marginalized, heal the sick of all the loneliness and isolation that is a part of our world today, and that we would be able to cast out those things that demonize and bedevil us and those who are our neighbors. Jesus also said that though He died and returned to His God and our God, He would return again. He also told us that in God’s house there are many rooms and He goes before us to prepare a place for us. He will come again for us and take us to where He is. This is great good news indeed.
Why then don’t we live everyday like we have heard this all before and that we remember what He told us? I think it is because, like Peter, we let the world and our rational minds get in between us and the miracle of the resurrection. We have heard the story so many times that it has lost its wonder, mystery, awesomeness and majesty. We have let bunny rabbits, colored eggs and pastel colors perplex us and lead us away from the truth. However, to find our way back from this desolate worldly place to the place of true Easter, all we have to do is remember what He told us. Christ IS risen, He is RISEN indeed! And all who believe this said, AMEN!! �