Summary: The skepticism of the apostles, hearing the women's testimony of the resurrection, could have been prevented had they heeded the angels' admonition to remember what Jesus predicted would happen. So today when our witness is challenged or our desires to d
Takoma Park Baptist Church, Washington, DC April 14, 1987, Easter
The old vaudeville song proclaims, “Dearie, do you remember? Because if you remember, then you’re much older than I.” The idea seems to be that remembering is nothing to be proud of; the implication is that remembering is all that is left for those who are past a certain age, and that if you are really now, if you are really with it, you won’t have to remember. Just live in the now and don’t bother with remembering.
And, in fact, we are discovering that a whole generation is growing up without a memory, at least without a memory for some things we think are awfully important to remember. Some are saying that the fascination of young people for movies about Vietnam, for example, is testimony to the fact that they are too young to remember the truth about those years, that if you remember Vietnam you do not want to see its horrors displayed, you do not need to see it fictionalized. Memory is enough, more than enough. But there are some who do not remember and therefore who must be taught.
Imagine my surprise several years ago when a group of us who were doing ministry on the Howard University campus put together a worship service celebrating the struggles of black Americans during the civil rights years. We had developed a service which gave thanks to God for His gift of freedom and His work of liberation, and to our amazement, the students, Howard students, children born in the turbulent years of the 60's – these students said to us, “Why all this talk about freedom? Why all this about liberation? Who is oppressed? Who has any problems with racism?” You see, no memory. Theirs was the gift, or the curse, of being without any memory of those powerful struggles.
I tell you this morning it is important to remember; it is important to remember who you are and to remember from whence you have come. It is important to remember that certain things have happened which make all the difference. If you do not remember there is no richness to life. If you do not remember who has formed your heritage and shaped your life, then you are like a cut flower, without roots: beautiful enough for the moment, but soon to wither and dry up and be useless. And so remember. It's important and vital and life-enriching to remember.
And so for me one of the key words in the Easter story is the word Remember. Remember. Watch the story with me and imagine the mental landscape, imagine the mood of the moment. Here are several women, followers of this Jesus; women who had been witness to the whole grisly affair out there on Mount Calvary. Their dreams dashed, their hopes soured; on this morning they know nothing to do but to fulfill a thankless, almost pointless mission. Filled with sorrow, disappointed, devastated, weary in body and drained in spirit, they have waited through the Sabbath Day as the law required, and now they are making their way through the slivers of light into the new day’s dawn. Their mission is to bring spices and ointments to honor the one whom they had loved.
Cold comfort indeed to go through the rites of burial; but as any of you know who have experienced death with someone close to you, there is a certain comfort, a certain assurance, in going through the motions. What else do you do when your world has collapsed? What else do you do except to go through the motions of ritual, hoping that ancient words and customs will somehow help heal the spirit.
But when these women arrive at the tomb, they find something quite unexpected. In fact, several things. Where they had understood there would be a stone sealing the entrance to the tomb, instead they find the stone moved aside. Where they had anticipated the painful sight off the body of their friend, they found but an empty slab. And where they had expected to be alone in their grief, they found instead two strangers, strangers with a message, "Why do you seek the living among the dead? Remember … remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” Remember; remember that there is an ingredient here which you have not taken into account; remember what you have already been told. Why did you come here and expect something other than what he had told you? You have chosen to forget; but remember.
And then the story continues: "And they did remember his words, and returning from the tomb they told all this to the rest, but these words seemed to them …” (That is, to the eleven disciples). “These words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them."