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Eden Evangelical Lutheran Church ~ Munising, Michigan

Remember (Easter Sunday) - 03/27/2016

This is not what  Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women expected to find when they went to the tomb that morning.

We we left them on Palm and Passion Sunday last week, they were well into the somber and saturating work of tending to a loved one who had died.

They watched Jesus die on that cross. They watched the people beating their breasts when they seemed to realize … far too late … that they had cried out for the execution of an innocent man. The women had kept their distance from that awful scene, but they saw when Joseph of Arimathea tenderly removed him from the cross and wrapped him in linen cloth. They followed him to a tomb and saw him lay Jesus inside. They themselves peered inside that tomb and they saw Jesus there, finally at rest after the brutality of the three days before. Their beloved teacher and rabbi was dead.

After the stone was rolled over the opening of the tomb, they went back to where they were staying and got the spices and ointments ready so they could properly prepare Jesus' body for burial. They worked together to get the preparations done before the Sabbath began.

And then they rested for a day, they and the high priests and the rest of the Jewish people who were in Jerusalem for Passover. The Romans who occupied Jerusalem didn't observe Sabbath in the same way, but everyone in Jerusalem – Jews and Gentiles alike, was probably thinking the same thing that day … Jesus was supposed to be the Messiah. The one the Jews believed would free them finally and forever from all those who would persecute and use and  dismiss them. That was supposed to be Jesus … and now he was dead. It was a long Sabbath.

In the beginning moments of the sunrise on Sunday morning, the women headed out to finish their task. But when they got to the tomb, nothing was as it should be … or at least what they thought it should be. The tomb was opened and it was empty … save for the linen cloth Jesus had been wrapped in.

And then these two messengers were suddenly there. The women's minds reeled trying to make sense of what they were seeing and hearing. “Why are you looking for the Living One among the dead?” one of them asked. 

“He is not here. He is risen,” the messenger continued. The women must have wondered if their ears and their eyes were playing tricks on them.

And then … “Remember.”

“ 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.”

“Remember.” It all came flooding back. They did remember and started to get an idea of what had really happened as they rushed back to tell the others. It must have been like their feet and hearts had grown wings as they reminded each other what Jesus had told them. He was not dead! Alleluia! Christ is risen!

Remembering is a huge part of what we do as followers of Jesus. We just came through the contemplative times of Holy Week, our time of remembering, re-enacting and re-participating in those final days of Jesus' time on earth. It's a powerful thing, this remembering and it weaves in and out of almost everything we do when we are gathered here as church and when we go from here into our day-to-day lives of working or studying, living and loving.

It often starts through storytelling, sometimes here in the assembly and sometimes very quietly among one another. I witnessed one of those quieter times on Friday.

 Jasmyn is one of our confirmation students, and she was scheduled to be the assisting minister at our Good Friday service. There was a calendar mix up somewhere along the line, and she and her family showed up on Thursday night instead. With no assisting minister duties after all, Jasmyn and her family settled in for the service that night, but I still needed her on Friday. The problem was she didn't have a ride to church for Friday. So we arranged that I would bring her, along with her little sister,  Addy. Everything went off without a hitch on Friday. Jasmyn did a great job leading the assembly through the Psalm reading and being part of the Passion narrative. Addy helped the ushers out and greeted people as they arrived. 

The Good Friday service can be a very moving one and people often end up crying. We departed the worship space in the silence left by Jesus' last breath.

After the service I had to take care a few things and so Jasmyn and Addy waited for me in my office. When I came in, they were talking to each other about the service. Addy was wondering why people were crying. And so Jasmyn started telling her the story of the crucifixion. She told Addy that the death of Jesus was very sad, but that there was hope because we were heading to this morning, Easter morning, when we remember that Jesus rose from the dead because he is the savior of the world – he is the Messiah.

They were firmly planted in the act of remembering … a big sister remembering the story of Jesus' death and resurrection and teaching her little sister how to become part of that remembering herself. It was a gorgeous moment to witness.

In just a little bit we will remember this story – our story – in another way as we gather around the font to baptize Skylar and welcome her ritually and with whole and happy hearts into the family of Christ. “By the baptism of Jesus' death and resurrection you set us free from the power of sin and death and raise us up to live in you,” we will say as the baptismal waters flow, as she is marked with the cross of Christ forever, as we promise to support her and pray for her in her life as a Christian.

Shortly after that, Skylar will be joined by Duray, and surrounded by their families, they will celebrate their first communions – the way we remember Jesus' life, death and resurrection every Sunday. “Eat this bread.” “Drink this cup.” “Do this in remembrance of me.” We remember Jesus words to his disciples across the ages each time we gather around this table.

Now we get to the “so what?” as my husband Larry and I like to call it sometimes. So what if we remember these stories? So what if we remember what Jesus modeled for us when he was here and that he died on a cross, sinless and perfect, for the sake of our eternal lives? So what if the Messiah did emerge from that tomb victorious over death once and for all?

Well the “so what,” my friends, is what Jasmyn and Addy and Skylar and Duray will soon come to find out, just like the rest of us. Because there are going to be days when they make mistakes, when they hurt people they love, when they are hurt by others. There will be days when they look at this world and think there has got to be a better way. There will be days when they feel like God is far from them, days when they feel the weight of their sin … but then they'll remember.

They'll remember that God has made the way for them to be forgiven their sins time and time again. They'll remember that when the way seems impossible for humans, it is never impossible for God. They'll remember that no matter what, they will always be welcome around this table. And they will remember, like we do today and at every celebration of the Resurrection of Our Lord, that Christ emerged from that tomb because God remembers us and by the tender mercy of our God the dawn from on high has broken upon us, “to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Luke 1:7879)

We remember … Alleluia! Christ is Risen! Christ is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!

Amen.

Pastor Ann Gonyea

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Eden Evangelical Lutheran Church ~ Munising Michigan ~ An ELCA, Northern Great Lakes Synod Congregation
P.O. Box 360 ~ 1150 West M-28 ~ Munising, MI 49862 ~ 1-906-387-2520 ~ contact@edenonthebay.org

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