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Let Us Refuse to Forget

  • April 21, 2019
  • 09:00 AM

Sermon for 21 April 2019 (Holy Pascha Year C)

Offered by Nathan Ferrell at The Episcopal Church of Saint Mary

Texts:             1 Corinthians 15:19-26, 55-57; Psalm 118:1-2,14-24; Luke 24:1-12

Title:               Let Us Refuse To Forget

Alleuia! Christ is risen.      The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

“Why do you look for the living among the dead? … Remember how he told you…Then they remembered his words” (Luke 24:5-8).

Welcome, all of you, my dear friends, to this day of joy and celebration! Finally, the long wait is over. The days of fasting and labor are over. NOW it is the season to celebrate!

For Jesus was dead, but the grave could not hold him down. Before the sun rose on the first day of the week, Jesus walked out of that tomb.

He is alive TODAY and that tomb is still empty. Hallelujah! This is such Good News! It is amazing and breath-taking and earth-shattering.

BUT, if we are going to be honest, the Resurrection now is for us an old story. Isn’t that right? Most of us here have celebrated this Day of Resurrection countless times before. Over and over again. Year after year.

We know this story, and most of us know it very well, but STILL we forget. We forget what it means, and how it changes everything.

Just like those first disciples who heard him talk about what was going to take place in Jerusalem. They all heard this many times before it actually happened.

And yet, they forgot! And so these angelic messengers have to remind them.

“Remember how he told you that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.”

Forgetfulness is one of our big problems, isn’t it? We just forget stuff – all the time. Now, usually, this is no big deal. You forget your lunch bag at home. Oh well, now you have to buy your lunch. No big deal.

But forget the date of your anniversary or your mother’s birthday? Well, NOW you’re in trouble! But, seriously, we forget so much that we have already learned.

We forget that we are made in the image of God. That we all bear the image of God. And that every single human born is endowed with such incredible, creative potential!

Do you remember the great Louie Armstrong, known as Satchmo, that amazing world-class trumpet player who died in 1971? One of the most important Jazz musicians of all time.

Louis Armstrong was born in a very poor area of New Orleans in the year 1901. His mother was just sixteen when he was born and his father walked away from the family soon after his birth. That rough neighborhood where he was raised was known as “the Battlefield”. Louis himself was sent to a juvenile detention facility at age eleven for firing a gun into the streets. Without question, his early years put him on a sure path to a broken life of crime, even more poverty, and failure.

Except for an intervention from what might seem to be an unlikely source. Things began to change for young Louis Armstrong when he began to work for a Jewish immigrant family from Lithuania.

They were the Karnofskys, and they gave him the job of blowing the tin horn on their junk wagon as it approached potential customers.

The Karnofskys took Armstrong into their home, making sure he had a good dinner every day that he worked with them. And they taught him to sing Russian Jewish lullabies.

Do you know what happened next? Those lullabies, the tin horn, and the music all around him on the streets of New Orleans  – all of this turned on some kind of switch inside of Louis.

When he saw a cornet – which is like a small trumpet – in the window of a store, the Karnofkys helped him to buy it.

And when he put his lips on that instrument, he discovered his calling. And eventually, he was able to sing those famous words: “What a wonderful world!”

Out of respect for the Karnofskys and for all of the kindness they showed him, Armstrong wore a Star of David on a chain around his neck until the day he died.

They changed his life, and he refused to forget.

When the apostles heard the report that the tomb of Jesus was empty, they did not know what to think. They were shocked, and they faced a moment of decision.

“Mary Magdalene and the other women told this to the apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.”

How was it that they all forgot? And what were they now going to do?

It was not as obvious then as it is now! Peter and the others could have just turned around and gone back to Galilee. You know, that probably would have been the smart thing to do. To just go back home.

The ride was over. Their hopes were dashed. Their hoped-for Messiah was dead and gone. And their own lives were in danger. Now the Sabbath was over, so they were free to travel.

It was time to just go back home, head in hands, and to start fishing again.

They faced a real moment of decision. Who would they follow? Which direction would they go?

I’ll never forget a story from that terrible tsunami that struck Thailand in 2004.

A family was there on vacation from America when they realized that danger was imminent. People began to panic and the crowd began to run away from the beach.

This particular family did not know what was going on or what to do.

They started running with the crowd, but they quickly saw a young local man waving to them to come and to follow him.

What should they do? Who should they follow? The crowd? Or this young man?

It was a crucial decision with potentially life-or-death consequences. The woman said to her husband, “Whatever you do, we all go together. We live or die together.” He decided to follow this young man who led them all quickly to higher ground.

That decision saved their lives. They survived to tell their story.

So who was Peter going to follow? Mary Magdalene? Follow her back to the tomb, back to that place of death and pain and sadness?

Or was he going to stay with the crowd?

It seems clear that the rest of those men were having none of Mary’s story.

Thankfully, Peter made the right decision! He decided to follow Mary Magdalene. She pointed the way back to the empty tomb, where he saw for himself.

I think we can all agree that this decision saved his life. Maybe not his physical life. It did not keep his heart beating. But it saved his REAL life. It kept his soul intact. Now, finally, he was able to remember.

My friends, here is the question for us today: do we remember?

Do we remember – each day, every single day – do we remember that Christ is risen? That life will never be the same? That nothing can ever separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus – who is alive and with us always?

Do we remember? Of course, if we are honest, we do not.

All of us forget, myself included. And we need help to remember. Louis Armstrong wore that Star of David around his neck as a way to remember the Karnofkskys.

We, too, need to remember. When you wake up tomorrow, and the day after, and on all the days to come, do something to remember!

Say to yourself: “It does not matter what happens this day. I am made in the image of God! And I have been raised with Christ. And now I am far more than what you see. My true life is hidden with Christ in God! Nothing can separate me from the love of God in Christ!”

My friends, on this great day of celebration – and on every day that we are allowed to live on this earth – let us refuse to forget!

Let us remember always that God gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!

Alleuia! Christ is risen.      The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia! Alleluia and amen!

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