... Ecclesiastes 2:26 ...
Cast your bread upon the waters,
for you will find it after many days.

Easter Day
Message March 31, 2013

Memory Exegesis and Experience = Vital Faith

Text: Luke 24:1-12

Alleluia! He is not here but has risen!

We are all aware of the events of that first Easter morning, but if I was to ask each of you to retell the events in your own words each would give a differing account, choosing to include some details while leaving out others or choosing on a chronology slightly different than someone else. This is natural human thought. We all do it – even those who were present at the tomb would have done so, and even more so the authors who wrote of the account some 60-120 years later! Thus we see in each of the Gospels slightly different versions. In a couple of Gospels there are two men in white raiment or two angels, in the other Gospels it is but one. One gospel has several disciples going to the tomb whereas Luke reports just one. Despite these variations one thing does remain firm and immutable – the tomb was empty! All the Gospels agree on this – on the third morning, the 1st day of the week corresponding to Sunday, the stone sealing the tomb had been rolled away and the tomb was empty.

However each of the authors tells his story from a slightly different perspective trying to give an understanding to the events. For Luke the entire chapter 24 is a treatise on memory, exegesis and experience. He tells us the events to show how each of those connected to Jesus are brought to firm belief faith and ultimate conviction by being forced to remember events of the past, comparing those events to a standard – scriptural witness and then experiencing the risen Lord in a new way.

Thus we are moved seamlessly from the day of Preparation and the Passion on the sixth day of the week to an adherence of the commandment concerning the Sabbath and on to the early dawn of the first day of the week. Three of the women, Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Mary the Mother of Jesus go to the tomb to prepare properly the body of Jesus with various spices. These are the same women who had supported Jesus in his ministry and who had remained with him from the beginning. Their journey in grief was to carry out the last offices of love and duty for their dead Lord and Master. The emotions of grief turn to anxiety and apprehension as they enter the tomb and find the body missing. These emotions now turn to terror as they are joined by two men in dazzling clothes.

It is here that Luke has the women being forced to remember – to recall how Jesus himself had predicted the trial and crucifixion and that on the third day he would rise again. Then their time with Jesus and the events of the day started to make sense and in that revelation they return to the disciples with their news. This news was met with disbelief. The word used for “an idle tale” is literally translated from the Greek as a delirium – as a story told by someone delirious from a fever. However Peter much to his credit does go to investigate and his trip not only corroborates the women’s experience but adds to it as he sees the linen cloths – a point which refuted any claims that someone had taken the body.

Other reports detailed in Chapter 24 also point out how other crest-fallen disciples and followers of Jesus were led to recall their past dealings with Jesus, how Scripture had witnessed to those dealings, and how Jesus appeared thus giving them a renewed sense of faith and purpose.

Luke invites us to recall the past, encourages us to compare those events with what Scripture informs us concerning Jesus and to experience the risen Christ. Not so easy a task in the 21st century! For many we have no memory of Christ Jesus being several generations removed from a Christian culture! For others there has been a lack of understanding Scripture as time and circumstances have blocked a critical reading of the Bible! And without a memory or a critical understanding of Scripture we can never come to see or experience the risen Lord.

A celebration of Easter or a celebration of Baptism can be an important first step to meeting our Lord but in and of itself will not guarantee such a meeting. Perhaps we all need to look at the baptismal service again and to read the vows that are taken – not just by the sponsors and parents, but by each member of the witnessing congregation. At the presentation there are three declarations of renouncing and three parallel declarations of acceptance of Jesus Christ; and then a general vow to support the candidates for baptism in their life in Christ. That vow is not to be taken lightly. It encompasses all those words and actions which one does to nurture encourage and promote an experience with Christ for the newly baptised and perhaps not just the newly baptized. Then just prior to the baptism itself we all renew our own baptismal covenant ending with five vows to continue the apostles’’ teaching and fellowship, to resist evil and practice repentance, to proclaim the good news of God in Christ, to seek and serve Christ in all persons and to strive for justice and peace.

This is where the rubber hits the road – seeking and serving Christ in all persons requires that we remember what Christ did and taught and that we constantly refer to the gold standard of the first witnesses – as recounted in the Bible and that we remain open to a fresh encounter with the risen Lord. Thus by teaching nurturing and sharing our own experiences combined with Scriptural readings and re-readings we will help others on the road of faith.

[This morning we have an opportunity to practice that journey of faith as we join in with the baptism of Abigale Marion Farlie the soon-to-be newest member of Christ’s family.

May we all live up to our vows to see that she is brought up in the Christian way, taught in the Scriptural content and meaning and brought to an experience with the risen Lord so as to become a true child of God, a disciple of Christ and a proclaimer by word and example the Good News.