Then They Re-Membered
Bonnie A. Perry
Why do you look for the living among the dead?
“Why do you look of the living among the dead?”
At sunrise on that morning they went to the tomb. They went to the tomb, looking for the dead, among the dead. As you do.
Taking their spices to anoint their friend. To say their final goodbye to a man they thought was more. The women having seen him die, go to the tomb to say goodbye and settle into the despair that is the reality of their new lives.
Yet when they arrive, the stone is rolled, the body is gone and there are men in dazzling clothes saying, “He is not here, He is risen.” Why are you looking for the living among the dead? Remember? Remember? Remember what he said? Don’t you remember what he said….?
They did and they do—and then they run to tell the others… They run, they go, leaving their spices next to the linens.
They go and find the apostles—but the reaction is mixed—mixed at best.
Here’s the tough part—that is true for me—how can the apostles even begin to believe—“He is risen.”?!
When the women are, as the Greek says, obviously delirious.
But Peter—the one whose last interaction with Jesus was to say over and over again “I do not know—the man. I do not know the man. I do not know him. “
Peter, the one who has the most to lose and the most to gain. Peter—gets up and runs to the tomb—he goes and sees, bloody, rumpled, wraps, linens only on the floor.
The emptiness of the cave overwhelms his eyes and drips down his face because maybe—maybe there is something more.
All he knew, crashed and burned three days before when darkness, strangely covered the land. Death has come—this he understands, despair he knows in his marrow, in his soul.
Do you know despair? Do you know that aching, pounding loss? That shriveled, anxious pump of adrenalin, that tells you over and over again, “Wrong, wrong, wrong, you got it wrong, again, again. Wrong.”
Do you know despair: That blanket of depression, smothering your soul, flattening your affect?
Do you know despair: a simmering sense of ineptness, preventing you from taking even one step to intercede in a world of violence, sadness, and pain.
Do you know despair: When the God of your childhood doesn’t stand a chance in this adult world?
I do. I know despair. I know it so well, that sometimes I find myself turning to it, for its familiarity and comfort, the release its inertia offers. Despair.
Benedictine Scholar, Joan Chrittister says, “Despair is the affliction of the small-minded who have not so much lost their faith as they have lost their memory.” People afflicted by despair have lost their memory of what God has done before.
Resurrection is the opposite of despair.
I believe, Resurrection means that we are no longer condemned to live with business as usual politics or quid pro quo theology and religion. Instead resurrection calls us to a way of being, a spirituality that invites us, requires us, as biblical scholar Walter Bruggerman says, to remember how God has acted in the past.
To remember, as the women who came to the tomb did. To remember all that Jesus had done in Galilee. How the canannite woman’s daughter was healed, how the demoniac was brought back from the caves of insanity to the village of relationships. How blind bartimaus received sight, how the woman at the well, with five husbands was not judged by Jesus but rather loved by him. How the paralyzed man on the stretcher, lowered down through a hole in the roof by his friends to Jesus, picked up his mat and walked: sins forgiven, body and soul made whole.
The women remembered all of these things and more. They remembered a man who ignored hateful class lines and sexual divides. They remembered a man, who on the night before he died, said, “Take, eat, this is my body, given for you.” And you. And you and me.
They re-membered. They re-membered and gradually and gradually and then suddenly their beliefs and hopes that had been amputated from their hearts and souls as they watched a fearful, oppressive government execute their friend and leader, suddenly their understanding and longings were re-attached, and they knew all he said and did was true and done in a way they themselves could never have conceived on their own.
The empty tomb, the risen Christ, reached far beyond, one regime change, one pendulum swing of the government and instead became a shift in history, a bend in space when time and history began, (as Martin Luther King said,) “its slow arc toward justice”, wholeness, and healing.
Because, those brave women and fragile, exuberant, self-absorbed Peter began to understand, that now and forever more we can no longer limit our lives by living in despair, looking for the dead among the living.
No more—He is gone. He is risen.
So we no longer return to the dead end tombs, burned out pyres of our besetting sins. He is not there. He is risen.Christ is Risen.
The Lord is Risen Indeed.