Saturday, November 23, 2013

Jesus Re-member Us

Jesus, remember me. Remembering has been on my mind a lot, with the large scale historic events of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, and the anniversary of JFK's assassination. Closer to here and now, the church secretary, Donna, and I took a 96 year old saint to lunch who lives alone. She loves the Olive Garden. Her regular dining companion and driver died last year. Increasingly she wonders if she is remembered. I’d promised to take her to lunch awhile ago. This was the week. Being remembered brought joy. At the restaurant, the longtime waitress remembered her too which just tickled her. Over lunch we heard it was time to type out her pretzel gift list for the holidays, (on a real typewriter-remember those?), as she remembered being a secretary for 30 years. Dorothy is a positive person but she says, “I think I’m living too long perhaps.” Even so, that bright spot of remembering and reconnecting is one image of “Jesus, remember me” that empowers us and reminds us of the kingdom. Where, as Colossians puts it, Christ is the “one in whom all things hold together.”  If 'remembering' is powerful enough here and now as part of the flock, how much more meaningful is it when remembering happens in the mind and heart of Jesus? As we hear forgiveness spoken even for those who haven't asked for it, who may not even know they need it and the willingness of Jesus to truly see those in his presence, and then see beyond a brokenness. To remember and reconnect.

This is Christ as King, in charge and encompassing it all. We hear of glory and power, but it’s Paradise from one dying on the cross. Of gathering sheep amidst chaos and scattering. Of giving thanks with joy while enduring suffering. Seeing destruction in the world but hearing of the city of God. That too was remembering this week. Proclaiming God in what shakes us. One afternoon, a girl from the Doves Nest showed up grieving the murder of her uncle.

We went to the Chapel, a quiet peaceful place. I asked if she could tell me about him. At first she said it’d been awhile since she’d seen him. But then she remembered, telling of trips to the pool, and his buying the BEST Christmas presents as only an uncle can do. And she began to smile and cry.

It all changed when he was in a car accident, and he lost his memory. He wasn’t who he’d been before. Now even later, he was gone.

In the Chapel is a window, a beautiful window, through which even when the room seems dark, the colors stream in rays that create tiny places of beauty. We sat there in those little scattered but persistent rays.  Looking at the center of the window-Jesus, the shepherd. I asked what she saw in Jesus’ face. “Love…his eyes are love.” And what about that sheep Jesus is holding- what do you see? “That sheep is clean, and well fed, and peaceful. That sheep, pastor did you notice? It’s smiling. That sheep has a smile on its face! That sheep knows it’s got it good.”

Well, if you’ve ever seen a real live sheep, they’re smelly, and dirty, with junk stuck to them. They often make really bad decisions and get pretty banged up. Her uncle experienced that part of being a sheep in the world. Truth is that he became really broken. No longer the man she remembered nor the person God created him to be. Imagine a whole flock of that- that’s pretty much us in the world. It’s no wonder there’s such a contrast between paradise and daily existence. We see a story of failed leadership and scattering, where those who survive simply cannot create a new chapter. And while we want to just race to the hopeful verses, the starkness of our reality must be seen- like that man on the cross who knows what he deserves as far as the world sees it and anything different can only come from the work of God. God doing the opposite.

Gathering, not scattering. Bringing a promised future and a chance to thrive for all. A promise far different from our current world where failures have led to depletion and scattering that has reached “exile” levels. Jesus, remember me. Re-member us. Hold us together with you. It’s not yet here in its fullness. For the simple reason is that our failed leadership continues to contest God’s announced future and in the process continues to scatter and do evil. It makes us want to plead “Thy Kingdom Come!” But here is the promise- it has begun.

While we wait, what is needed is not a race to a greeting card cliché for the day, but remembering words of that new reality in our midst. As we sat in the Chapel, light streaming through the window, and our tears, downstairs you could hear the noisiness of the Doves Nest in full swing, but at the same time notice the peace of Christ. And that is how it is. And we remembered together that Jesus’ promises are true. For her uncle it means that now, he’s no longer broken, or struggling. He’s THAT smiling sheep. Loved, cared for, whole, at peace. That sheep with the smile. God’s power and love are at work. Simply and only because God has both the power and the desire to make it so. For him and for us.

When we are overcome and when we know in our hearts just who we’ve been. We can remember the good news that God’s judgment- God’s assessment of the situation- leads to God’s re-membering. Putting us together again and holding us. Remembering and reconnecting to Christ as God with us and for us. Christ refusing to let the results of “evil doings” be the last word. With us, even when the world around us might seem to be falling apart and unpredictable.

In chaos and in isolation, the voice of God can still be heard, a ray of light found. Jesus as the Lord of all uses his power to gather back, to re-member all things, everywhere. Putting us together and holding us in peace and reconciliation. This is the sign of the kingdom of God in Jesus. "The gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven."

And this is what the faithful remember and praise. It might be a busted up and tattered flock and faith but it’s there. Just like when Jesus was on the cross, surrounded by mourners, followers, family, women and others- there at the cross not quite sure. But they showed up.  As one writer suggests, maybe this is what Luke means when he talks about expecting the Kingdom of God. It’s about the ultimate, but until that ultimate event actually takes place, it’s about being people of the kingdom who show up and remember-

helping, repenting, waiting, and  watching. Learning, supporting, and sometimes just showing up to mourn. But showing up- to look for and pray for the kingdom. Believing that when life seems hard, the world seems dark, or the race feels long, we can hold on to the good promises of God. Made strong and given joyful patience.

Problems may not go away, but we can keep on because…we are not alone. We are remembered and redeemed. Gathered to pray as ever-Jesus, remember me, re-member us in your kingdom. Teach us to pray believing your kingdom can be, and is so, in us. AMEN

Let us pray- Our Father, who art in heaven. Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For thine IS the kingdom and the power and the glory. Forever and ever. Amen.

(I have to say that Dancing with the Word, Working Preacher, Edge of Enclosure, and Ministry Matters are all really fine sites- please support them in their efforts)

No comments: