“There are times when belonging is not cemented in the lived moment of an experience but in the lively or somber retelling of the moment afterward. Which means we can transfer belonging to the next generation by welcoming them into memories that they (or we) have not lived but choose to steward”. -Cole Arthur Riley
November 6, 2022
“This Here Flesh”
Deuteronomy 6:4-9; Luke 24:13-25
Rev. Dr. Heather W. McColl
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem[b] on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” He asked them, “What things?”
They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see him.” Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared!
Memory Deuteronomy 6:4-9; Luke 24:13-25
On this All Saints Sunday, we gather to remember… to remember those whom we have lost this year, to remember the examples of faith shared with us by our ancestors, to remember the stories of hope which strengthen us as people of faith. On this All Saints Sunday, we gather to celebrate…to celebrate the promise given to us by our God who loves us more than we will ever know, to celebrate the vision of God’s Kingdom fully realized here on Earth, to celebrate the possibilities of new life, grounded in the knowledge that love and light will always have the last word.
As we gather to remember and celebrate, I invite us to hear these words:
“in the midst of suffering and pain, God walks with us; Christ knows what it is to suffer. We have never been alone. We are not alone today. We will not be alone tomorrow. ”
These words were offered by a colleague on the occasion of the closing of the congregation which she served. She offered these words as part of a service of lament stating that “In the Christian tradition, we hold space for lament. Lament is naming our grief, not to tie it up with a pretty bow, but because living as a human on earth means that we suffer, that we experience loss, that we experience death. This is so important to our tradition that we have the model of an entire book of the Bible – called, Lamentations.” (Sara Nave Fisher)
Although the occasion is different, as I read these words offered by my colleague, they resonated with me. They resonated to where I am on my spiritual journey. And if I had to guess, for many of us, they also resonate with many of you as well for a variety of reasons.
A lot has happened in the last few months. For the last few months, maybe one could argue, for the last few years, we have been people on edge. The mounting tensions in our world, the endless array of issues which cause strife, and the enormous uncertainties which surround well, everything…All of this has taken a toll on us physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally, and communally, (Elizabeth Edwards).
As a community of faith, we have more questions than answers. Everything is changing and we are not sure where to find our foundation, where to ground ourselves in all this change. This change,while needed and necessary, this change while yes is somewhat exciting to see unfold, this change is also at the same time both unnerving and draining. This change which has been a constant in our lives for the last few months has us repeatedly asking…what new thing is God bringing forth for us as individuals? What new beginning is coming to fruition for us as a community of faith? What new day is springing forth for a time such as this?
Today, I want to offer us space to answer those questions….to explore where God is in our midst bringing forth new life, to hear again that we have been in this place of transition and change before and we have made it through, renewed restored, and filled with a vision of who God is calling us to be as a community of faith. In this time of worship, I want to offer us space to collectively share our memories and to remember ….remember where we have been, to ponder where we are now, to vision out where God is leading us. I want to offer us space to remember all that God has done for us as the people of God since the beginning of time,to remember what God did for the disciples, to remember what God did for the Israelites all those years ago. Today, I want to offer us space to remember who we are and whose we are as we continue becoming the people of love and hope that God created and calls us to be.
I wanted to do this practice of remembering as part of our worship service on All Saints Day because it is a way to remind ourselves that this confusion, this worry, this uncertainty about the future is not the end of the story. Rather it is a way to ground ourselves in our story, our faith story, to ground ourselves in memories which have strengthen us, which have renewed us, which have restored us, rather this creating of space is a way to remember all times when we trusted in God, when we trusted in the process, when we opened our eyes, opened our hearts to where God was and is moving in and among, just like God has always done for the people of God.. This creating of space for memory is a way for us to proclaim once again that ultimately we know that God is at work in the world bringing about healing and wholeness for all of God’s people.
You see, “as we do this, it becomes evident that memory is not nostalgia. Memory is not an orientation to the past; it is vigorously present tense, selecting out of the storehouse of the past, retrieving and arranging images and insights, and then hammering them together for use in the present moment… because in the words of someone way smarter than me once said,. If we [only]confine ourselves to one-generational knowledge.., or even worse, to our own [limited and imperfect]experience, we [become] impoverished beyond reason.”
So this morning we are going to remember…. I invite you to:
Write down evidences of God’s power
Tell our children about the days we stood helpless and received God’s mercy
Repeat again and again the acts and truths of God, write them down, post them on our doorposts, talk about them in the midst of everyday life
Connect the dots between our needs and God’s faithful provisions
Remember how the Lord our God led us through the wilderness, quenching our thirst and filling our hunger, leading us to the promised land.
I invite everyone to take a few moments and ponder this question: In what moments has remembering who God is and who God has been to you strengthened you, renewed you, restored you, How has remembering who God is and who has God been to you impacted your spiritual journey?
I invite everyone to come back and here these words once more:
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates….“When your children ask you in time to come, ‘What is the meaning of the decrees and the statutes and the ordinances that the Lord our God has commanded you?’ then you shall say to your children, ‘We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt, but the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. The Lord displayed before our eyes great and awesome signs and wonders against Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his household. He brought us out from there in order to bring us in, to give us the land that he promised on oath to our ancestors. Then the Lord commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our lasting good
Remember what all God has done for us as the people of God since the beginning of time. Remember what God did for the disciples. Remember what God did for the Israelites all those years ago. Remember who we are and whose we are. Remember that God is at work in the world bringing about healing and wholeness for all of God’s people. May it be so.
See also: Theology Tuesday for Sunday, November 6, 2022 – Memory Deuteronomy 6:4-9; Luke 24:13-25.