Wesley Chapel Episcopal Church
Wesley Chapel, FL
Preacher: The Rev. Adrienne R. Hymes
Easter Day Principal Service/C—April 21, 2019
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit—Amen. Alleluia. Christ is risen! [The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.]
Mthr. Adrienne Hymes’ Easter sermon, “Lifting the Fog of Forgetfulness,” at Wesley Chapel Episcopal Church today.
Posted by Adrienne Hymes on Sunday, April 21, 2019
Welcome to the other side of the cross! After experiencing a Holy Lent, pregnant with the anticipation of Jesus’ passion; the emotional heaviness of his death on a cross; the waiting in silence on Holy Saturday; and finally—after holding our breath—we collectively exhale. We rejoice that the tomb is empty; bring “alleluia” back and sing the joyful Easter hymns—exhaling as we celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The tomb is empty, and we can breathe again.
We can breathe again because we have the advantage of entering into this Resurrection account in Luke from the other side of the cross. The women in our gospel, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and other women, were also on the other side of the cross, but what they encountered at the empty tomb took their breath away.
When they went to anoint the body of Jesus, the first thing they saw was the exposed tomb entrance—the stone had been rolled away. Nevertheless, they entered the tomb, and were not perplexed by what they saw; they were perplexed by what they did not see—the body of Jesus was not there. How could this be? Dead, human bodies don’t just disappear.
Their perplexed state was intensified with terror when two angels, described as two men in dazzling clothes, appeared before them. God’s raising of Jesus from the dead was announced by messengers of the Heavenly realm. “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen,” the angels said (24:5).
We can infer that the women were not grasping the words spoken to them because the angels, continued to bring them to understanding. Remember when Jesus told you, the angels said, long before he went to Jerusalem, that he would be handed over to sinners, crucified, and on the third day rise again (24:7). It was this angelic call to remembrance that lifted the fog of forgetfulness about what Jesus had told them, transforming them into messengers of the earthly realm—evangelists—who would announce Jesus’ resurrection.
The human tendency to forget must not be taken lightly. The women could not make sense of neither what had happened nor what they were experiencing until they were shaken out of their forgetfulness by remembering the words spoken to them by Jesus.
Imagine how powerful human forgetfulness can be in the enslavement of humanity by sin and how powerful human remembrance can be for the liberation of humanity in this broken world. The dangerous fog of Forgetfulness seeps into the daily demands of life, and visits the faithful and the unbelievers alike. For Christians, the danger is forgetting both identity and purpose—identity as children of God and purpose as the body of Christ in the world.
No one is immune to the fog of forgetfulness, but it is especially dangerous for souls which are disconnected from the community of faith. The guard against the dangerous fog is the gathered faith community. It is in the community of faith that we are steeped in remembering our identity and purpose as followers of Christ.
We are a faithful, yet forgetful Easter people. And, when we are confronted with the reality of Jesus’ truth—we can become perplexed, and seek understanding in myriad tombs of life. Holding fast to the memory of our identity and our purpose helps us to seek the risen Christ, not the empty tomb.
Many of you know that I am a clinically-trained chaplain. My life as a chaplain in a hospital positioned me in the critical care unit (CCU)—a floor where my patients rarely regained consciousness and, more often than not, died. The spiritual caregivers—the chaplains—were warned to be on guard against compassion fatigue in the midst of what I would call the daily routine of death. Even with the warnings, this chaplain, confident that my faith was strong, was caught in the fog of forgetfulness. Until, a patient, who was not expected to survive—survived.
After several days of praying with this unconscious patient and her family, I walked into her room in CCU—and her bed was empty. Death was my first thought, not healing and restoration.
Like the angels in dazzling clothes in our passage today, I turned my head to find her on the other side of the room, sitting in the window sill, hair flowing, feet swinging like a joy-filled child, face smiling, and the sun from the window cascading from the top of her head down to the bottom of her feet. She saw my face. The tomb was empty, and I was perplexed. I was at a loss for words.
The patient looked at me–it felt as if she looked through me—and said, “I know that my healing has restored your faith.” I did not know that my faith needed restoration. The routine of death had taken its toll on me, and this Christian woman, a living testimony to God’s powerful healing, confronted my forgetfulness, and reminded me that through Christ, all things are truly, and miraculously, possible.
The Christian faith is not a spectator sport, and it is not practiced in solitude. Jesus’ public ministry took place in and through community. The community of faith shares language, symbols for meaning-making and tradition. All of these are necessary for remembering who we are, what Jesus has done for us in his saving work on the cross, and what we now must do as His body—the church—in this world.
Regular worship in church; engaging the living Word of Scripture, and wrestling with that same word—together—helps us to combat the real dangers of forgetfulness, and to navigate the realities of a death-dealing world.
Recall, that on Ash Wednesday, the ashes are imposed on our foreheads, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” In the imposition of ashes, we are reminded of our mortality.
As the sacrament commanded by Christ for the continual remembrance of his life, death and resurrection, until His coming again—The Holy Eucharist reminds us (BCP, p. 859). It is in the Holy Eucharist where the real presence of the risen Christ intimately meets us and dwells in us as we eat and drink the sacraments of his body and blood. “Do this for the remembrance of me,” Christ said (BCP, p. 368).
On this Resurrection Sunday, and throughout the season of Easter, remember that through our baptism, we are united with Christ in a death like his, and are certainly united with him in a resurrection like his (Rom 6:5). We are reminded, not of our mortality, but of our promised eternal life with God.
Whoever you are, and wherever you are in your journey of faith:
- Remember: As Easter people, we do not claim the agony of defeat that this broken world so easily claims.
- Remember: As Easter people we claim—and we proclaim—the thrill of victory of an abundant life lived in Jesus Christ.
Shortly, our recessional hymn will remind us, “He is risen, he is risen! Tell it out with joyful voice: he has burst his three days’ prison; let the whole wide earth rejoice: death is conquered, we are free, Christ has won the victory” (1982 Hymnal 180).
The tomb is empty, and we can breathe again. Alleluia! Alleluia!