Those wonderful women who went to the tomb. Only three of them are named – Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James – but we know, in fact, that there were others, and that they were exemplary disciples. They were devoted – standing with Jesus at his cross – at a distance, yes, but nevertheless staying until the end. They were persistent, following Joseph of Arimathea and watching as he laid Jesus’ body in the tomb. They were prepared, going home to make ready the spices and the ointments with which they planned to anoint Jesus’ body for a proper burial. They were faithful, honoring the commandment of Sabbath rest, even though their world had been turned upside down. They were tireless, up at early dawn to make their way to the tomb as soon as the Sabbath ended to complete their sad but loving task. Those wonderful women were courageous and bold and dependable and loyal . . . but dare I say it, they were also a little forgetful – of just one very important thing.

Remember: these women had been with Jesus along the way. With their own eyes, they had seen the power of his miracles. With their own ears, they had heard the wisdom in his teaching. They had experienced his mercy and grace, and I imagine that these things were pretty unforgettable. They had heard him say that he would be arrested, tortured, and put to death – and then, sadly, lived to see his words come true. But that’s where their memories failed. Because apparently, they forgot that in addition to telling them that he would be arrested and tortured and put to death, he also had told them that on the third day he would rise again. But they must not have remembered that part – or that memory had been buried underneath a pile of stress and fear and grief – because they showed up at the tomb looking for a dead body. And they were perplexed not to find it. They had to be reminded by the two men in dazzling clothes – let’s call them angels because they certainly weren’t humans – they had to be reminded by the two angels of the promise of the resurrection. It was only after the reminder that they understood why the tomb was empty.

We can forgive them, I think, for their forgetfulness. We know how stress can make us absent-minded. Twice last week, I got a half mile away from the house and had to do a U-turn to get something I had forgotten. Stress can make us forgetful, and fear is even more damaging to our memories. It’s really hard to remember how to do anything except trying to survive when adrenaline is pumping through our bloodstreams. And grief – grief can flat out make us forget who we are when someone we love, someone who made us who we are, is no longer with us. With all they had been through, it’s no wonder the women forgot about the promise of resurrection. Thank God for those reminding angels who simply jogged their memories, saying, “Remember how he told you . . ..” And then they did. Then they did remember.

God knew how faulty the women’s memories would be, and placed reminder agents at the scene of the empty tomb to make sure the message of victorious love would get through. And God knows our own memories also fail from time to time, especially when life gets messy and painful, as it has a habit of doing. That’s why we celebrate Easter annually. I mean, really – don’t we know this story already? And yet, even those who know the story very well still forget. We forget what Easter means, and how it changes everything.

We forget, sometimes, who we are. Society has a way of telling us that we’re not good enough, or we’re not young enough, or we’re not strong enough, or we’re not smart enough, or we’re not successful enough, or we’re not rich enough, or we’re just. . . somehow not enough. But Easter is our annual reminder that, indeed, we are enough. We are enough that God would come among us in love to live and die as one of us.

We forget, sometimes, that the way things are is not the way things will always be. We become anxious about so many things: anxious about the condition of our health and the condition of our families, worried about the state of our nation and the state of the world, apprehensive about the well-being of the church and about the well-being of our planet. Good Friday reminds us that there is suffering in the world. There’s no avoiding it. But Easter
reminds us that suffering is not the end of the story when God is involved. And . . . spoiler alert . . . God is always involved!

We forget, sometimes, that as Archbishop Desmond Tutu, of sainted memory, reminded us: goodness is stronger than evil; love is stronger than hate; light is stronger than darkness; life is stronger than death. Easter reminds us that nothing is impossible with God. Easter reminds us that victory is ours through God who loves us.

And just in case you, like I, need reminders more than just once a year that you are loved, know that we will jog your memory here: with baptismal water, which reminds us that we were named and claimed as God’s beloved children. Just in case you need more frequent reminders that God is involved in a personal way in your life, your memory can always be prompted here, when Jesus is placed into your hands in communion bread. And if you need to be reminded that there is goodness and love and light and life in the world, you can always find evidence of that here, in this community of faith.

Like those women at the tomb early on Easter morning, sometimes we just need a reminder. This is your reminder: Alleluia! Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!

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