Re:membering Easter (You are a Classic!)
I choose to attend Candler School of Theology at Emory University because I wanted to be a pulpit preacher. I didn’t know a thing back then about leadership but I wanted to learn to preach the bark off a tree! The head of the Homiletics Department was Dr. Fred Craddock; he was considered the best preaching professor in the country. His book Preaching was the textbook other seminaries used; his storytelling was legendary and the opportunity to learn the craft of preaching from the master was what brought me to Atlanta. Dr. Craddock taught us that words are the tools with which great preaching is fashioned. Preachers must not only be careful with words (for they are potentially dangerous) but must also protect them (from both overuse and neglect) and apply them to a greater good (the Kingdom of God). He reminded us often that it was with words God created the cosmos. Words are powerful.
One of my favorite English words is “Remember.” Standard definitions offer, “To keep in mind, consider or to memorize.” But remember always felt like a bigger word than its definition or its synonyms to me. It was like the very best car in an endless line of cars; the one that caught your eye and captured your imagination. The word remember simply intrigued me to the point I was determined to dismantle it, study it and put it back together so I may better get to know it (like a mechanic with an engine). This simple exercise changed my perception of God and my concept of pastoral ministry. Remember is used over 150 times in the Bible so we can safely assume God wants us in the business of remembering. A variation of the word “remembrance” is etched into a hundred thousand communion tables so we can also assume the church encourages remembering as well. Finally, Melissa is always telling me to “remember” something or other when I go out, so it is safe to assume that remembering is important to human relationships as well.
So let’s get out a scalpel and separate remember into “re” and “member.” Member is a word that wants to go a lot of literary directions so I had to find it a clear path. I really like Encarta’s fifth definition, “A separate and distinct part of a whole; e.g., an object belonging to a mathematical set, a clause in a sentence, or a proposition in a syllogism.” (Isn’t this getting exciting?) Adding the prefix “re” simply means to “do again.” When I put these two ideas together, it made no sense at all (clearly a reward for my hard work). Then it occurred to me, re-member is a reactive word; it is the restoration of something larger that had been previously reduced to less than it was created to be. In this light, re-member is to restore a thing and you would only go to the effort to restore something if it were of significant value (e.g., no one restores plastic lighters). Imagine you discovered a dilapidated 1967 Ford Shelby Mustang GT 500 in the back of a junkyard. Despite its deplorable condition the proprietor asks a fortune for the car and will not come down a penny. Because the car has captivated you, you overpay and spare no expense or effort to meticulously return it to factory condition. When your ultimate muscle car is finally completed, it is finally and fully…remembered!
Easter is much bigger than the annual recollection of an ancient story; it is an act of remembering. The storyline goes like this: You and I were created in the loving image of God with limitless potential and priceless value. We were beautiful and lit up the showroom floor! Because of the damaging effects of sin on our lives, our potential quickly was squandered by misuse and neglect. In time, our value plummeted until the day we found ourselves stripped, abandoned, junked and forgotten. And then, at our most hopeless point, when we had given up on ever being more than we had become, God came picking. When He saw you in the back of the junkyard, you took His breath away! He did not see you and I for what we had become; He saw us for what we were created to be and could be again! On Good Friday, God overpaid for our lives with the blood of His only Son. On Pentecost, He unleashed the Holy Spirit to do the work of restoration in us; with Easter Christ assured us that what God had begun would be completed. You are a new creation, a loving being restored into the person you were created to be. You are of infinite value to your Creator. You, my friend, are a classic!
-Rev. Shane L. Bishop, a Distinguished Evangelist of the United Methodist Church, has been the Senior Pastor of Christ Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois since 1997.