In remembrance of her.. and him... and all the rest

Because we are considering the importance of remembering today - in honor of Memorial Day, to be sure, but beyond it, too - I'm going to invite you to take some time to go deeper into each of the readings from the Community of Iona. They ask us to remember both some of the people we tend to forget in our tradition, and, some of the truths about ourselves we pretend don't exist. Let the music take you deeper into remembering these truths, too, because remembering is part of what it means to be spiritually faithful.

In this week's Christian Century magazine, Senior Editor James Wall notes that President Jimmy Carter's recent peace-making trip to the Middle East was so powerful not only because he insisted on speaking with all the players involved - Hammas as well Israel - but also because he remembers history and calls others to remember it as well. "Most Americans have forgotten," Wall observes, "if they ever knew, that 30 years ago, in a peace agreement with Egypt, Israel agreed to full autonomy for the occupied territories, and also agreed not to permit Jewish settlements there. These promises have been forgotten by Israel which continues to build and expand settlements in the West Bank. But Carter has not forgotten, and his memory may be a factor in the hostility towards him - a man who remembers prods the conscience of those who want to forget." (CC, May 20, 2008, p. 44)

Elsewhere in that same edition, German theologian, Jurgen Moltmann, reminds us that the current Pope, Benedict XVI, seems to have forgotten the historic commitments of Vatican II in his understanding of hope and God's grace. Where once the Church spoke of its "deep solidarity with the entire human family," Moltmann writes, now Benedict is mostly interested only with church insiders: in fact, he "limits Christian hope to the faithful and separates them from those in the world who have no hope." (p. 31) What is missing in this loss of memory he asks?

What is missing is the gospel of the kingdom of God, the gospel that Jesus himself proclaimed. What is missing is the message of the lordship of the risen Christ over the living and the dead and the entire cosmos that we find in the apostle Paul. What is missing is the resurrection of the body and the life of the world to come as it appears in the creeds. What is missing is the salvation of a groaning creation and the hope of a new earth where justice dwells. In short, what is missing is the hope of the all-encompassing promise of God who is coming... By limiting hope to the blessedness of souls in eternal life, Benedict also leaves out the prophetic promises of the Old Testament so that Christian hope becomes hard to differentiate from a Gnostic religion of salvation.

There is a great deal at stake when it comes to remembering and forgetting... so today we choose to remember. After the meditative readings - and the music - we'll talk about what all of this caused you to remember and why that matters.

FIRST READING: Disciples of Christ

Let us remember and celebrate twelve of Jesus’ disciples – people who were touched by him – and who shared his ministry of hope and compassion. Remember Mary, the girl from the country town, the poet and singer, who became pregnant with God, by God and for God’s sake. Remember Elizabeth, Mary’s older cousin, who shared Mary’s excitement, who born John the Baptist herself, who was friend and mentor of our Lord.

Remember Anna, the old widow and faithful believer who saw and eight-day old baby and recognized that the Messiah had come.

Remember Martha, the cook and housekeeper, the plain speaker, who gave Jesus her anger so that he could give her his love.

Remember Joanna, who with Susanna and many other women, provided the hospitality and resources for Christ’s ministry and were essential to the living gospel.

Remember Peter’s mother-in-law, who was so grateful to be healed that her first act after recovery was to serve Jesus a feast.

Remember the Samaritan woman whose conversation with Jesus was full of double entendres, but whose life was so changed by him that she became the first real evangelist.

Remember the Canaanite woman, who called Jesus on his racism and gave him a hard time, taking his exclusive language to task until he saw and admired the wisdom of her tough insights.

Remember the hemorrhaging woman who contaminated countless men in
her struggle to touch Jesus who saw her faith as the root of her cure.

Remember the poor widowed woman, who, in giving the smallest coins to God, gave Jesus his model for generosity.

Remember the woman caught in adultery, who let Jesus show how the grace of God is greater than the moralizing of men. Remember her whose perfume filled a room with fragrance – a woman who did something beautiful for the Lord – and whose costliest gift to God was love.


Won't you let me be your servant,
Let me be as Christ to you?
Pray that I may have the grace to
Let you be my servant, too.

SECOND READING: I Will Not Always Be with You

He had never said that kind of thing before… You will not always have me. He had warned us about Jerusalem, about going up to the city, about how he would be hounded and rounded up… and other things which we did not want to hear. But this was Bethany! You will not always have me.
Who did he say it to? That was the problem. We could not all see, the room was crowded, and other people were talking. IT was not as if time stood still and everyone froze to watch the action. No, no, James and John were arguing – as ever – a woman with a demented daughter was screaming for attention, Martha was shouting for help in the kitchen and somebody who was allergic to olives was vomiting in the corner… No, you will not always have me.

Some of us thought he said it to Mary. There had been talk… well, there was always talk… She doted on him, hung on his every word. So maybe it was his way of telling her to back off, to put clear limits on their relationship, to say, “That’s enough, Magdalene, there are others you should attend to. I’ve got more to do than be feted by you…” You will not always have me.

But more of us thought he was talking to Judas. For Judas was a rat. He was the kind of guy who was so smug that it made you suspicious. You know the kind of person who is
always saying the church isn’t doing enough for the poor but who would never put a penny into the begging bowl? That was Judas.

He was our treasurer. He always complained that we didn’t have enough money. He suggested one day that if Jesus cured somebody, we should ask for a donation. And he would have pilfered every penny if Matthew hadn’t kept an eye on him.

So we thought it was him that Jesus was talking to… telling him that there were plenty of opportunities to exercise his concern for the poor… if only he would take them. Or was he, in his own way, telling Judas that he knew what he was up to – and that both their days were numbered? You will not always have me.

Or was he speaking to us – to all of us – was he giving us a last chance to say or to show whether we loved him? And maybe that’s what made us jealous of Mary… she always showed that she cared and the rest of us presumed we didn’t need to tell him. I remember thinking: if my mother was dying, I’d give her all the time I could, I would take her a red rose and tell her that I loved her. I would read her the psalms she wanted to hear and sing the songs she had taught me as a child. And here – with Jesus making clear he was soon to leave us – what did we give him? What did we tell him? Why did we hold back? You will not always have me…


Like a mother who has borne us, held us close in her delight,
Fed us freely from her body: God has called us into life.
Like a father who has taught us, grasped our hand and been our guide,
Lifted us and healed our sorrows: God has walked with us in life.
Though as children we have wandered, placed our trust in power and might,
Left behind our brothers, sisters: God still calls us into life.

CONVERSATION AND SONG: What Kind of World Do You Want?


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