April 22, 2012: EASTER 2.0: How will you be remembered?

Posted on : Apr 19th, 2012 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

How will you be remembered after you die?  Have you ever thought about that?  One of the things that always amazes me about the way we here at West Hollywood Church remember those who have died is that almost everyone leaves a Memorial Service saying, “I didn’t know that about her or him!”  And they’re impressed!

And that’s not just from “general friends.”  A few months ago we remembered and celebrated the life of David Muller.  David’s mom, who knew him for 56 years, has said to me every time we talk, “I didn’t know [this or that] about David.  His Memorial service was so beautiful to me.”  And then she pauses and asks, “Is it okay to say that about a Memorial Service?”  Of course it is.  What made that service so beautiful for her was the honest sharing about David’s life and the way he touched so many people.  Some pastors include a “eulogy” that gives “vital” information about the person.  That usually includes where they were born, where they went to school.  Awards, accomplishments, professional achievements, etc., etc.  Years ago I learned that that kind of stuff is not what people remember or even care about.  What we care about is how the person who has died touched our lives.  We care about their humanness and the way they related to us.

How is Jesus remembered?  The gospel writers, his followers, and even those of us who follow Jesus today don’t know anything about his educational background or professional accomplishments.  Even his place of birth is relatively unknown, or debatable.

Was Jesus born in Bethlehem in Judea, or in Nazareth, or in another Bethlehem?

Christian tradition states that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, in Judea (now Palestine). This is about six miles south of Jerusalem.

However, the location of Christ’s birth is not certain.

  • Matthew 2:1-6 quotes Micah 5:2 as one proof that Jesus was the anticipated Messiah. Micah predicted that out of Bethlehem would “come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.”  The picture drawn by Matthew is of an engaged couple who were living in Bethlehem at the time of Jesus’ birth.
  • Luke 2:1-7 describes Joseph and Mary as residents of Nazareth in Galilee. They would have had to travel for about a week to cover the approximately 90 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem in Judea.   Luke says that they had to do this in order to take part in the Roman census and taxation. However, there is no record what so ever of such a tax or the governor who supposedly ruled during this time.  Add in to this story that Mary is 9 months pregnant and it becomes pretty clear that such a journey would be nearly impossible, with or without a donkey!  It is much more logical that Jesus was born in Nazareth in spite of Luke’s attempt to “get him to Bethlehem.”
  • Mark 6:1 contradicts Matthew by identifying Nazareth as Jesus’ birthplace … and his “hometown.”
  • John 7:41-43 also contradicts Matthew. It has people in a crowd rejecting Jesus as the Messiah because the Messiah was expected to come from Bethlehem in Judea, whereas Jesus was known to have come from Galilee.
  • There are numerous references in New Testament that identify Jesus as coming from Nazareth. The early Christians were called “Nazarenes.” Jesus was called “Jesus of Nazareth” or “Jesus the Nazarene” – and never “Jesus of Bethlehem.”

Long story short:  the statistical data, or what legal scholars call “vital information,” isn’t vital at all.  At least not when it comes to remembering what is important and meaningful about someone’s life.

This Sunday’s Gospel is the story of the two criminals who are crucified with Jesus, one on his right; one on his left.  The one criminal “trashes” Jesus from the cross, the other says, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your glory (kingdom).  Who makes a greater impact in this story, the first or the second criminal?

Those words, “Jesus, remember me,” became the text of one of the most beloved songs from the Taizé community. We often sing Brother Roger’s setting of “Jesus, Remember Me” during Communion.  The Taizé community is an ecumenical religious community formed by Brother Roger who was a Protestant.

From 1937 to 1940, Roger studied Reformed theology in Strasbourg and Lausanne, where he was a leader in the Swiss Student Christian Movement, part of the World Student Christian Federation.

In 1940, he rode a bicycle from Geneva to Taizé, a small town near Mâcon, about 390 kilometres (240 mi) southeast of Paris. Taizé was then in unoccupied France, just beyond the line of demarcation of the zone occupied by German troops. For two years Brother Roger hid Jewish refugees before being forced to leave Taizé. In 1944, after the war, he returned to Taizé to found the Taizé religious Community which to this day is committed to the pursuit of peace and the “one-ness” in Christ among all religious traditions.

Brother Roger was awarded the UNESCO Prize for Peace Education in 1988 and wrote many books on prayer and reflection, asking young people to be confident in God and committed to their local church community and to humanity. He also wrote books about Christian spirituality and prayer, some together with Mother Teresa with whom he shared a cordial friendship.

Ironically, Brother Roger was stabbed to death during the evening prayer service in Taizé on August 16, 2005 by Luminiţa Ruxandra Solcan. He was stabbed several times and, though one of the brothers carried him from the church, he died shortly afterwards. The assailant was immediately apprehended by members of the congregation and was placed in police custody.  Ms. Solcan had a life-long history of suffering from mental illness.

The funeral took place on August 23, 2005. In a highly unusual move, the funeral of this Protestant monk was presided over by a Catholic cardinal. Walter Kasper, the president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, who celebrated the Mass with four priest-brothers of Taizé concelebrating. In his homily he said, “Yes, the springtime of ecumenism has flowered on the hill of Taizé.” In reference to Brother Roger’s concern for social justice, Cardinal Kasper said “Every form of injustice or neglect made him very sad.” Br. Roger’s successor, Br. Alois prayed for forgiveness: “With Christ on the cross we say to you, Father, forgive her, she does not know what she did.”

On this third Sunday of Easter we continue our Easter exploration: “When the Impossible Is Possible.”  How will you be remembered?

Easter Blessings,


~ This Sunday’s Scripture ~

Luke 23: 32-34, 39-43

One of the criminals crucified with Jesus said,

“Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom.”

Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with Jesus.  When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.  Then Jesus said, “Loving God, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing.

The people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, God’s Chosen One!”   The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, “If you are the King of the Jewish people, save yourself!”  There was also an inscription over Jesus’ head, “This is the King of the Jewish people.”

One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding Jesus and saying, “Are you not the Messiah?  Save yourself and us!”

But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?  And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this person has done nothing wrong.”  Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

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