From the Desk of Pastor Olsen
Last Sunday Sesle and I were out at George Washington Memorial Park Cemetery. We had gone to place a palm cross on Sesle's father's grave. His resting place was easily located. It has been only seven months since we witnessed his interment there. But then we undertook an expedition to locate the grave of one of Sesle's friends. That was a bigger challenge. It had been five years or so since the burial. As anyone who has ever been to George Washington knows, the grave markers are all flat plaques. Grass tends to grow over them. Dead leaves cover them. So if you know only the general area of the grave you are looking for, there is no search method other than methodically reading each plaque, row upon row, one after the other.
It is impossible to spend half an hour looking at grave plaques without thinking a little about your own mortality. Occasionally, I would come upon a grave with a bouquet of flowers or a palm cross reflecting the fresh grief of a recent loss. More often, the plaques were bare. Some of them were so far overgrown that they were no longer visible. Some had turned green from decades of corrosion. Each one bore the name and testified to the lifespan of a unique person. Behind each plaque there was a story that, sooner or later, will be altogether forgotten.
Well, not altogether. There is a memory that is longer, deeper and more enduring than human history. The prophet Isaiah has the Lord asking rhetorically, "Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you." I know that I will be remembered long after my last living relative has died, long after everything I have ever said, written and done has been forgotten, long after the elements have erased the name from my own brass plaque. God remembers each of my years, my days and my moments. Just as God raised up the crucified body of his Son, so God promises to raise up the dying body of his church. The memories that I have made will be brought to life again. Many of them will have to be forgiven; some of them will have to be corrected; some of them will need healing; some will have to be exorcized and discarded; the best, the true and the beautiful of my memories will be woven into the fabric of the new creation. Jesus promises that nothing of all that is me will be lost or forgotten.
We never did find the grave we were looking for, but that doesn't matter. God knows where our friend is. Though lost to us, she is resting with the company of the saints in light, waiting for the day when, as St. Paul tells us, "we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet." In the light of Easter, I begin to see the graves among which we walked, not as final resting places, but as seed beds awaiting the call of him who will make them germinate and grow. I recall the words of the hymn:
When our hearts are wintry,
grieving or in pain;
Your touch can call us
back to life again.
Fields of our hearts
that dead and bare have been;
Love is come again like wheat arising green.
Now the Green Blade Rises ELW # 379
May the good news that you are remembered by the God who raised Jesus from death give you good cheer and hope this Easter Season!