Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom.
In late January, when the South Coast bushfires were still threatening communities and lives, Rev. Stephen Robinson and I visited people and congregations from Bateman’s Bay through to Eden. Apart from the trauma, and the ongoing fear of what might happen, there was the shared concern that at some point, quite soon, the media would place their interest somewhere else, and the South Coast disaster be relegated to “other news”.
That was already the case for the north coast, as the horrific fires in the Richmond Valley, and those surrounding Port Macquarie and Taree were superseded by the south coast’s crisis. Those still crippled by drought west of the mountains could only watch as their ongoing disaster rated barely a mention. Remember us …
Where the media turns its lens, the eye of the nation follows, and those responsible for our government. For a few, with the recent – wonderful – rainfall, the drought and the fires are almost a memory. The courage and the fear and the loss and the need to act for the future will become yesterday’s story. We will be crowded out by contagion, or impeachment, or the bumbling machinations of politics, or recent royal antics. Remember us…
One of the tasks of those who follow Jesus is to remember those whom we are encouraged to forget, and those we are discouraged to remember. The prophets called the community and its leaders to justice in the temple and the marketplace; justice for those too easily ignored or forgotten.
The ministry of Jesus was constantly welcoming and restoring those who were misremembered by culture, or illness, or class, or age. People who had to find their way to Jesus – through crowds, through roofs, through hypocrisy or prejudice, or politics, or religion – had been relegated to those not worth worrying about.
Being found by Jesus, they found life.
The central place of Easter is the core of our faith in Jesus Christ. The cross was for those cast aside, abstracted to the rubbish tip. The confrontation of Jesus’ death is not only that he died, but the manner of his death: outcast with criminals, those deemed by empire as best forgotten.
In the same breath, it is here that we realise none of us is forgotten by God. If Jesus is placed with the outcast, with those society seeks to punish and ignore, then is anywhere beyond the embrace of God?
Crucified between two criminals, whose names are forgotten to all but the living God, Jesus is with us. When we believe ourselves to be of no value, the cross proclaims otherwise, because Jesus Christ is most truly God precisely where all seems lost.
A young mother, Hannah, and her three children, Aaliyah, Laianah and Trey, were murdered in the days before I wrote this. My faith in the crucified Christ asserts that God not only weeps at their deaths, but was with them at that worst of all moments.
My faith in the risen Christ asserts that the mercy of God holds them now. They are never forgotten to God – none of us is.
As friends, family, and those entirely unknown to us are isolating themselves from this pandemic and each other, every one’s life is treasured by the one who holds us all.
Easter proclaims a mystery in which we place our hope and our lives – that the God of all creation and all of history remembers us, and is with us, most especially in those moments which are darkest of all.
The risen Christ declares that the one who was deemed forgotten, murdered on a Calvary cross, was remembered by the love of God and raised to life.
So, in our hope we will call attention to those who suffer, we will sing for justice in the marketplace, we will act for those deemed unworthy. We will remind our leaders and our communities of those whose names and circumstances are too easily forgotten, and we will bear witness to the God who is with us, who loves us, and remembers us – for ever.
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.” [Luke 23-42-43]