MemoryPosted: April 26, 2015
SLIDE 3: HOW DOES RESURRECTION WORK?
But how does resurrection work? How was Jesus crucified, dead and buried, and yet he was experienced as alive among his followers? On Easter Sunday we suggested that neither an empty tomb nor a resuscitated body were necessary for Christ to be experienced as alive by those who loved him. In fact, the testimony of Paul, the very first written account of the resurrection, Paul who counted his own vision on the Road to Damascus as one of the resurrection appearances, did not rely upon a resuscitated body or an empty tomb. So what was going on?
SLIDE 4: THE UNIVERSE REMEMBERS
I think our scriptures provide a clue to our questions. Psalm 112 assures us that the righteous will be remembered forever. And the Gospel of John says the Holy Spirit will “teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” Our clue is that resurrection and life after death are all wrapped up in memory. Now before you object that given our memories or at least my faulty memory then we are all in trouble. But I am not talking about our individual memories, although they are important. Indeed, our individual personalities in some measure are the product of memory. This morning, however, I would like to invite all of us to consider the possibility that the universe, reality, God if you will all have memory. The universe remembers.
SLIDE 5: PERIODIC TABLE IS THE MEMORY OF THE EVOLUTION OF THE UNIVERSE
How can that be? How can an impersonal universe have memory? Allow me to suggest two pieces of evidence for memory in the universe. First look at the Periodic Table you encountered in High School chemistry or physics. Our best understanding of the beginning of the universe is a Big Bang with light and energy but very few particles, not even atoms in the first seconds. Then slowly as the Universe cooled after about 400,000 years, which in human terms is a long time, protons began to combine with electrons to form hydrogen atoms. And most of the matter was in the form of hydrogen that then formed into stars, massive stars that burned with incredible intensity until they blew up in massive explosions that helped to form the heavier atoms of the Periodic Table. All of us are made up of the dust of the explosions of those initial stars – we are literally made of star dust. And the Periodic Table is a memory of the evolution of our Universe.
SLIDE 6: DNA CONTAINS THE MEMORY OF THE EVOLUTION OF LIFE
Another evidence of memory in the Universe is our own DNA. Hidden in the structure of the genes and chromosomes of the double helix our DNA contains the memory of the evolution of life on our planet. Gill slits and tail bones all attest to nature’s memory of the slow development of the many species of life before we appeared. Again the universe remembers.
SLIDE 7: PERENNIAL WISDOM FOR THE SPIRITUALLY INDEPENDENT
Rabbi Rami Shapiro the author of Perennial Wisdom for the Spiritually Independent, the next book we will discuss in Monday Bible Study and at the Sharing Table, uses an analogy for death using rope. And that is why I have provided all of us with a length of rope today to play with.
SLIDE 8: ROPE AND KNOTS
Rabbi Rami writes: When I share the perennial wisdom on death with fifth and sixth graders, for example, I often do so with pieces of rope. I hand each child a foot long strand of rope and ask them to tie a knot in their piece of rope. We then discuss the relationship between the knot and the rope. The knot is simply the rope in a specific form. It is in no way other than or different from the rope.
I then ask them to tie a second knot. Comparing the two knots it is clear that each knot has its own uniqueness, its own place on the rope, its own degree of tightness, its own shape, yet both knots are not other than the single strand of rope.
I then ask them to name their knots. One knot called “me”. . . The second knot is named after someone they love who has died. . . I then ask them to untie their second knot.
The discussion now turns to the impact the missing knot has on the rope. Sure, the rope appears a bit longer, but it really isn’t any different than it was. There is no less rope with knots and no more rope without knots. The amount of rope is constant even if its length seems to change as we add or remove knots.
SLIDE 9: WHERE DOES THE KNOT GO WHEN IT IS UNTIED?
So knotting and unkotting the rope doesn’t change the nature of the rope. It isn’t anything other than rope regardless of the number of knots it has. When this is clear, I ask them where the knot goes when it is untied. Is the rope that was once the knot gone? How can it be that the rope is still there while the knot is not?
You can, I expect, see where this investigation is leading. The rope is constant; knots come and go. The extent to which you identify as a knot or with a knot, the untying of that knot is experienced as a loss, and that loss is expressed in grief. But what is really lost? Only the form is lost; the rope itself is still present.
SLIDE 10: SOMETIMES THE ROPE RETAINS A MEMORY OF THE KNOT
I find this analogy of the rope and the knots and death interesting. But I am not sure Rabbi Rami has played enough with his ropes. For instance, ropes come in all kinds of shapes sizes and materials. Some are easier or harder to knot. And then I noticed that some ropes when the knot is untied still retain a memory of the knot. Certainly when we die, we will be changed. Our bodies will decay. Our egos will no longer matter. But is there something essential about each one of us that is retained in the memory of God even in death?
SLIDE 11: SURELY THE RIGTEOUS WILL BE REMEMBERED FOREVER
I have come to learn that each human being and his or her story is precious. When I conduct a funeral I try to include enough of the story of that person, so that he or she is remembered well, because in remembering there is blessing. I also believe that all of the experiences that help to form our personalities are so important and so precious it would be a shame, if all of that personality was lost. There are parts of my personality I would be happy to lose, but it is my hope that the goodness and truth that have emerged out of my life and the lives of others will be remembered. “Surely the righteous will never be shaken, they will be remembered forever.”
SLIDE 12: YOU SHALL BE TOGETHER IN THE SILENT MEMORY OF GOD
What comes after death I do not know. And you are certainly welcome to form your own opinion, however learn from the rope. Nothing is lost. And this I do believe, that each one of us is a precious much beloved child of God, and in the economy of the universe nothing is lost and each one of us will have a place in the silent memory of God. In the words of Kahlil Gibran in his poem “On Marriage” in the Prophet:
You were born together, and together you shall be forever more. You shall be together when the white wings of death scatter your days. Ay, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.
SLIDE 13: WE BREAK THE BREAD IN ORDER TO REMEMBER
Jesus promises us that the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, will teach us all that we need to know, and bring into remembrance the very spirit of God. When we gather at the Sharing Table we break the bread and we pass the cup, in order to remember, and in that remembering we are freed from fear and we find peace. Through the power of memory we can access the power of the universe.
SLIDE 14: BEING FREE IS THE ULTIMATE RESURRECTION
In the words of Rabbi Rami: Resurrection is not the return of your body, but the awakening from spiritual sleep. You are not other than That which is all. But you have forgotten. You are asleep to the truth of yourself and all life. But you can be taught, and unless you resist the teaching by clinging to your sense of separateness from the Whole, you will find the truth. It may come early or late, in the fullness of your life or in the moment of your death, but truth will come, and the truth will set you free (John 8:32). Being free is the ultimate resurrection.
Take your rope home and play with it. You may discover whole new insights. The universe has memory, and each one of us will live in the silent memory of God.