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Memories and April 19 - Episcopal leader offers perspective

In this 2005 photo, people gather under the Survivor Tree during a ceremony marking the 10th anniversary of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building bombing. The tree is on the grounds of the Oklahoma City National Memorial in downtown Oklahoma City. [Oklahoman Archives]
In this 2005 photo, people gather under the Survivor Tree during a ceremony marking the 10th anniversary of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building bombing. The tree is on the grounds of the Oklahoma City National Memorial in downtown Oklahoma City. [Oklahoman Archives]

In this 2005 photo, people gather under the Survivor Tree during a ceremony marking the 10th anniversary of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building bombing. The tree is on the grounds of the Oklahoma City National Memorial in downtown Oklahoma City. [Oklahoman Archives]
In this 2005 photo, people gather under the Survivor Tree during a ceremony marking the 10th anniversary of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building bombing. The tree is on the grounds of the Oklahoma City National Memorial in downtown Oklahoma City. [Oklahoman Archives]
God's Memory and Our Life

By the Rev. Mark Story, rector of St. Mary's Episcopal Church,  Edmond 

 

Today is the twenty-first anniversary of the Murrah Federal Building bombing. I was in a parking lot at Southern Methodist University when I heard the news.  The days that followed revealed a tragic story of death and injury.  However, another narrative emerged as well.  It chronicled the actions of countless persons, both professional and volunteer, who responded with courage, grace, generosity, strength, perseverance, and eventually resilience. That alternative narrative became known as the Oklahoma Standard.

As I pause to remember an event that deeply affected so many people, I realize that memory is a potent thing.  It has the power to influence our present actions either consciously or subconsciously.  It has the power to bring us joy or sorrow.  It can leave us empowered or powerless.

There are many among us who have no memory of the bombing.  Those of us who carry the memory have a choice.  We can go back and relive that fateful day and reclaim the pain and the sorrow or we can remember the day in a way that brings new life.  We can teach those who are too young to remember to live with suspicion, hate, and vengeance or we can teach them to live for God with true freedom.  We can choose to live in the past or we can take a bold step into a new future.

The biblical narrative is full of references that tell us that God remembers.  This is particularly true of the Old Testament witness.  God's memory is distinctly different from ours.  God's memory reveals God's eternal character and faithfulness.  When God remembers Noah and the animals, the waters of the flood subside. When God remembers Rachel, she who was once barren, becomes pregnant.  When God remembers Israel, Moses is sent to lead the Hebrew people out of Egypt. 

God remembers the covenants that were made with Noah, with Abraham, with Moses, and with David. In its own right, each covenant establishes a faithful relationship, a bond, between God and God's chosen.  God's memory, therefore, brings salvation to those who stand within the covenant.  God's memory reestablishes peace.  We now live within the New Covenant and promise of Jesus.

The crucifixion of our Lord Jesus provides a point of reflection for those of us who call ourselves Christian.  The death of Jesus brought grief and sorrow to those who loved him.  On that first Friday, there was no more room for hope.  It had been extinguished by those who represented God and the Pax Romana. On that first Friday, there was no talk of atonement, no thought of redemption.  What was to become known as sacrifice was first experienced as murder.

That all changed on the first day of the week when the tomb was found to be empty.  The empty tomb deprived the dark powers of human memory to lead us back into the grip of death and the grave. The empty tomb transformed the Cross from an instrument of institutional death into the power of God to reclaim and transform lives.  The Oklahoma Standard reflects the glory of that Cross.  May our memory of the bombing be forever characterized by the way God remembers.  May we always recall the bond we have with our fellow human beings and act out of goodwill and the best interests of all.  May our memories reestablish peace not in the far distant future, but in our time.  After all, we live on the first day of the week.

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