If your family is anything like mine, you share stories when you get together. It usually starts with recent events—the latest project at work or junior’s sports exploits—but, inevitably, the conversation turns to tales from the past. These are the stories that add color to our family trees and have ripened into legend by being told over and over again, the favorites.
One of my favorite stories from the past originated at my best childhood friend’s wedding. The setting was a beautiful vineyard in St. Catharines, Ontario. As the rehearsal dinner was winding down, the participants began to recount stories from the bride and groom’s pasts, everything from heartwarming to embarrassing. Before the group adjourned for the evening, the honor of having the final word was given to the groom’s elderly relative, Uncle Elmer.
Uncle Elmer and his wife had been married far longer than the majority of the dinner guests had been alive. The elderly couple, who grew-up and still lived in the Deep South, sat toward the back of the room quietly enjoying the conversation until someone posed this question: “What’s the secret to being married so long?”
Being a stately southern gentleman, Uncle Elmer wouldn’t think of addressing the group without standing. His gnarled hand reached for his nearby cane, and he slowly rose to answer the question. “The secret to being married for so long,” he began, in a stronger than anticipated voice, “is when you’re wrong, admit it.” He paused for effect, surveying the hushed room before delivering the punch line. “And when you’re right, shut up.” Despite the laughter, everyone seemed to agree with the timeless wisdom in his simple answer.
I imagine the Disciples shared some memorable stories, too:
“Remember when he called us to follow him?”
“What about that time he turned water into wine?”
“How many people did he feed with the five loaves and two fish?”
“Boy, were those religious leaders angry when he shut them down!”
“Lazarus was in the tomb four days, and he still raised him from the dead!”
But the very best story, the one that topped all the others, had to be the one about Jesus’ resurrection:
“They arrested him in the garden and took him to the palace for a mock trial. Then they beat him and made him carry his own cross up the hill where they crucified him. Later that same day, some followers took his lifeless body down from the cross and buried him in a tomb guarded by Roman soldiers. But even all of that wasn’t enough to stop him, because three days later he rose from the dead. Can you believe it? We can—we saw the whole thing!”
That’s why we pause each Sunday at communion time to remember the greatest story of all time—how Jesus ushered in a new covenant by sacrificing his own body and blood on the cross in order to conquer sin and death for the whole world.