Rev Dr Brian Kolia reflects on Luke 24:1-12 and how Jesus calls us to see differently, through remembering.
There is a Samoan saying: “Aua ne’i galo Afi’a i si ona vao.” (Do not forget about Afi’a who is in the forest). It comes from the Samoan village of Falealupo, where a woman named Sina went searching for her son Tautonu who had not returned from sea. As she embarked on her quest, her husband Afi’a, who was also the village high chief, gave her parting words, to remember him as he remained back in the forest as her tapuaiga (support).
For Samoans, the tapuaiga is sacred and revered — the tapuaiga can be individuals such as parents, or the collective of family and village which include the high chief and village elders who support and will on a person or team — the tapuaiga inspires them to perform great deeds. In Samoa, the tapuaiga is a key part of any quest, as expressed by the Samoan proverb: “E le sili le ta’i nai lo le tapua’i.” (The quest is never greater than the support). Sina doesn’t simply remember. The tapuaiga of Afi’a motivates and gives Sina the strength and will to search for her son Tautonu, whom she later finds many villages away. In the same vein, Samoans in their remembrance of the tapuaiga also find inspiration. Their remembrance moves them to action.
Reading through the resurrection of Jesus and the empty tomb in Luke 24:1-12 and the story of these extraordinary women, what strikes me from their experience occurs in verse 8: “Then they remembered his words,” (NRSV).
In these simple words, I am reminded of Sina’s remembering of Afi’a and how it inspires her to move. Similarly, this draws me to the “remembering” in the Old Testament, in particular, when God remembers.
A number of references in the Pentateuch articulate a notion of remembering that is intriguing. For instance, God remembers people, such as Noah (Gen 8:1); Abraham (19:29); Rachel (30:22). God also remembers covenants, such as that which God makes with creation (Gen 9:15-16) and the covenants with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Exod 2:24). In these instances, God doesn’t just remember, God also acts. Indeed, remembering without action, isn’t really remembering at all.
Like God, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of Jesus and the other women in Luke 24 remembered. Like Sina remembering Afi’a’s words, they also remembered Jesus’ words, and this moved them to action. Returning to the disciples and telling them the good news of Jesus’ resurrection, while Jesus waits as their tapuaiga!
This Easter, Jesus calls us to see differently: by remembering and re-member-ing!
Not a passive type of remembering, but an active form, as revealed to us by Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of Jesus and the other women; by Sina, and by God! A remembering that inspires us to move to action, to use our initiative for the wellbeing of others (re-member-ing), to drive others to pursue social justice. Remembering this way, is also re-member-ing; that is, bringing the marginalised outsider into membership with the rest of humanity.
This Easter, this remembering/re-member-ing couldn’t have come at a more apt time, as we reflect on the events around us, here and all over the world.
Remembering victims of floods, should move us to the call for urgent climate action (Re-member-ing the Environment). Remembering injustice against Indigenous peoples, should encourage us towards a meaningful process of healing and treaty (Re-member-ing Indigenous Peoples). Remembering the war in Ukraine, should drive us to also fight for justice for West Papua, Palestine, and other refugees whose search for peace and self-determination begun many decades ago and still unfulfilled today (Re-member-ing Native Peoples and Refugees). Remembering that we are in a global pandemic, should prompt us to love our neighbour, to protect them, and to act selflessly (Re-member-ing the Vulnerable).
Today, on Easter Sunday, we’re invited to see differently as we reflect on how Jesus remembered/re-member-ed us, when he gave his life on the cross for the suffering world, out of a love that was searching and unconditional (John 3:16).
Rev Dr Brian Kolia's reflection engages with Luke 24.1-12, a reading set out by the Revised Common Lectionary for Easter.
What is it that makes us forget? Maybe it is human nature. For some it may be a condition. For others, could it be a failure to prioritise what matters most? Or is it a result of anxiety and fear of things that haunt us, leading us to set aside our traumatic realities? How then can we find the energy to remember? Perhaps we need a tapuaiga, or we can be tapuaiga for others.
How can we actively remember/re-member in our communities/society today?
Are we quick to remember catastrophes occurring thousands of kilometres away when forgetting and ignoring the tragedies happening at our doorsteps?
we pray that we remember and re-member with action like the women you called to preach your Good News;
may this inspire us to not just think and reflect on the plight of the suffering and marginalised, but to rise up in solidarity with them and fight for justice.
In your Holy Name we pray,
Rev Dr Brian Kolia is a second-generation Australian-Samoan. He’s a lecturer at Malua Theological College, and is passionate about the Hebrew Bible, islander and decolonising readings of the biblical text. He’s an ordained minister of the Congregational Christian Church Samoa. More importantly, he is a husband to Tanaria and father to Elichai.