Central Presbyterian Church

Massillon, Ohio

“REMEMBERING THE ONE WE KNOW”                                                               

Text:  Acts 10:34-43

           Luke 24:1-11

 I can’t say that I knew my paternal grandfather, whose first and middle name I bear – Lorenzo

Giacomo; in English: Lawrence James.  My almost three year-old grandson – who we call “LJ” – bears

that name as well; now into a sixth generation in which grandson is named after grandfather.  In so

much as my grandfather Lawrence passed away when I was very young, I didn’t really know him in

the conventional sense.  He left me too early.  Even so, I can and do say that I remember him.  And

through that remembrance, fashioned from a hundred stories which have been carefully handed

down to me from my dad and mom, my Aunt Eleanor, and others – all of whom have gone home to

be with the Lord – I suppose I could say that in the deepest sense, I do know my grandfather. 

      This knowledge comes in part from old black and white photos; many carrying on the backs of

them remnants of the black photo album pages to which they were once glued; photos which show

how much my father resembled his father.  My grandfather’s face is perhaps not so clear in those

faded photographs, but nonetheless shows up when I gaze in the mirror, or into the face of my son

or grandson.  What I mean when I say that I remember my grandfather is that I have come to know

him through the stories and recollections, the photographs, the memorabilia which have been

passed down through the years by those who did walk with him; talk with him; breaking bread with

Him live with him.

      In our home lives a very heavy antique brass lamp with a leaded-glass shade [sadly, not the origi-

nal].   It was a gift from my grandfather to my grandmother on the day of their wedding in 1924.  It

was an expensive, and It was an extravagant gift, and my kinfolk were not extravagant people; immi-

grants into the labor force of the turn-of-the-century America.  That lamp, however, symbolized my

grandfather’s extravagant love and esteem for his bride.  And the shared memory of that story has

helped his grandson -- who carries his name -- to remember how devoted he was to my grandmother.

      I know how much he loved me, and how ecstatic he was the day my mother said to him, “Pap,

we’ve named your grandson Lawrence James, just like you.”  Now of course I don’t remember per

se, but I know it.  It has been said that my grandfather wasn’t one to get teary-eyed, but he did on

that day I’m told.  In my parents’ collection of photos, there is one of him and me standing in front

of the huge vegetable garden of which he was so proud; my face cupped in his calloused hands; a

face which looks like my Louie’s and my LJ’s at age three.  On my grandfather’s face was a smile so

broad that it still lights up that creased and dog-eared image.  Of course, I don’t remember remem-

ber the feel of those hands on my cheeks, or the feeling of the soil under my feet.  But I know him

who held me. 

      There is one last story I’ll tell before weaving this into a sermon, and it comes to my mind every

Easter.  My grandfather was not a church-going guy.  Yet he always insisted that his “little man,” as

he would call me, had to have brand new shoes for Easter Sunday service.  So every year on Good

Friday, because he was always off work, he would walk me up street to a little shoe repair store

owned by another Italian immigrant.  I don’t remember the face of the shopkeeper who was

named “Palumbo,” or the route we took to get there.  But from the distant past, I still know that 

mixed aroma of shoe leather and machine oil which filled that space.

      Yes, I smelled the aromas that filled my grandfather’s life; got acquainted with the family and

friends who surrounded his days; stood among the tomato stakes and bean poles which supported

produce from the ground he tilled.  While I can’t say that I knew my grandfather in his life, my re-

membrance of him is surprisingly vivid and full.  Hence, I believe I can truthfully say that I know him

      I suspect many of you resonate with what I’m saying.  Most all of us have such stories of loved

ones with whom we shared little if any time on this earth, but can still genuinely say we know.  We

know them in their story.  In fact, every one of us who has ever stood before a congregation and

declared that Jesus Christ is Lord, have been able to make that confession only because we believe

that we know this man whom we have never met in the worldly sense.  While we have not known

Jesus in the flesh, we have the clearest knowledge of Him.  We have heard tell of the things He did

from those who walked with him; talked with him; lived with Him.  We have heard the stories of

His taking little children into His hands; of His holding the small gift of a poor widow in highest es-

teem; of His healing countless persons who suffered blindness, deafness, leprosy, possession; of His

tales of lost sons and welcoming fathers; of good Samaritans and redeemed sinners.  Although we

were not there, every time we see the symbol of a cross, we remember His death upon one.  Every

time we take the bread and cup in our hands, we remember His sacrificial devotion.  Our remem-

brance is fashioned from stories which have been carefully handed down to us.

      Today, above all other days, we remember that Jesus’ life was a life so in sync with God that not

even a boulder could keep His tomb closed.  Although we were not there, and cannot say that we

knew Him in the conventional sense, in the deepest sense, we can say that we know Him.  We have

been given His story.  Through that story, and by the Holy Spirit of God who brings His story to life,

we can know Jesus personally and intimately; even though He never physically cupped our face in His

hands; even though we never physically stood upon the soil with him. 

      The text that we just read from Acts is not the most popular passage to be reflected upon on an 

Easter Sunday.  It’s not the story of an open tomb, or of directing angels, or of fainting guards, or of

confused women.  Nor is it the story of frightened disciples behind locked doors, or of dejected fol-

lowers on the road home to Emmaus.  Instead, it’s a more reflective story; a story told in the rear view. 

The players in this narrative from Acts seem more mature; more confident; more certain of what to say

and what to do in light of a risen Lord they really and truly knew.  As we meet up with Peter months or

even years after Jesus’ resurrection, he has moved from being a frightened disciple – afraid of even

being associated with the name of Jesus – to being a front-and-center preacher; boldly standing in the

home of a Roman officer at Caesarea, relating to him, his family and his friends the story of Jesus, that

they might know Him…… as One uniquely anointed by God, blessed with the power to heal and

restore, crucified to death, raised to life. While this is not your typical Easter morning passage, it does

remind us that we are not merely recipients of this remarkable, life-shaping story of Jesus of Nazareth. 

Having come to know Jesus through carefully crafted and handed-down stories, we are entrusted – like

Peter – with the telling of His story, that others might be able to know Him also.  More than that, we

are entrusted with His very legacy as we bear the name: Christian, ie. Christ-follower.  

      While I never knew him in his earthly journey, I said I have come to know my grandfather.  What

I mean is way more than a mere mental exercise.  I know Him insofar as I know what it means to be a

good neighbor, like he was; the kind of person others in the community can trust and turn to in times

of need. I know him if I take to heart what it means to be devoted and faithful to my spouse.  I know

him as I have come to value my name, and try to live honestly and uprightly so that I can pass on that

legacy to my children, and my grandchildren.  I know him when I come to find in hard work its’ own

reward, like he did.

      Likewise, while we never knew Jesus in His earthly journey, we can say we’ve come to know the

One we proclaim our “risen Lord and Savior.”  We know Him insofar as we know what it means to be

merciful and compassionate, like He was; treating others as we ourselves would want to be treated.

We know Him if we live out what it means to forgive those who have wronged us, and to restore

those who have been alienated from us.  We know Him as we come to value our identity as followers

and disciples, trying to demonstrate in our lives the highest and the best of Christian values, so that

we can pass on that legacy to our children, and our grandchildren.  We know Him when we come to

find in selfless service to others its own reward, like He did.

      We hear the stories of the past, like the story of the empty tomb on that first Easter morning; an

event which we did not personally witness. Yet through the testimonies of those who did experience

the resurrected Christ, we remember, and we’ve come to know; not in order for us to move back-

ward in time, but to move forward.  Easter in a purely historical sense is remembering a once-in-

human-history event.  But Easter, in its broadest application, is not about what happened.  It’s about

what is happening.  Resurrection is about the power of knowing Jesus in our lives today, and tomor-

row --- alive; shaping our morals; our ethics; our values; our behavior; obliging us to pass the legacy on

to those of future generations who will bear, with us, the name Christ-follower. Today, and every

Lord’s Day, we gather and hear the story of Jesus.  It’s not so much that we will ever become an inte-

gral part of the story of Jesus’ life, death, and glorious resurrection.  He left us too early.  But it is

possible – no, it is vital – that the story of Jesus’ life, death, and glorious resurrection become an

integral part of us. And when that happens, like Peter, we will have no choice, nor any happier task,

that to open our mouths and tell the story of the One who we, in the deepest sense, know.  Amen.