Marilynne Robinson is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, of all living American novelists.

Her three-book series, not really a trilogy, on the Ames family of Gilead is on a par with Steinbeck.

Her debut novel ‘Housekeeping’ was published in 1981, it too is a modern classic.

The story is narrated by Ruth, one of two sisters, abandoned shortly before her mother’s suicide, raised firstly by the maternal grandma and lastly by their idiosyncratic and increasingly erratic auntie. They grow up in a household that knows what it is to experience loss through death and migration. It is biblical in scope and allegory with a great flood and all-consuming fire. As the novel draws to its moving and gripping conclusion Ruth’s reflections on grief, death and bereavement become poignant and worthy of contemporary sacred text.

, every word, however chance, written in the heart in the hope that memory will fulfil itself, and become flesh, and that the wanderers will find a way home, and the perished, whose lack we always feel, will step through the door finally and stroke our hair with dreaming, habitual fondness, not having to keep us waiting long.’

If there is a text for today then this is it, ‘Every memory is turned over and over again .….in the hope (it) will become flesh again.’

The Gospel accounts are a form of memory, real or spirit-formed, as the first followers and later the keen to proclaim the good news, seek to turn memory into flesh again. After all the Word had become flesh once so why not again in another coming of the once despised Jesus who, after death, had become the resurrected Christ?

The detail of the passion narratives, the final week in Jerusalem and her environs, is astonishing as each of the evangelists, for their own community’s needs and perspectives, sought to make sense of what had taken place. Likewise, albeit far more briefly, the detail of the resurrection appearances. It is as if they are attempting to make the memory into flesh again.

They are seeking to drive home the authenticity of what is being claimed and they cannot do so without continuing the eye for detail that has accompanied much of their narrative.

Their message is clear: look at the detail and what’s more look at the way in which Jesus too had an eye for the particular.

References to the day of the week, even the time of day; references to the time of year, to the grass being green indicating spring; references to incidental characters who never get another mention in scripture but who must have been known to the first readers, and so on.

The writers are also keen to highlight that this is a man who doesn’t miss a trick.

The one on the edge of the crowd, a woman tugging at his clothing, a man up a tree, children being brought to him, the sick pushed to one side overlooked by the crowds for years, 38 years in one case, the discussion on the road, even at the last the disciple whom he especially loved and the mother who brought him to birth are seen and spoken to; nothing and no one goes unnoticed.

This, claim the evangelists, is clearly someone who has an eye not only for detail but for those whom the rest would miss out.

In learning from this and in seeking to adopt such a way of being as our own he may yet live again in hearts, lives and world; the memories have become flesh.

Whilst most people are focussed on their own needs, their own place in society and even bent on their own salvation Jesus doesn’t miss a single soul, in fact he seems to have a particular eye, or heart even, for the lost and lonely, the overworked and overlooked, the poor and poorly valued.

No wonder we find him attractive. No wonder the message resonates with us for which one of us is not keen to be noticed? Which one of us is not keen to have purpose in our lives? Which one of us is not keen to play a part?

So having been brought in, having been included in the sphere of God’s embrace, where to next?

The resurrection accounts are clear on what must happen next.

The witnesses are to go back to their homes, to their places of familiarity, to their work and daily routines and tell those whom they know of what they have seen, heard and felt.

The memories of what we have experienced, to draw upon Marilynne Robinson’s imagery, are cherished in the hope that they will again become flesh.

Take for example our own experiences of grief, death and bereavement. In the days, weeks and months following the death of someone we have loved and who has loved us, we dig deep into our memories, to the moment we first met or became aware of their presence. We recall the anniversary celebrations or the exchange of presents at Christmas. We try to remember the details of a conversation or the place we felt a rush of affection and love. All in an attempt to turn our memory into flesh, our dream into reality again.

For the Christian it may be to what drew us to Jesus in the first instant. Or how it was that he warmed our hearts, made us feel loved and cherished. And if these are to remain real and be continually refreshed and renewed into whatever time there is left for us here on earth we have work to do.

The message of scripture, the parables of Jesus and the experience of the saints helps us in this, it is to live our lives as if Jesus were alive in us by learning from the ones who brought Jesus into our lives.

For me it was Auntie Angell – the elderly, childless, widow who owned a corner shop and took me to church one Sunday and there I found a family that loved me, spotted my potential and nurtured me.

Mr Pilsbury – the war veteran and primary school teacher, whose bark was harsher than his bite and who gave me the confidence to better myself.

The Revd Douglas Hubery – the supernumerary who somehow seemed impressed when he first heard me preach and took me under his wing.

There were many more, now gone from this earth now but the memories of whom I still cherish, and on occasion still attempt to turn to flesh.

Then there are the ones with and amongst whom I still live in this world.

The one who sits beside me when I battle to bother with this life.

The one who fills me with the confidence that faith will return when doubts assail me.

The one who listens when I want to explode with rage brought on by frustration.

As I recall what they once did, or continue to do, for me, so I seek to do for others.

So perhaps you too can look to those about you.

If you have a voice, speak on behalf of those who are too timid to express their concerns.

If you faith enough to pray, then do so on behalf of those who travel through a spiritual wilderness.

If you are healthy, fit, wealthy and well-fed, act for the sick and poor.

Today, as we recall the pain of grief, the seeming finality of death and the bereavement that would otherwise ensue, we find the tomb to be empty.

We can therefore dare to believe that our memories may yet become flesh again; that those whom we have lost in death will somehow stand beside us, speak to us and hold us once more; that we too, who must die at some as yet unknown moment in circumstances we cannot predict, will live again, for the memories others have of us will become flesh.