'Twas the night after Easter, and locked in a room,The disciples sat wondering there in the gloom.The women had told them that Christ had arisen;But that went against all sense and all reason.If Christ were alive and was seen by the womenWhy had he not first shown himself to the men?They sat and awaited a knock at the door.If he came, would they know him? Would he look like before?And suppose it were soldiers who knocked at the door?Not knowing the answers, they stared at the floor.But they needn't have wondered how they would tell,If at the door came a knock and a yell.For no knock ever came, and no footsteps were heard;Jesus came to the room without speaking a word.Then what to their wondering eyes did appear?It made them all speechless, and filled them with fear!"Peace be with you," he said with a smile,Then said it once more for it took them awhileTo regain their senses and let it sink inThat Christ was alive and here with them again!The reason he came was not just to please them;But to give them his power, from fear to release them.So he wasted no time as he stood there aglow,But gave them a mission, and told them to go.Then he breathed out his breath and his Spirit upon them,And quick as he came, he suddenly left them.Their souls, which were weary, were now filled with mirth,And they had a new message to tell all the earth.
Eternal Spirit,far beyond knowing,yet known to us in our deepest innermost being:You who are beyond the outermost reaches of the universe,we reach out to you with words of one of the languages of this small planet and presume that you understand,only to discover that you understand far more than we can speak of the inner longings and desires of our hearts, far more than we intended of the evil that lurks in the dark corners of our souls.We ask you to reveal yourself, and you turnand reveal ourselves to us far more than we ever wanted anyone to see including you . . . including ourselves.We seek to master the complexity of who you are,and you come to us in the simplicity of one who broke bread, drank wine, and said “Love one another like this,” and then washed our feet.We ask to see the full light of your presence;you wisely shine it on us in small quantitieslest we be so blindedwe lose sight of you altogether.Eternal Spirit,far beyond knowing,continue to make yourself known to usas much as we can stand. Amen.
Reading a bookone line jumped out:"God will not let us go to hell in peace." (Distant Fire, p. 9)I knew it!That fits!That sounds like God!Two other pictures.One: God as judge--God sends us to hell.that doesn't fit...a house divided..Two: God as indifferent--God allows us to go to hell.We choose our own fate.That doesn't sound like God.Another view:There is no hell.But we know better,don't we.We keep trying to go there.And God keeps trying to stop us.God doesn't ignore us.God will not leave us alone.God will not let us enjoy our sin.God keeps stirring our conscience,disturbing our peace.If you're going to go to hell,you'll have to fight Godall the wayto get there."God will not let us go to hell in peace."
They’re going to go to the wrong place:the women tomorrow morningand the men.He said he wouldn’t be there: “…and on the third day be raised.” (Matthew 16:21)But they go there anyway, innocently enoughon the part of the women.Then the men:What’s the matter didn’t you believe the women? Or Jesus?He said he wouldn’t be there.They said he wasn’t there.Yet that’s where you go to look for him.Don’t let me be too critical.We do the same thing.All the time.Always looking for God in the wrong places: empty tombs. empty forms. empty words. empty rituals.Not that they have to be empty, of course.But if they have become so for youwhy keep looking there?I didn’t find God there last time I looked,but I’m going to look there again, becauseonce upon a time I --or my grandmother or somebody--found God thereso that must be the place to look. “He is not here, he has risen.” (Luke 24:5)Then where will I find him?In unexpected places.Look for God where you wouldn’t expectto find God.Be ready to be surprised by God.Consider the women (as told by Matthew)Surprised by the empty tomb.Surprised by the messenger.Surprised by the Risen Christ himself.Holy surprises!Popping up at every turn!Where next?Yes, that’s it. Where next?In my life? In your life?In that stranger walking toward you?It’s going to be very tempting tomorrowto go look in the empty tomb.Don’t be surprised if he’s not there.But stay alert, becauseif he’s not there,who knows where he might pop up next?
Peter,have we been wrong about you?We have blamed you fordenying,when all the time you wereconfessing,“I do not know the man.”I wanted to know.Later I would.But thenI wanted him to bewhat I wanted him to be.And I did not know the man.I tried to know.“So I should forgive up to seven times?”“Show me how to walk on the water.”"Explain this parable to us."He replied"Are you also still without understanding?”I tried to understand.First, "You will never wash my feet."Then, "also my hands and my head!"“Later you will understand,” he said.I did not know the man.I thought I knew.“Who do you think I am,” he asked.“You are the Christ,the Son of the Living God.”He blessed me for that, thoughI did not know what I was saying. “I am going to Jerusalem whereI will be put to death.”“Never,” I said,“That will not happen.”“Get behind me,” he said.I did not know the man.Up on the mountain:magnificent manifestation.“Let me build three shrines,” I said.I did not know the man.They came to arrest him.I pulled a sword.“Put it away,” he said.I did not know the man.I stood by the fire.They asked if I knew him.I moved away.“Surely you knew him.”The cock crowed, and I weptbecauseI did not know the man.
“What is truth?”That’s a good question,Pilate.Weare still trying to answer.Jesus said,“I am the truth”I?the truth?A living, breathing, moving,spontaneous,divine/human being?“I am the truth?”No wonder peoplestill preferMoses.Mosesgave us truth:immutable, unchangeable, absolutecarved in stoneforever!That’snot slippery truth.That’s truthyou can pin down.We like that.Of course,we were ablefinallyto pin Jesus down.Nailed him downactually.We don’t like truththat moves.
Oops, the communion juice got on my fingers.I have “blood” on my hands—the blood of Jesus.Oh, don’t we all!Pilate didn’t want the blood of Jesus on his hands:Pilate … took some water and washed his hands, saying, "I am innocent of this man's blood; see to it yourselves."(Matthew 27:24)Someone incited the crowds:"His blood be on us and on our children!" (Matthew 27:25)Well it is. Believe me, it is. It’s on all our hands.No single group.Want it or not, his blood is on us."I am innocent of this man's blood.”No you’re not. You are one of us.We all are children of the crucifiers.“There is no one who is righteous, not even one.”“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”(Romans 3:10, 23)It is for us that he died.It is because of us that he had to die.We thought it was him.We thought there was something wrong with him.He was the one being struck down by God.What did he do that was so terrible?Nothing. We are the ones.
This is it. The final week.Is this where we get all our questions answered?Or all our answers questioned?There is a story about a psychologistwho had seven theories on child-raisingand no children.Some years later he had seven childrenand no theories.That’s what having children does to you.When I was youngI thought I had all the answers to life.Now, some years laterI’m not even sure I know what all the questions are.That’s what life does to you.Is this the endor the beginning?Or neither?Maybe there is no beginning or ending.Palm Sunday looked like a great new beginning.Good Friday looked like the final end.In fact, neither was either.All their answers were thrown into question.That’s what Jesus does to you.We want endings and beginnings, but maybereal life is lived always in the middle.That’s what it feels like.No matter what begins. No matter what ends.I’m always right in the middle of everything.That doesn’t mean I still wouldn’t like to have some answers.
This could be the moment.There may be another chance in the garden.But this just might be the opportune time.When the temptations in the wilderness werefinished (or so it appeared) Luke tells us the devil “departed from himuntil an opportune time.” (Luke 4:13) One of the more menacing lines in Scripture.What kind of time is opportune?When is one vulnerable to temptation?When you are down: in need, in trouble, in desperation. You’ll do anything to get a way up. Or try any escape to find a way out. Jesus already passed that one. How down and desperate was he after starving for 40 days.When you are in the middle. Life is good. Life is smooth. You’re guard is down. You can wander off track before you know itJesus passed that one everyday. He was always alert to whatever tricks anyone might throw his way. When you are up. Riding the crest of the wave. Everybody loves you. You can do no wrong. Or can you?This is the opportune moment to catch Jesus. Ride that wave. Listen to the crowds. Give them what they want. They’ll make you a king. Wear that crown and lead the march to victory. Come on, Jesus. Hosanna! “Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple,and when he had looked around at everything…he went out to Bethany with the twelve.” (Mark 11:11) What?No rally? No stirring speech? No demonstration?What a missed opportunity. No.There was no giving in to the opportune moment that would have tempted him away from his true mission.I wish I had that kind of restraint.I wish I had that kind of trust in God.To be able to understand thatwhat looks like a moment of opportunityis in fact a distractionfrom the true path.
Onewould not want to compare the will ofGodto a broad path.Althoughat times it seems there is roomto meander a littlewithoutgoing outside the boundaries.At other timesthe path narrows.Wallsrise on the sides.There is onlyone way to go.Onemight choose notto go at all,exceptfor that invisible handplaced firmlyin the small of the backpressing forward.Goddoesn’t talk much,butat timesthere is no doubtwhat God is saying.(Bonus question: Is this about us, or aboutJesus facing Palm Sunday? Or both?)
Walking out of the garden,Adam said to Eve,"We are living in a time of transition."History is measuredbetween the times of transition.But today transitions come so fastthere is no time in betweento measure.We have spoken of Godas the God of stability:—the rock—the fortress—the mountain.Where is God now?God is also the God of transitionswho led Abraham and SarahMiriam and Mosesinto new lands,and calledMagdalene, Peter and Paulinto a new age.Don't worry!God does not fear change,God initiates it!"Go...I am with you."
What on earth is going on?And why doesn't God do something about it? To which God replies, "What on earth is going on? And why don't you people do something about it?" Well, it's not my fault the world is in such a mess. I didn't do anything. "Precisely my point!" replies God. "The world is going to hell in a bucket because you think it is not. Because you think it is not your responsibility to do something about it." What on earth are we going to do? God, save your people! God rephrases: "What are you going to do, my people, to save the earth?" We are waiting for God to step into the world and do something about it. And God will! Meanwhile, God is waiting for us who live in the world to do something about it.
What will other people think?Is anybody looking?It’s not what other people will think.It’s what I thinkother people will think.Probablynobody is paying that much attention.But just in case they areI better be careful.So in order to avoiddoing something someone might beupset by.I miss the chance ofdoing some things someone might bebenefitted by.It occurs to meit is pretty much impossibleto love as Jesus lovedif worrying about what other people thinkgets in the way.
I only knew him for a few months. We worked together on a building project.For a mission. A shelter for homeless travelers.He could have been one himself. His life had not been easy. "It's a little disturbing." He confided one day. "It's the first time in my life I haven't had an ulterior reason for what I'm doing. It isn't for religion either." Good, I said to myself Now you're getting the idea. Jesus' idea. Jesus was against ulterior motives. Including religious ulterior motives Doing something for somebody else so I can get something from them is ulterior. So is doing something for somebody else so I can get something from God. Jesus' idea was doing something for somebody else because that person-needs it. That's all. Not to be rewarded, even by God. It was a strange idea Jesus had. If we catch ourselves actually doing itit's usually a little disturbing.
"Nobody loves me anymore."She spoke from the bed that isnow her home."That's not true,"I wanted to reply.But I couldn't.What evidence do I have?She has evidence.Those who used to love herare gone.Every long day that passeswithout a visitoris evidencethat nobody loves her anymore."Some people still love you.”I could say it . . .but can I prove it?Who will give the evidence:a visit,a card,maybe even a flower?"What reason do I have to live?"she asked,Maybe the reasonis so we can learnhow to say,"I love you"not just with wordsbut with evidence.What is her name?She has many names.You probably know one of them.
O.K. Here’s where we have come so far.1. Life is a mystery. (We searched ourselves for understanding, and journeyed through the wilderness.)2. God is a deeper mystery. (We contemplated the unseen Mystery, and seeing the Mystery in Jesus.)3. The key is love (to understanding the mystery of life and the Mystery of God.)4. You have received a great gift (the love of God) and it is in your hands to pass along.Now, what do we do?Yes that’s the question. Always.We asked it on Ash Wednesday.Remember?Dust and breath;matter and spirit.That’s who we are.And how do we live? Dust and breath? Matter and spirit?Answering that questionis your assignmentfor the rest of your life(as it always has been.)Next week we’ll look at a few examples. Not that they will answer the question, but they will be something to consider.
There are moments—how can I speak of this?—there are momentstoo big to talk abouttoo big for wordstoo big to explain.To speak of itis to reduce itto size:that which has nolimits.To put it intowordsis to put it intoa box:that which cannot becontained.There are moments whenthe unknowablethe unseeablethe untouchabletouches us, andwe seewe knowwe experience the infinitein a finitemoment.How can we speak of it?How can we explain it?How can we . . . ?We cannot. And yet . . .how can we NOTspeak of it?
As was said:You participate in a spiralof people reaching outto ever increasing numbers.There is also a spiral withinyou.Becausethe more you are in union with God,the more you can love with the love of Christ.Andthe more you love with the love of Christ,the more you grow in union with GodThus are you able to know“the riches of the glory of this mystery,which is Christ in you,the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27)Jesus(according to Johnor was it John putting words in Jesus mouth?)also liked to talk in circles.“They who have my commandments and keep themare those who love me,and those who love me will be loved by my Fatherand I will love them and reveal myself to them.” (John 14:21)“Those who love mewill keep my wordAnd my Father will love themand my Father will come to them,and we will make our home with them.” (John 14:23)Get into that circle.It’s a good place to be.And keep spiraling along.
Faith or works. Works or faith.It’s an ancient debate.Here’s the point:If you don’t have faiththat you are loved by God through gracethen you get caught upin trying to earn God’s loveby proving you are worthythrough good works that you do.If you know by faith that you are already loved by Godthen you are freed/empowered/exuberantto do good works as an expression of your faith and love.“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—not the result of works.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)(Good works don’t enable God to love us.)“For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.” (Ephesians 2:10)(God’s love enables us to do good works.)So keep it up.
Here’s whyyou can’t do it alone.John said:If you are going to love as Jesus loved,you have to be in union with God.If you are going to be in union with God,you have to know Jesusand love as he loved.That’s circular.How do you step into that circle?It happenswhen your life is touchedby someonewhose life has been touchedby the love of Christ.First Jesus loved the disciples.Only then could he say to them,“Love one another as I have loved you.”And they were so filled with that lovethat they could love others.And they could write it all downso they could touch other livesincluding yours.And people around youwere so filled with that lovethat they could tell you about itand touch your life with itand open the circle for you to step it.And so it moves onnow not so much as a circlebut more like a spiral. in which you participatebeing lovedand loving others.Keep up the good work.