Perhaps the irony and poignancy of this verse also struck you in our Easter readings for today. This familiar verse takes on a fresh meaning even in these days of vaccinations and gradual coming out of lockdown.
Even in the power of the resurrection miracle, being physically held is not always appropriate. Close but no closer. Timing is important in the revelation of our risen God Rabbi. Our Salvation hope is now and not yet. Sometimes we have to witness to the present and also wait for further time to elapse. Jesus has another appointment before he can be held. He has an encounter with the Father booked in before He can fully come out of the isolation of the tomb. There are rules for both Jesus and Mary to follow in the meantime. There is a correct order for this resurrection timetable. How frustrated must Mary have been. Come on Jesus, you have done the hard work, give me a hug!
When we get to the upper room, touch is not only allowed but encouraged, “touch me and see”, ” Thomas, put your finger here… reach out your hand”. Eating inside with a large group seems mandatory! The rules have changed, go and tell everyone and bring them all to me.
Perhaps you seen the above image or something similar. Heart felt longings from deep within, well perhaps not for all the introverts! Now where is that risen Lord Jesus, he had better had been to the Father by now. For all the last year has been, and the recovery I need, I need to never let go. I take comfort, God has and will not ever let me and you go.
One of the last things Jesus said to the disciples before he died was peace be with you, it was one of the first things he said after his resurrection. It is a word I need to hear a lot at the moment. Many years ago I was reading a book about meditation and it encouraged you to come up with a word or phrase, mine was be still, rest, shalom which still works for me. Shalom is a Hebrew word we often translate as peace and which means much more than how we often narrowly interpret it.
I have been reading a book of reflections and prayers on peace recently and I want to share two of the entries I have found helpful:
The Hebrew word for peace is ‘shalom’. Shalom is the substance of all the biblical vision of one community embracing all creation. Shalom implies well-being and the wholeness of life – material, spiritual, physical, personal, corporate. Howard Goeringer
I am trying to explore wholeness of life in lockdown and very gradually beginning to find a way of being within it which feels a little more life-giving and less task driven.
The second is a prayer by John Johansen-Berg:
Risen Jesus, we thank you for your greeting, ‘Peace be with you’. The shalom of God, deep lasting peace; peace that brings inner calm; that keeps a person steady in the storm; that faces the persecutor without fear and proclaims the good news with courage and with joy. This is the peace that reconciles sister to brother, black to white, rich and poor, young and old; but not a peace that is quiet in the face of oppression and injustice. This is peace with God, the peace that passes understanding.
I particularly like the phrase ‘keeps a person steady in the storm’ because that what some days feel like at the moment. The Easter story seems so right for now and this week peace be with you is the part I am focusing on.
The Way of Peace Compiled by Hannah Ward and Jennifer Wild. Lion 1999.
What a strange Easter day this has been. Paschal candle at the front gate, virtual Church, not seeing family and friends. No shopping was the only normal thing about the day! Small mercies.
Hearing news about friend’s family dying did not seem to reinforce a resurrection feel to the start of the day. Heart ache of loved ones is our Good Friday message not Easter Sunday. How tragically common but always individually personal death has become to us in this pandemic. But we all tried to celebrate as best we could. Seriously tasty roast lamb for lunch, 5th chick being released from the incubator to join their friends in the cage in the hospital chapel. We should have had a queue of patients, families and staff lining down the corridor. Except this year, the chapel is on lockdown, very few visitors to the hospital. No one to have a service for, no Easter egg hunt, no holding chicks and seeing, feeling, Lifting Spirits.
The video is one of the takes for the hospital’s Easter message. My written part majored on how I have been struck by how many people have been making positive insights from the lockdown. Finding new ways to hope, appreciating the little simple things in life, noticing the familiar in new ways and being thankful and inspired by the sacrifice of others. Realising that we are connected after all, and our wellbeings and safety are interlinked. This is our Easter gift this year, to ourselves and others. As Pope Francis reminded us today, not to be overcome with fear, but hope. Our Covid-19 strategy is inspired by our Easter story and imitation of our Lord Jesus. He is risen indeed, Alleluia.
Some of our other chick videos are on our YouTube channel, Lifting Spirits
Today I shared a few thoughts in our Easter Sunday service at the hospital. I was was very mindful of the spectrum of children and families present. You don’t need me to explain where they might be physically, physiologically and spiritually. Several parents cried during the service, one very disabled young person smiled throughout and there was lots of cheerful noise from the back as families came and went to see the newly hatched chicks. One of the children played with one of those small story boxes where you keep opening it in a different way for the full story to unfold. She loved it and kept, starting again and again.
The heart of my short talk was the that even in the resurrection celebration of today, we still live in a reality of the the full Easter story week; ups and downs, good news and bad, people for you and misunderstanding you (I did not need to spell out the finer points!!) The Easter story includes the road to Emmaus and the upper room, where Jesus journeys and meets with us, and says Peace. This is the appropriate Easter Sunday hope, we are not alone as life comes around and around and around. God’s love is always on repeat.
Many years ago at Spring Harvest, the preacher, Tony Campolo, taught on the phrase that has become almost
Easter folk law, It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming. The sermon was full of hope in the light of current difficulties or circumstances. What do we do when we don’t experience resurrection?
Most of us are personally and or personally know people that are still living in crucifixion Friday rather than resurrection Sunday. Life for them is full of sadness and loss; grief in relationships, careers, health, church etc.
the promises of new life, is still that, a hopeful promise, even still a far off one. Even today as I was dressing to get ready to go and lead an Easter Sunday Morning service at the Children’s Hospital, I was called in before I had even got there to support a family with a very poorly child. It might be Sunday but it feels like Friday. Their hope of resurrection is a literal immediate one. “He is risen, indeed, hallelujah” is a muted chant alongside the cry of lament. It is a needed truth and promise but not our only song in a strange land.
Hope is still needed today as much as it was Friday or any other day. We need compassion and patience for those whose lives don’t follow the seasons of the church. It is many times multi reasoned and complex why life is so full of desolation. We live in the hope of resurrection for ours and others circumstances but in today’s celebrations, let’s be mindful, it may not be today.
Sometimes I read something and it goes straight to my heart and I wish I had written it! This poem is one of those things and fits so well many of the things I have been reflecting on in this Easter season. Thanks Steve.
Take my eyes Lord.
Strike me blind.
* * *
Then heal me Lord
That I may see with Your eyes.
Take my hands Lord.
Crush every bone.
* * *
Then heal me Lord
That I may touch with Your tenderness.
Take my ears Lord.
* * *
Then heal me Lord
That I may hear with Your sensitivity.
Take my feet Lord.
Amputate without hesitation.
* * *
Then heal me Lord
That I may walk only on Your path.
Take my tongue Lord.
* * *
Then heal me Lord
That I speak only with Your words.
Take my life Lord.
* * *
Then resurrect me Lord
That I may have life only in You.
Hear my prayer.
The post Dark Friday appeared first on The Steve Laube Agency.
This quieter post Easter period has enabled me to do a little more reading for my thesis. Unclean is a fascinating book by Richard Beck with a subtitle of Meditations on Purity, Hospitality and Mortality. Sometimes just a phrase leaps out of the page and in a season when we are thinking about the cross this resonated:
understandings of atonement – that salvation is an active communal engagement that participates in God’s cosmic mission to restore all things – are vital to efforts aimed at motivating spiritual formation and missional living.
Studying shame has helped make me much more aware of the ways we present Christian faith and doctrine and introduced me to new ways of seeing things, this is one of them.
Richard Beck. (2011). Unclean. Eugene: Cascade, p41..
Well, obviously, the son of God. But did anything sacrificially die? Well again obviously, if we had given anything up it is likely to be self, our ego. We may have had to make decisions not to do, eat, drink, etc or do, think etc something that has been sacrificial.
I have been reading the book of Romans over Lent and Paul has a lot to say about these themes – dying to self, living for Christ, dead to sin, not a slave to sin, alive to God.
So the question becomes, what got resurrected? Possibly, it has been a self that has become less focused on self-serving. What stayed dead? What I reflect would be some of my desire to serve myself.
Our sacrifice has been nothing like our saviour Jesus, but our modeling has been enabled by not just his death but by today remembering and celebrating his resurrection. I now have resources to live a life that is not driven by my own self-interest. And maybe the real consequential gift of this is not that I am now more likely to be effectual in serving others, as I do not always know how to do this, but that I am released not to serve myself.
There is a lot of discussion around at the moment about Christianity, politicians, newspapers… I am not intending to add to all that commentary, many much more eloquent than I am are encouraging that debate. As we move into what liturgically is called the Easter season I am hoping not to lose some of what was gained in Lent. While I am not thinking of giving up chocolate (although that might be good for me!) I want to have that same sense of making choices that reflect a commitment to sacrifice for my faith, to remember others who do not have the many choices that I do. I am hoping that as Christians and churches there is a little bit of this notice in how we mediate the cross – that it is dangerous to follow Jesus, that it is life-changing, risky and if you don’t want to engage with that then keep away!
I wear a cross everyday, usually a necklace but sometimes earrings and sometimes choose which one I want to wear because of what it says to me, sometimes that relates to who gave it to me, or where I bought it or what sort of cross it was. During holy week I wore my cross that had a picture of three crosses on it, I wanted to remember those who died on each side of Jesus and the promise of eternal life Jesus gave the one who turned to him. When I tell my salvation story I am so grateful to the many people that appear in the journey along the way – who reached out to me with an invitation, a comment, a hand and have been blessed that like Jesus was they were aware enough of someone struggling alongside them to mediate a cross that draws people to Jesus.
There have been several things that have struck me this Easter. One has been hearing about the culinary delight of a deep fried cream egg, not yet tried. Another was a home-made hot cross bun so good we shouldn’t call it by the same name as what we buy in the shops. Another was reading the research commissioned by the Bible Society:
• One in three children have no idea why Christians mark Good Friday
• One in four of them do not know why Easter Sunday is celebrated
• More than a quarter of British children think the Hare and the Tortoise may feature in the Easter story.
• A council bans Good Friday Passion of the Christ play fearing it was a live sex show!
Seems we don’t communicate the Easter message very effectively!
This morning I preached at our hospital service on Matthew’s resurrection story and encouraged particularly the women, the mothers to continue to have faith in the quality of their witness even within the midst of their earthquakes. This is what continues to impress me, the faithfulness of their vigil, in the uncertain waiting, but holding onto resurrection hope. This is what I encouraged them in, to live in resurrection hope, in the midst of the cross,
I love the commonality between the Christmas and Easter angels. They both encourage “Do not be afraid”, at the beginning and end of the Jesus story, perhaps the same angel has the same line… This seems to be what we need to hear in the light of the revelation of the incarnation and resurrection. Do not be afraid but have resurrection hope. This seems to be an honest Christian message, taking seriously our fears and our faith. Both are true.