Monday, April 20, 2009

Letting go of the past, to live a new life

We are now in post-Easter time according to the Liturgical calendar. Many will still find themselves, because of the reality of their lives, being in the pre-Easter events of Jesus. Our relationship with God is best understood not in ordinary times-Cronos, God’s time is Kairos, God is always best understood outside of time and space. In this post-Easter time, we are given for our reflection, the events as they happened in the relationship between THE RISEN CHRIST and his frightened and doubting disciples.

The days after the resurrection were challenging times for the followers of Jesus, who was the historical Jesus. These were challenging times for the followers of Jesus of Nazareth. This historical Jesus was the one they followed in hope but whose life ended in death. He died not just any death. He was crucified. He died the horrible death reserved for run-away slaves. His followers were keenly aware of what the Hebrew scripture said about how cursed is he who hangs upon the wooden cross. As we reflect, we see something new has happened, which is beyond the comprehension and understanding of these followers who are disillusioned and fearful.

Now something has happened which is beyond their comprehension, their understanding. Startling events have happened which are way beyond their expectations. The one whom they knew suffered a horrific and public death. Now they are told He has risen from the dead. He has not just risen, He is appearing to people. He is not just appearing. He is sharing food with His former disciples. He is not only sharing food, but is appearing in their midst when they are locked away in door-locked rooms. This will take getting used to. This is exactly what the risen Christ does. He spends 40 days with His disciples so they can get used to a new way of relating to someone they knew and is now living a new life. The Risen Christ wants to lead His followers away from the past, which is past and gone, into a new way of living and relating to the Risen life. Over the next few weeks I hope to share some reflections on the Scriptures relating to what happened between the Risen Christ and His disciples.

I think it is fascinating to reflect on what was going on in the minds and hearts of His disciples locked away in fear. Even though the door was locked, Jesus appears to them. I have many times wondered about the thoughts and the feelings of those gathered in that room. What was going on in their minds, what were their private thoughts, what was the content of their conversation? It more than likely was about what has happened and the startling news of His resurrection. In the midst of all of this the Risen Christ appears.

Uhh ohh, He is here. What will He have to say to us? We really blew it. When it came to crunch time there were not too many of us that hung around to be with Him and His family as He hung in crucifixion. We are happy John stuck it out on Calvary and gave Mary support.

Peter's thoughts,
"Boy, am I in for it now. In my usual blustery way I promise way more than I could deliver. I cannot believe I went back on my word to stand by Him. Not only did I not stand by Him, I even denied I ever knew Him. He picked me out to be a leader and all I did was deny Him. I did not deny Him once, but as He told me ahead of time, “Peter, you will deny me three times, and so I did”. When He told me that, I was so offended, I was angry. I am so grateful for tears, when I had shed enough tears, I was somehow able to remember what He said in the past, "Anyone who comes to me, I will not reject." He also said, "Come to me all who are weary and find life burdensome and I will give you rest". What His visit in my memory was the woman brought to Him caught in the act of adultery, everybody was ready to stone her. In a quiet way, He turned everything upside down. When He was finished there was nobody there to condemn her. And He said these wonderful words, “Neither will I condemn you”. I also remember Him saying, “In God, there is no condemnation”.

I will never forget that day when we were in the boat and a storm came up, He had forced us to get into the boat to cross the lake while He Himself went off and prayed. He did that a lot. We were in that boat and it was scary. We were being tossed about by the winds and the waves, then out of the storm He appeared. Would you believe it? He was walking on the water! Being very impulsive I wanted to get out of the boat. I was going to walk on the water, to join Him. He called to me and I got out of the boat. In the beginning I was just fine-I was focused on Him. Then, the splash of a big wave hit me and I realized where I was. I got into immediate fear, lost my focus on Jesus and began to sink. I cried out for help, He reached out and took my hand, saved me and together we walked back to the boat along the water. I was safely seated before I became aware I still had a death-grip on His hand. That sinking feeling is with me now. I also know what happened to me before. That same rescuer is standing in front of my again. It was though I would like to run and hide, there is no place to hide for "the big Fisherman".

Would I have been better off to do what Judas did and commit suicide? Those tears that I shed, somehow soothed my soul. I decided to rely on the mercy I heard Him speak about day after day after day. I wonder what is He going to say to us, and me in particular? I know myself I would have a field-day sending people on a guilt trip. He is beginning to speak and what is this I am hearing? He has nothing to say but “Peace be with you”. For myself I was expecting “Hi Peter, remember how brave you were when you promised to die with me? But, when it came to crunch time, what happened to you? You chickened out?”. With this person there were no recriminations, there were no paybacks. All He is offering us is peace, Shalom.“

What is this wonderful, something new, that is taking me over? What is this new sense of oneness and togetherness that is filling this room and all who are in it? Is this what He means? Is this what it means when He says “Receive the Holy Spirit”? There is s calm, a serenity, a peace of mind I have never felt before. I, who am a restless, always on the go person, all I want to do now is to be here, to be with the rest of the group. We together have been through so much. We have been in so much guilt, fear and shame. Now, there is peace, joy and a great feeling of love. I said this before, on the mountain, when He was transfigured before my eyes, “It is good to be here”. It is good to be here right now.

Now what is He saying? You have got to be kidding, He wants us to forgive sins? His timing is impeccable, as it always has been. No way am I ever going to allow somebody to speak to me about their sins and remain in the guilt and shame of their sins, and remain in the guilt and shame of it. My sin has been the worst. I denied I knew Him. At the time, He needed someone to stand by and stand up for Him, I was not there. Now I have been given this peace from my troubled and rebellious soul. I have experienced not His judgment, not His condemnation, but the gift of His peace. I want everybody to experience what has just happened to me. That guy is smooth! He knows us as we are right now. I remember one Him saying that He never had to be told what was present in the hearts of human beings. He knows where we are and how we feel. At this moment we are most aware of our humanity, of our weaknesses, our powerlessness. He gives us the power to forgive the sins of others when we need forgiveness most ourselves. He is saying to all of us, and me in particular, “As I have treated you right now, this is the way I want you to treat others when they come to you beaten, broken, bruised, with feelings of abandonment”. Wow…does it ever get better than this?

Right away! I do not see Thomas here, I wonder where he is? Oh there is a knock at the door! Thomas, I’m so glad you have joined us. You are not going to believe what has just happened.

A reminder just because the calendar says resurrection has happened, this does not mean it has happened for some individuals. Some are still in their Good Friday agony. Theirs are the feelings of being bruised, beaten, battered, betrayed and abandoned. There are still millions in liminal, in between, time of Holy Saturday. The death has taken place, a loss has happened, but the new life has not yet immerged. For them it is the belief, the hope, the certainty that is theirs in the face of all the odds against them. This year, they are being asked to celebrate what can be rather than what is. There are some lucky ones not experiencing the joy, the freedom, exaltation, of the new life which has burst upon the horizon of their lives. The dazzling light of the resurrection has definitely penetrated the previous darkness. It is Allelujah, Allelujah, Allelujah.

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