Archive for April, 2006|Monthly archive page

The Third Sunday of Easter

Luke 24:35-48

Dear Jesus,

I’m struggling. I want to be a believer. That has been my goal from the time I first met you so long ago. All these many years later have I made any progress? We are celebrating Easter, this fifty-day feast of your triumph over sin, suffering and death. For fifty days the proclamation persists over sung alleluias that you are alive. Why did you keep the wounds?

Isn’t woundedness part of the human condition on the way? In glory won’t all of our wounds be done away with? Or, did you keep the wounds to encourage us, to convince us that nothing, not even the worst that others can unleash upon us can ultimately defeat us. For those who follow you, walking in your footsteps, living in your resurrection, there are no tragedies. There may be terrible events that break our hearts as we experience evil’s cunning ways expressed in inhumane actions. Towers may collapse and kill the inhabitants. Suicide bombs may explode and kill a wedding party celebrating nuptials. A dispirited reveler envious of others’ joy may shoot randomly and kill an innocent one. And we would be tempted to speak in terms of tragedy. But you say from the midst of the misery, “Peace be with you.”

You are not trivializing pain or the injustice of the killings. But you show us the wounds, the evidence of what the powerful can do to the vulnerable, and the wounds proclaim what your accepting even death on the cross means for us. God did not abandon you in your extreme moment. When you say, “peace be with you,” aren’t you saying that nothing will separate us from God’s love for us? Aren’t you saying there can be no more ultimate defeat of the hero – the essence of tragedy – as long as the hero walks with you living your life?

Easter is baptism time. Adults and infants alike are plunged into the waters that are tomb and womb. Having died in the waters, the baptized rise to live your life. The earth shakes. The heavens part and God exults in beloved ones with whom God is delighted. The baptized live in the community of love that is God forever. And they are set on the path to the Table where they will renew your dying and rising even as you dare them to be what they do. Those two disciples who walked with you on the road that first Easter day said they recognized you when you broke bread for them. Did they understand that in that recognition it would be their responsibility to be bread broken and cup poured out until all, especially the poor, the weak, the disenfranchised, the excluded ones find their place at your table?

I think I see why you kept the wounds in resurrection. They give us hope and invite us to be supported through the dark nights by the love of God that you bring. Help me to remember and not fear the cost. Would you please help me not to focus on my weaknesses or my sins? Will you help me to rejoice in the community called church whose constant proclamation is forgiveness? And will you help me to forgive others even as I have been forgiven?

As difficult as it is to live the Gospel, I am afraid if I give into my weakness and focus on my sins, if my community that is church does not give strong evidence of the desire to celebrate God’s forgiveness that has come through the blood of your cross, then we are still on the other side. We haven’t died. Much less have we begun to live in resurrection.

I’ll have to think about all of this some more. The implications are heavy. I know with your help I’ll be able to take the first steps by rejoicing in the forgiveness that is mine. And then maybe others will rejoice in their own.

Let me get back to you about this.

Sincerely,

Didymus

Letters to Jesus

John 20:19-31

Dear Jesus,

I often have imagined what it would have been like to be present for that first Easter, the day of your rising. The accounts proclaimed from the gospels always thrill. My imagination allows me to be on that seashore in the morning’s first light as you prepare the breakfast of fish and bread and invite the disciples who have labored on their own through the night to hawl in the catch you directed and come and eat.

My name is Didymus, the Twin. I identify with my namesake who missed your first appearance to the apostels and Peter back in the upper room where you had eaten the final supper with them. Some things are too good to be true. Thomas is popularly called the doubter. But did he doubt so much as having hoped against hope find himself in that same vulnerable position of eager expectation evocked by your words of promise. How could he have known that being your disciple meant not only walking behind you and learning from that but also it meant having to let go of assumptions generations old about what the Messiah would do, the kingdom he would bring about? He believed in a God who visited people in power and majesty. How could he find it easy to accept a God who loves by pouring out self in service?

It is not easy following you. No matter how long the journey has been going on, disciples constantly find themselves at Square One, so to speak. Following you is a constant process of having to let go of assumptions and personal ambitions. How long have I been about this? From my early childhood your stories have fascinated me. How often did I pray that you would send me a sign that I could trust as assurance that what I found in those stories was so? So often it seemed too good to be true. Of course I focused on the easier parables, the ones about God’s abiding love, God’s desire that we be with God forever. I glossed over the more demanding ones in which you hinted at the cost of discipleship.

And here I stand now in the shadow of this latest Easter comforted by the celebration but realizing also that as disciples, people on the way, we are constantly in process. We continually must enter into the dying even as we rise with you. And some seasons the dying dominates. The rising remains something hoped for.

The other Didymus after whom I am named was there a week later when you returned. You invited him to handle your wounds and become a believer. But handling, like seeing does not make a believer. Faith goes deeper and requires grace. The Spirit empowers belief. And he said, “My Lord and my God!”

I wish I could have been there. But I was not. And yet I think I hear you challenging me to handle the wounds and become a believer. I can only do that when I find you in the poor, the disenfranchised, those who are sick and dying. That is where I must find you. And in my own woundedness, too.

I claim you as my Lord and my God. Yet you remain one whose majesty is heralded in your desire to serve because that is how God loves. God’s love comes to us through you. I have to be sure that is the kind of God I want. I have to be sure that I can die the death service of you demands. Can I pour out myself the way you do? Can I be satisfied to aspire only to being a foot-washer?

Even in Easter you say to me, “If you would follow me, take up your cross every day and follow me.” Why am I still surprised when I feel the cross’ weight? Does that mean that I am still atSquare One? Please be patient with me as I try again to learn from you and follow.

Sincerely,

Didymus