Easter 2023, Some Thoughts

Jesus’ Resurrection is so great and profound that there are any number of ways to hear it speaking to us in our lives now, and not just offering hope for us later after death. There is no one way for everybody always to see the Resurrection. Each of us, as we celebrate Christ Risen, might have our own slant on what it means for us here and now, because our life stories are not carbon copies of each other. They are unique to us.

We celebrate Jesus rising from the tomb. At first his followers, beginning with Mary Magdalene, did not recognize him. This happened gradually. As we see in the Emmaus Story of the disciples walking away from Jerusalem, some were disappointed because he didn’t do what they expected. As they walked, they gradually  came to recognize him. He was the same Jesus, only different, the Christ, and it took a while for his followers to get this. He was there to help them as they grew in their awareness of him, as he is with us.  

As we look at the Risen Christ, we might see him rising from the tomb we have kept him in. We have our own ideas of what he can do and what he cannot do, who he will and will not accept, and if we see anything that doesn’t fit our standards and expectations, we decide that is not Jesus. We don’t recognize him because the way he has been with us on our journey is not what we expect of him. In effect, we have created our own Jesus to help us feel comfortable and safe and in control, and so we reflect the religious authorities of Jesus’ day. Our Jesus doesn’t like the same people we don’t like, and he thinks just like we do.

At first Mary Magdalene, someone very important to Jesus, did not know him. He gradually let her see him and recognize him. Later the disciples had locked themselves away in a room because they were afraid of what might happen. Jesus came through the locked room and said, “Peace be with you”. As we gradually come to recognize and know Jesus as he is, the fulness of Christ, we can hear him say the same words to us.

Jesus comes to us as the people in our life. We try to keep him in the tomb when we refuse to accept him in folks whose lifestyle does not meet our standards. Each of us is as God creates us in God’s own image and likeness, “the consequence of a thought in the mind of God – important, necessary, not an accident”. When we choose not to accept folks unless they conform to our rules, perhaps labeling them as “intrinsically disordered”, we are refusing to accept the Risen Christ as he comes to us. Yet, as the Story tells us, he rose from the tomb in spite of those who tried to keep him there. He is still doing so today.

If we are serious about knowing the Risen Christ in our everyday life, we might want to take a good look at the defenses we set up to protect ourself from losing Jesus as we have known him thus far in our life. As did his disciples, who knew him better than others, we might have our own idea of who he is, and are reluctant and afraid to let go of it. Some of our defenses are pretty aggressive, more like castle doors with moats filled with alligators…keeping people out, rather than welcoming them as Jesus did, but allegedly in his name.

Our idea of Jesus says more about us than it does about about Jesus. Often we are heavily invested in our idea of Jesus, comfortable with it, perhaps to the point of keeping him in the tomb and away from our everyday life, reducing him to words, ideas, and laws, and not letting him burst into our life and become an experience which we live every day. We know all there is to know, and will not let him teach us anything new. For us he is safer in the tomb, outside our locked doors, back in whatever we are running away from. We set rules for how others must live if we are to see them as images of our Jesus. There is safety for us in rules, because we have all the answers and can tell others how they must live if they want to please our god and enter our heaven. Of course, we know that any who do not agree with us are wrong.

Jesus told us, “the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you”. The Spirit teaches us what to means for us in our circumstances now, to imitate Jesus, to live as his disciples. She invites us to recognize the Risen Christ in our lives here and now in persons and situations we would not expect. She also leads us to hear Jesus saying to us, “Do not be afraid, it’s really me”. We might move in the direction of knowing him not “out there somewhere” but as a living experience in our own life, really involved with us, present in everyone and everything, absent from nowhere. It is not so much a matter of finding Jesus, but of recognizing him in our life where he has always been.  Just sayin .  .  .