Sunday, April 11, 2010

"You are Witnesses to These Things" - A Reflection for Eastertide, 2010

Before Jesus ascends into heaven in the final verses of St. Luke’s Gospel, he sat with his disciples and had a little Bible Study. We are told that “he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and he said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses to these things.”

Just in case that had not fully understood, after following him through his ministry, after watching him be taken away to trial and execution, and then after seeing him appear to them not as a ghost, but in his physical body, he made it absolutely clear what his life, death, and resurrection meant (and continue to mean). The story of Jesus is about repentance and reconciliation, it is about facing our darkness that we might dwell in the light, it is about touching our brokenness that we might live in wholeness.

It is difficult for us to recognize within ourselves the need for repentance. It is much easier to look upon the sins and faults of others and call them to repentance. It is much easier to cry out “you have hurt me!” than to confess, “I know that I have hurt you.” It is much easier to look upon the darkness of this world and be thankful that I am not living in poverty or broken relationships, than to look at myself in the mirror and face my own spiritual and emotional poverty, or to really take stock of the relationships in my life that need mending. It is much easier for me give sympathy to those who are broken, in body mind or spirit, than to admit that I have much within my own life that needs healing. It is not easy claim our need to repent, to turn from darkness, and ask for healing.

This is what our Lenten journey has been about. It has been about doing that deep “shadow work” and bearing our souls to the light of Christ, that we might be transformed by the light. At the apex of if all is the moment when Christ, in deepest humility and profound vulnerability, hung on the cross. In that event, our shame was exposed before God and before the world.

I have often pondered why it took a few days for Jesus to rise from the dead? After all God could have done it in an instant. Why wait until Sunday? The Crucifixion-event is the moment in which human shame is exposed for all to see. Sometimes we need to sit with the shame of our failures exposed for a time. We need to weep before the cross of our brokenness and failure. Any one of us will know that transformation takes time. Healing takes time. When we recognize we are in need of healing, that is the first step. To live with what ails us is another. To expose our brokenness so that we might get help in our healing is yet another stage. I wonder if that period between mid-day on Good Friday and early dawn of Easter morning is the moment of exposure in which our tears flow that we might be washed thoroughly by God’s healing grace?

Then healing comes. Transformation comes. Christ is Risen! Then comes perspective. Jesus opens the Scriptures to his disciples and explains to them what it has all meant: recognizing brokenness, confessing that we need healing, exposing our wounds by seeking reconciliation, living for a moment in the nakedness of our shame and sadness, and then, in our vulnerability, finding our strength. The cross gives way to the risen life.

“You are witnesses to these things.”

We are not citizens of first century Judea, so no; we are not witnesses in that sense. But we are indeed witnesses. If we have hurt others and our Lord has turned that hurt into reconciliation, we are his witnesses. If we have felt overwhelmed by the darkness of the world only to realize that the light shines more brightly and casts away the darkness, then we are his witnesses. If we have hidden our brokenness -- physical, emotional or spiritual -- and later found that in unveiling our brokenness before the Great Physician, we have been healed, then we are his witnesses.

If we have, in moments of weakness, in our most fragile vulnerability, called upon the Lord and known his gentle healing touch, we are indeed his witnesses. And if we have not, it is never too late, for Christ Jesus, risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, is the enduring witness of God’s healing love.

c. 2010, the Rev. Daniel F. Graves

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