Reflection: April 15 – Third Sunday of Easter

Published on Apr 20th, 2018 by Leslie Windsor | 0
There is a part of the Passion Week/Easter narrative that occurs near the end of the Gospel of Matthew and does not appear in other gospels.  Nor is it included anywhere in the lectionary, likely due to its heavy racial bias.  However, this past week I was drawn to a re-telling of this for modern times in an article by Elizabeth McAlister, an American theologian and social activist.  In this story, the local authorities have made a request of their Imperial Roman overlords that Jesus’ tomb be secured with the imperial seal, and guarded by a detail of Roman soldiers.  As events proceed over the next three days, this Roman watch reports to their superiors that a severe earthquake occurred, an angel appeared in a lightning-like flash, rolling away the stone.  Upon hearing this, the local authorities move into the next phase of their self-protective damage-control program.  They appear to believe that this truth of the opening of the tomb is a matter of total indifference, a factor to be controlled.  They concoct a cover-up, paying the guards from the tomb detail to tell around, to broadcast, a different story than the eye-witness one they reported.  The authorities pay them to advertise a lie, to publish abroad the anti-word, to bury the truth.  The figures of power in the world of the Ancient Israelites, of power- over, want the published story to carry the worldview that this world cannot be changed or transformed.  We see that this imperial, power-over rule is shown to be sustained by the big lie!  The big lie that says we cannot be free, that we cannot be reconciled with each other, that we cannot be virtuous in God’s eyes, that most

of God’s creation can be written off.  
Now, we set this story alongside today’s reading from Luke. We see Jesus coming to be with his frightened and immobilized disciples and followers, gently giving them support, courage, a way forward.  They are experiencing an embodied experience of Jesus:  he draws their attention to his hands and his feet, the hands and feet that had been so important in his ministry, healing people, breaking bread, travelling through the countryside giving healing, hope and the good news.  Now, wounded and bruised, those same hands and feet were proof to the disciples that he had gone through the danger and not around it.  He caringly reminds them of all he has been to them, all he has shown and taught them.  His great gift, to them and to us, was to become fully human, and in doing so, allow himself to be defeated.  Like us, the disciples had spent much time and energy finding a way around the terrible events of the previous days, rather than living through them.  Like us, they didn’t want to experience pain or danger or come face to face with the suffering of others or the suffering of the earth.
Because the disciples and ourselves live in a world of both suffering and resurrection, we need our God to be one who has lived through both.  Knowing that Jesus understood the agony of the cross, as well as the joy of Easter resurrection, allowed the disciples and early church, and us, to trust that he would accompany them through all the experiences of their lives, as we continue to be accompanied.  In Jesus’s life and in His way of being, we find God.
Jesus asks the gathered followers to be witnesses to these truths.
In Acts, we see the newly energized and encouraged Peter and John doing just that.  They have come out of their wounding experience, walked out of their wounds so to speak, and are ready to begin their commissioned ministries, as witnesses to Jesus, and from His life and ministry, to be witnesses to the God he called Abba.  As Peter says, “Do you think it is us who have done this healing?”
Witnessing is telling our personal experience of what we ourselves have seen and heard and felt.  In witnessing, we don’t have to draw conclusions or make arguments – all we have to do is tell the truth as we know it.  We tell of our experience with the Author of Life, with Abba God.  For us to be witnesses requires simply that we be willing to tell the world about our encounters with the Living God. 
And “telling” isn’t only speaking; it’s mostly by doing. It’s okay to be the quiet witnesses that most of us are.   Experience tells us most people respond best to indirect and gentle witness, things they can observe and hear and think about on their own time and in their own way, as the Psalmist says “ponder in your own heart upon your bed and be still.”.  This is what being a quiet witness is about – telling/showing/doing/living – the truth as we know it, and nothing more.   We witness by doing what we can for others, simply because we can –  like the little hummingbird Dukdukdiya.  Witnessing, as in: loving pastoral care;  walking, studying, writing, working for Creation; doing healing touch in prisons in Guatemala; singing; supporting First Nations people as they struggle to gain redress, dignity and treaty rights; raising funds to be used by grandmothers in Africa; knitting prayer shawls; being a convenanting congregation, flying the flag of radical equality; liturgical decorating; making space for those who are food insecure; walking with the displaced peoples in Palestine; offering radical hospitality to refugees from beleaguered places around the world; making space for persons with differing abilities; making bread; being witnesses for peace, peace with justice and hope – and hundreds more!   We can support all of God’s Creation, and learn from Creation’s own strong witness of continuing resurrection.  Each of us can add to this small list, a list of witnessing acts and those who are examples for us. We are witnesses; we are making an Easter-people difference!  
And, I believe by this witness, we bear witness of hope for the world because of the commission Jesus gave the disciples, and by extension, us and the whole people of God.  We are the body and image of the Risen Christ in the world today – our hands and feet, what we have done with them and where we have gone with them.   Jesus’ Resurrection was THE gift of persistent love, stronger than death. It was not a panacea or a final solution to life’s struggles or conflicts.  We live witness to the solidarity of compassion, inclusivity and love, “kinship” or the “Kin-dom” of God as something we co-create with God here on earth, in this life.
Easter Resurrection is not just a once a year event, but a vivid reminder of the powerful testimony of the daily Resurrection that can take place moment by moment in our own lives if we allow the divine spark that dwells in every heart, to quicken us again to newness of Easter living – daily.  This in-dwelling gives us the hope, courage and strength to continue to be witnesses.  And to claim the source of our witnessing!
Unfortunately, sometimes, we act as if the big-lie worldview was the truth; and the resurrection is simply a pleasant lie, an excuse for a joyous celebration and nothing more.  We have all witnessed the many aspects of suffering caused by the power this big lie holds,  BUT we have also experienced the power of the truths contained in the resurrection stories and in the acts of witnessing we observe and experience in our lives.  The death-dealing of the big lie will only end when we look into the face of all human creatures and see our brother or our sister there.  The death-dealing will only end when we look at God’s created world and see the spirit of God living and moving there.  And we will try to do this over and over; we will succeed and we will fail, and retry over and over, with the prayer-sought and prayer-given support of our God.   
May it will be so.  Amen

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