A few more thoughts on Easter

“Don’t cling to me.” Jesus said “for I haven’t yet ascended to the Father. But go find my brothers and tell them that I am ascending to my Father and your Father, my God and your God.”
-John 20:17 New Living Translation
God is so great! I’ve been really struggling with some stuff. I still am. But in the middle of it I stand (o.k., actually I’m sitting) amazed by Him.
We talk about the Bible as the living word of the living God. One of the things that’s beginning to mean to me is this: its thousands of pages are not static and dead but they are ever growing and ever changing, leading me to be ever growing, ever changing.
I wonder how many times I’ve read the verse listed above. Suddenly it contains these truths that never sang to me before. Things that maybe I wasn’t ready to notice. They seem so obvious to me now.
I had struggled with the idea that Jesus tells Mary not to cling to him. It seemed kind of… mean. The fact that Jesus was assertive didn’t bother me. I love the story of him chasing the money changers out of the temple. It was the fact that Mary was expressing her devotion and Jesus was smashing this down that always got to me.
But tonight, I noticed three little letters. ‘f’ ‘o’ and ‘r’
The word “for.” It’s fascinating how that little word is so important.
If the word wasn’t there, then we’d have reason to think that Jesus snapped “Don’t cling to me” and then he moved on to the things He really wanted to say.
But the word “for” it’s pretty much like the word “because”; It connects the two sentences together. A different way to express the same sentiment “It’s not time to cling to me; I haven’t ascended to the father.” Jesus leaves this implication: When he has ascended, then it will be time to cling to him.
Kind of a crazy paradox: we’re only supposed to cling to him when he is no longer bodily with us!
Three more little letters: ‘b’ ‘u’ ‘t’. The word ‘but’ obviously means “instead” or “this is what you need to do”… It’s as if Jesus is saying “Time is short… I’ll be leaving soon, that will be the time for clinging. But before I go, there is some important stuff that has to happen.”
There is this transformation that the disciples undergo. They are still acting like knuckleheads during the crucifiction. Somehow, though, they are supercharged as they go out and start the church. (in Acts) This supercharging happened then: after Jesus rose from the grave, before he ascended.

The later half of the verse is even more amazing to me. Jesus is explaining the importance of what he has accomplished. Through his outpouring of love, through his great sacrifice, he has somehow elevated us. There is some sense in which we are now on his level. Though he alluded to this as he washed the disciples feet, this reality shines through the verse. Jesus doesn’t describe the disciples as Mary’s brothers; he describes them as his own brothers. He does not describe God as only his God. He does not describe God as only the disciples God. He does not assert that God is only his own father. He does not assert that God is only the disciples father.
The risen Christ says that the disciples are his brothers. He proclaims the God of the disciples is also his God. He affirms that his own father is the father of the disciples. He sends Mary to tell everyone that we are family with Jesus.
Maybe folks who have been at this for a longer time than me noticed this before. But I pray that it doesn’t become a given, that none of us ever fail to be struck by the awesomeness of this.

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jeffsdeepthoughts

The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

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