Pastoral Series

What I Learned During Lent

As much as during any season of my life, I reflected this Lent on the fact that there are deaths, and then there are deaths. All deaths are sad – but some we can reconcile in our minds as being timely, or even a good death. If your grandmother dies at 97 after a couple of grisly years battling Alzheimer’s, you grieve, you miss her dearly, yes; but the death is understandable, acceptable, good in a way.

Then there are the truly awful deaths, too young, too sudden, too knee-buckling. In our congregation, in the span of 3 weeks, we had 5 numbingly awful deaths. Out of the blue, no one saw it coming deaths of beloved friends aged 67, 33, 12, 52 – and then a child barely 2 years old. This is the sort of loss that Santayana had in mind when he wrote, “With you a part of me hath passed away… And I am grown much older in a day.”
We all weep, and shiver a little, a hug our loved ones – for we cannot dodge the truth we know but dare not stare in the face: that we are all of us fragile, vulnerable, mortal. I don’t want to sound like the manipulative, tedious preachers we’ve heard, warning us that we’d best get right with God now, for you just never know… But really, you never know, about those we love, and about ourselves. Our doctors are very clever – but we are fragile, and life here is rather rudely impermanent.

The lessons of Lent – and Easter? We love, we are tender with each other, and with ourselves. We ask about what really matters from the vantage point of What if it ended tomorrow? We don’t procrastinate on anything much that matters, and we really do get engaged with God.
Lent begins with the marking of ashes – a sign of our mortality, the brutal truth carved onto our foreheads that we might make it to 33 or 67 but we won’t make it to 1000 – that is, not without Jesus who endured the first Lent ever and dared to die at 33 on behalf of all who die too young, or in ripe old age. God told us the ultimate truth about him, and about ourselves, by raising him from the grave: God is never done with us. We belong to God, God treasures every one of us, and won’t let us slip from the mighty divine hands that made the universe and will bring all of us to God’s good end.

So be tender. Love God. Be grateful for the utter basics. Believe.
James
james@mpumc.org

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What I Learned During Lent: Can-Do! and Only God Can-Do

My nonfiction reading during Lent included a terrific book by Bill Bryson – One Summer: America, 1927, a spellbinding narrative of Americans doing the impossible in just three months. Charles Lindbergh flew N.Y. to Paris, unprecedented, alone, by dead reckoning, and in threatening weather; Henry Ford developed the Model A; Babe Ruth hit 60 home runs (when most entire teams hit fewer); and Mabel Willebrandt put Al Capone in jail.

All of us, even if not quite so spectacular as Lindbergh, Ford, or Ruth, are amazing, gifted, rippling with unrealized potential. God wants us to have a can-do, adventurous attitude. But no matter how strong the can-do spirit might be, there really are time you simply can’t. There are debilitating circumstances, diseases, hopeless scenarios, debilitating woes. The best intentions collide with impossibly difficulties. Nobody can effectively manage 100% of life.

Martin Luther scoffed at his fellow theologians who urged people to “Do what is in you,” to do make goodness happen. But there really are times you can’t. The only 100% reliable truths about our lives are Sin (we fail God and others), and death, even if there is much excellence in life.
It is wrong to think God is there when we can’t handle things ourselves. A guy I know wrote a book with an awful title: Do Your Best & Trust God for the Rest. God isn’t our assistant to help us with what we can’t handle on our own. God is in all of it. If there is human brilliance, accomplishment, excellence – then God did that! And we are all broken, all vulnerable and moral, and God is there too.

It is amazing what we can do. And it is even more humbling what we cannot do. God is Lord of all; God is the hidden author of all good, and the redeemer of all that goes awry.

James

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What I Learned During Lent: Destructive Patterns

I didn’t give up anything big or daunting this Lent. I did give up TV (no big loss there) and a few private things only God knows about.

I did engage deeply, every day, first thing (even before coffee!) a little book, a 40-Day Journey with Julian of Norwich, a marvelous, wise saint from 14th century England. The devotional book provided a reading from Julian for each day, and then some intriguing, inviting but not threatening questions about life. I learned a lot, and was sad when I finished reading day 40.

We speak of Jesus being risen, and alive now. Julian had direct, personal, unforgettable visions of Jesus speaking to her. If we doubt this, perhaps we are not inclined to believe Jesus was actually raised from the tomb!

Julian, who lived most of her life alone in a single room, doing little besides praying, had an intense fixation on the love of Christ – which is why Easter happened in the first place. This love of Christ probes deeply, even into the “shadowy, shameful aspects of our hearts” – and yet still loves, even though Christ sees what we think of as the worst in ourselves. And this divine love “frees us from destructive patterns and addictions.”

What are the destructive patterns of your thinking? or behavior? To what are you addicted? I read a book years ago about God’s power and the breaking of addictions – and the author, Gerald May, provided a surprisingly long list of what we get addicted to: not just alcohol or drugs but also shopping, attention, exercise, TV, anxiety, computers, gossip, the stock market, nail biting, work, hoarding, golf… His list seemed endless, and a bit scary, yet revealing. What are your addictions?

A “destructive pattern” might not be an “addiction” per se, but it’s a habit that might keep us from God. One pattern many of us slip into is impatience. A TV show can bore me in two minutes and I’m out of there. When I preach I know it had better hook people early. Make it good, make it quick! is our pattern.

The 40-Day Journey with Julian of Norwich started out okay week 1, then I got a bit bored with weeks 2, 3 and even 4. But I’d promised God I’d do all 40… and was richly rewarded. The best, most life-transformative stuff in the book was in the very last 10 days! The best wonder in Jesus’ life story was in his last few days too. I wonder if we can hang in there – and see that God’s best, if it’s in a devotional book, or in life itself, is coming if we stick with it. After all, Jesus hung with his Lent for the full 40 – and stuck with his love for us to the Cross itself.

James

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What I Learned During Lent: Heart Custody

In her 14th century Revelations of Divine Love, Julian of Norwich asked an intriguing question: “Who has custody of your heart?” The kneejerk reaction might be “I do, of course!” But you don’t, I don’t, none of us do. Your heart, that part of you that feels, fears, loves, frets, believes, and dreams: it’s in you, it is you – but it always beats for something outside your self.

Who has custody of your heart? We think of a mom and a dad arguing over custody of a young child. Who is battling for your heart? A romantic interest? A career? Dark, foreboding anxiety? Something addictive? Friends, or whatever people out there prevent you from feeling lonely? Cultural rancor? or acquisitiveness? Negative messages that have resounded in your head for who knows how long?
What would it be like for God to have custody of your heart? Julian can’t stop talking about the depth of Jesus’ love for each one of us; and she persuades me that “all that is in opposition to this reality of being loved by Jesus – all these impulses are false.” What impulses in you are in some way opposed to the reality of being loved by Jesus? In your imagination, can you stick a label on each one that declares it to be “False”?

If we see our wretchedness, our mistakes, our lostness, “Jesus does not want us to remain there, or to be much occupied in self-accusation, nor does he want us to be full of misery.” He does want us “to attend quickly to him, for he waits for us, lonely until we come.” Why is this? “We are his joy”

If God’s love is the custodian of your heart, if you are God’s joy, this doesn’t mean everything will go smoothly. But how you respond to whatever circumstance that plops itself down in your life will be different, maybe calmer, less frenzied, more contented and hopeful. The risen Jesus told Julian, “You will not be overcome.” He did not say “You will not be troubled.” But Jesus did say “You will not be overcome” – because he’s got your heart.

James

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What I Learned During Lent: the Biblical Writers

Bible writers! Thomas Merton, in his wonderful journal called The Sign of Jonas, began thinking one day that, if he struggled to get anything out of Scripture, he might actually ask the Bible writers themselves for help – assuming they are in heaven, and living eternally…

He mused, “I have a great, though sometimes confused, affection for the writers of the Bible. I feel closer to them than to almost any other writers I know of. Isaiah, Moses, David, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are all part of my life. They are always about me. They look over my shoulder, earnest men… I feel they are very concerned about me, and that they want me to understand what God had them write down – and that they have always surrounded me with solicitous prayers, and that they will always love me and protect me.”

Wow. Bible study feels like a solo activity: I open the book and try to make sense of it or find something helpful. It can be hard, we’re buffaloed at times, distracted or maybe even bored. Maybe I’m in a group, like Disciple – and I at least have friends helping me to reflect and dig deep.

But Merton expands the circle sumptuously! Maybe I am alone, I am hoping to read something from God, a word of hope, or just to know more about God and understand what the heck is going on in my life from God’s viewpoint. What if I could think of Isaiah, Matthew, Paul and John hovering above me, rooting for me, praying for me and loving me?

Easter is about the resurrection, about the dead having a wonderful communion with God – so we might well expect the ancient writers to enjoy each other but also be somehow palpably available to us, maybe even eager to see someone reading their material they labored over and treasured so much.

I’m a writer – and believe me, I think about this stuff long after it’s gone, and I hope and pray you get something from it, and I stand ready to help, to answer a question or two. How much more then would God’s inspired authors feel even more strongly about you and their marvelous library of publications we call the bible? Could Merton be right – that you have some invisible but real help?

James

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What I Learned During Lent: Honor your parents

During Lent, I noticed what various grownups said about their parents: some living, some not, some much beloved, others more difficult. One in particular, after narrating her story of struggling to deal with a daunting round of aging issues on top of decades of pain and dysfunction, asked me, “How am I supposed to honor my father and my mother?”

If your story is one of a settled, peaceful, loving home, honoring father and mother in this world and in memory can be a great joy, although coping with physical feebleness and mental decline can humble the happiest of us. But where there is brokenness, old wounds, an inability to connect, or stresses of any kind in the relationship, what do we do – not merely as people, but as God’s people, as those trying to be faithful and holy before God?

Martin Luther, instructing his people on the Ten Commandments, explained that “Honor your father and your mother” isn’t only directed to little children, but also to adults with aging parents. For some, this means to “value them as precious treasure,” and some are easily treasured. But when the going is rough, the commandment still applies: Luther said that even if your parents are challenging, or not tender with you, you can (for the sake of God!) “behave respectfully toward them, and not speak discourteously to them or about them… Hold your tongue if they go too far. Honor them by your actions, helping them when they are old, sick, feeble or poor. All this you do with humility and reverence, doing it as if for God.”

How does “doing it as if for God” alter what we do regarding parents, and how we feel about it all? What if we think of our grownup child duties as a spiritual practice, something we do to grow spiritually, and to know God more deeply?

Mother’s Day is upon us. How do we think about our parents, as they inevitably age, change, and then are lost to us, as people of faith? Earlier this year I wrote a blog about Dementia, God and faith that seemed to help some folks. And during our Emotionally Healthy Spirituality series, one of the primary tasks in fostering a more profound relationship with God involves exploring our family of origin, how our parents, and their parents, and all the healthy and broken linkages in our past shape who we are today and how we connect (or don’t) with God.

“Honor your parents” isn’t a strict command so much as it is an invitation to hope and healing – and to figure out how requires some deep work, and prayer.

James

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What I Learned During Lent: A Garland

When we think of the Protestant Reformation, we recall a vast, tectonic plate shift in history, impacting the entire continent of Europe. But Martin Luther was more obsessed with small changes – for instance, in the way people pray, and read the Bible.

And so he offered wise counsel (made widely available through that newfangled invention, the printing press) to simple peasants, bakers, smiths, farmers, children, and the aged. One of his lovely ideas (that I noticed during Lent) was this: if you read a phrase from Scripture, or the Lord’s Prayer, or one of the 10 Commandments, “in order to free myself from distractions, I like to divide my thinking into 4 parts. First, instruction – that is, What is God teaching me through these words? Second, thanksgiving. These words prompt me to be grateful for something… Third, confession – in that whatever I might read in the Bible exposes something in me that is not of God, or at least not yet of God, or not fully of God Then fourth? A prayer. Whatever I read, having learned a little, given thanks for something, and noticed how I am out of kilter with God, I now am ready to say something to God about it all.

Luther spoke of weaving these four strands together and thinking of them as a “garland.” I am not sure how Luther and his neighbors in 16th century Germany used garlands. Were they draped over the shoulders to appear festive? Did Mrs. Luther (Katarina) decorate their home with garlands?

Today, and primarily at Christmas, garlands are typically hung around doors and stairs. Maybe if we try Luther’s fourfold process next time we probe a Bible verse, we might think of the beauty of the greenery, and leading us through a door toward an intimate life with God, or up some stairs to get closer to God.

James

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What I Learned During Lent: Half Way Holy

On a day I was feeling a need for some mercy, I stumbled upon a passage from Martin Luther’s Small Catechism, in which he explores the way we cannot understand God, believe well, or be holy on our own, and that it is the Holy Spirit that calls, gathers us close, and keeps us.

Then he adds, “Because holiness has begun and is growing, we await the time when our old life will be buried with all its uncleanness, and will arise to complete holiness in eternal life. Now, however, we remain only halfway holy. The Holy Spirit grants us daily forgiveness until we reach eternal life where there will need be no more forgiveness. In that life we will be holy, freed from sin and all misfortune.”

I think there’s a lot of mercy in that. None of us has achieved holiness – but holiness really has begun; there is some holiness in us. I love Luther’s guesstimate: for now we are halfway holy. Halfway isn’t very far, but then again it’s pretty far. A good part of me is well-devoted to God, and a good part of me isn’t, at least not yet. So there’s mercy with God – and we can be merciful to ourselves, and to others.

And we have good cause to be patient, with ourselves and others. Society pressures us to be excellent, to succeed marvelously, to have it all, do it all, get everything right, with no margin for failure. God is far kinder than society. Yes, God yearns for us to be totally holy – but none of us can pull that off, and it’s okay.

For there really is hope: one day we will be holy; one day no forgiveness will be needed – but that day will not be today, or tomorrow, or a year from now. So for now we entrust our halfway selves to God, and rejoice that holiness has begun, and will eventually dawn on us fully. After all, that’s why Lent leads us to Easter; the journey of repentance finds its way to resurrection.

James

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What I Learned During Lent: Texting and God

Monday, May 19

Back in the winter, we settled on the idea that it might be helpful to folks if they received brief text messages. A thousand signed up the first week – and I’ve been sending them now for three months.

I was a bit cynical about the potential for texting. I’m by nature long-winded: these emails are typically 300-400 words – but the texting service has a 160 character limit (so that includes not just letters but also spaces, commas…). Could I say anything meaningful that quickly? Life is complicated, and faith is complex.

Yet I have tried. It takes me longer to write a 160 character message than it does a 350 word email! Yet it does occur to me that the most profound words we ever utter or hear are astonishingly brief but powerful: I love you. It’s malignant. I forgive you. You’re fired. I’m proud of you.

A virtue to the text messages seems to be their invasive, ‘surprise’ quality. Middle of the day, you’re harried, hurried, God is out of mind – and then the phone vibrates, and you’re reminded to breathe, to trust God, to believe you are precious to God. With or without texting, we need little reminders all day long to keep us in sync with God.

Probably my favorite message said something like “It’s me, your smart phone. I’m tired. Can you give me a rest? Can you not be available for a little while so you might be available to God?” How ironic: we now use technology to remind us of the perils of technology.

Another curious virtue of the text messaging can be we are reminded to pray for and have compassion on people we otherwise forget entirely about. You’re checking your Open Table app to pick a restaurant, and then a text reminds you about people who are hungry, or lonely. You fret over the possibility of a thunderstorm that might ruin your outing, but then you’re reminded to pray for flooding or tornado victims.

I would love it if you’d click “reply” and share anything you might observe about such text messages, and whether I should continue. There is a financial cost… I do suspect that what I’ve learned about texting reminds us about something crucial in God’s heart – that God is always trying to speak to us, that God loves those we forget about, that God really is pleased when we simply stop, breathe, and focus on God.

James

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What I Learned During Lent: Little Things

Thur May 22

Trying to chase down something for a sermon I was preparing, I came across an encouraging thought from Dietrich Bonhoeffer – on a surprising way to be thankful. “Only those who give thanks for the little things receive the great things as well.” At first I shuddered: If I thank God for small blessings, God will then (and only then) give me the big stuff??

Then I read on: “We think we should not be satisfied with the small measure of spiritual knowledge, experience and love given to us… Then we complain that we lack the deep certainty, the strong faith, and the rich experiences others seems to have, and we consider these complaints to be pious.”

Fascinating. I talk with people all the time who seem frustrated they don’t know much about God, or don’t pray deeply, or have virtually no powerful experience of God. But Bonhoeffer is suggesting that, instead of focusing on how tiny my faith is, how feeble my holiness might be, I can be grateful for small instances of faith and divine love. Maybe I did pray a little, maybe in worship I was caught up for a moment, maybe I’ve sacrificed a few times for others, perhaps I know a bit about the Bible and once had a teacher or preacher who helped me see some light. “Thank you, God, for the small things in the life of faith.”

Perhaps it’s like learning a foreign language, or yoga poses. After week three you’re still fumbling over “Mi nombre es Diego,” or wobbly on the mat. You could decide “I’ll never speak Spanish,” or “I might as well just sit on the couch,” or you could conclude “Spanish isn’t a lousy language,” or “Exercising is dumb.” But you can say a phrase or two, you can make it through the class, you’re better than you were three weeks ago – and you’ve got time.

God gives us time, which doesn’t even mean that eventually we’ll be spiritual giants. God gives us time, and for every intimation of God’s presence, for every small factoid I know about God, and for every awkward but determined lunge at holiness, if I listen I can hear God cheering me on, and in myself I can learn to be grateful, and hopeful – for even little things.

James

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What I Learned During Lent: Memorial Day

Mon May 26

A few days after Lent ended, I had the privilege of visiting the 9/11 Memorial in New York. Despite the press of a large crowd and a long line through security, Lisa and I were moved by the open space, the twin reflecting pools with water streaming down, the peaceful elegance of it all.
We paused over the names inscribed on the pools’ bronze panels, and finally found the one person I knew who died in the Towers. How fitting, how hopeful, a memorial to the dead.

It is well to visit memorials, and ponder our mortality, and what matters. Every cemetery is a memorial – from the beautiful D-Day cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer to the simple Oakboro town cemetery where my grandparents are buried, from the place where Lincoln spoke at Gettysburg to our own church’s columbarium.

Today, on our national calendar, is Memorial Day. As Christians, it seems to me our mood won’t be rah-rah angry patriotism so much as a humble, awed remembrance of moments of immense courage and unspeakable grief. I have conducted the funerals of three men who waded onto the beach at Normandy in 1944 – and all three were giants of humility, gratitude, and honor, and all three spoke of beloved friends who died by their sides. I’ll always admire Wendell Berry’s profound reflection in his novel, Jayber Crow – that battlefield deaths aren’t primarily remembered where they happened: “Where do dead soldiers die who are killed in battle? They die at home – in Port William and thousands of other little darkened places, in thousands upon thousands of houses like Miss Gladdie’s where The News comes, and everything on the tables and shelves is all of a sudden a relic and a reminder forever.”

Some say 9/11 changed the world forever – or was it D-Day, or July 4, 1776? Huge days, yes – but as Christians we stake our lives on the night Jesus told us to remember. History’s ultimate Memorial Day is called Good Friday, when Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice for us. All our other deaths are gathered up into his, and the remembering of all our deaths can be transformed into hopeful gratitude because of God’s answer to Good Friday: Easter.

So today, we remember heroes, victims, and our own beloved – and we do so in the bright light of God’s powerful grace in Christ Jesus our Lord.

James

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What I Learned During Lent: 2 Rules for Christians

Monday, June 2

Having denounced Hitler and the rise of Nazism, appalled by weak-kneed church leaders who Heiled the Führer and draped swastikas in the churches, Dietrich Bonhoeffer went underground and formed a seminary to train pastors in courage, and holy living.

His rules for his faithful flock of Christians are wise and constructive for us today. “Never talk about anyone who is not present.” Think of the pain, surliness, and judgmental spirits we could avoid if we followed this rule! I would suggest a variation: “Never talk about anyone who is not present, unless you are praising that person.”

A second Bonhoeffer rule is this: when reading Scripture (which they did morning and evening as a minimum), “Read the text on the strength of the promise that it has something quite personal to say to us for this day. We do not ask what this text has to say to other people.” God gives us God’s Word, not so we can judge somebody else, but so we can grow in holiness and love.

But like the rule of talking about absent people, how poisonous is our habit of digging into the Bible to judge what others are doing? and how unhelpful? and divisive? I need the rest of my life and maybe beyond to learn what I need to know about God, and to become more Christlike. Why squander the energy passing judgment on anybody else? In relationships, I can file complaints against my friend or my spouse – but maybe I’m wiser to work on myself, for as I become more whole, the relationship has a chance of improving.

Denominations suffer much rancor because of our preoccupation with how somebody else ought to behave – when we could wisely invest an entire lifetime just getting our own house in order! And an interesting take on leadership, if you like Edwin Friedman’s A Failure of Nerve, or Chris Lowney’s Heroic Leadership, is that leadership is more about who I am as much as What I do; you lead best when you are mature, wise, and healthy within yourself.

So: read, and pray, with an eye to what quite personal thing God has to say this day – about you, not somebody else.

James

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What I Learned During Lent: Patience

Thur June 5

For a few days I tried to listen to what people say about patience, and I have asked people, “Tell me about you and patience.” Almost every person grimly but with a curious kind of pride says something like “I wish I were patient,” or “I’m just no good when it comes to patience.”

I don’t count myself as an especially patient person, and I pray for God’s miraculous gift of some greater measure of patience. What’s dawning on me this year is that the primary patience that is required, and hard, yet perhaps joyfully liberating, is patience with myself. I can get impatient with others; but I’m hardest on myself. And yet the Bible teaches me that God is unfailingly patient with me. Can I let myself be embraced by God’s patience and thus become more patient with myself?

Especially in the spiritual life: who masters prayer? or holiness? I am 58. I have a Ph.D. in theology, I have the luxury of reading lots of books about God, and I get to spend my days in the church pretty much focused on things religious. And yet I feel like a kindergartner when it comes to the things of God. I know some people whose piety I admire and try to imitate – and yet they too say they feel like awkward novices.

God wired things this way, to keep us seeking, to keep us humble, to remind us our journey is forever fulfilled this side of eternity. And so we have good cause to be patient with ourselves.

Our wisest teachers through the centuries have taught us that when it comes to God, if you have a question and God answers it, God tucks into the answer two more profound questions. You work on those, and if you gain some wisdom, three even deeper questions are unveiled. And so the deeper you go with God, the more you realize you don’t know. You can let this frustrate you, that is, you can get impatient with yourself – or you can see it as God’s lovely humor, God’s immense wisdom, like a lover we never fully understand but can’t take our eyes off of…

In Lent of 2014, I learned a few things I’m embarrassed to say I should’ve known a decade or two ago. Or maybe I forgot a little. But I’ll try to avoid blushing. God doesn’t mind; God is patient with me, and with you. Before we know it, Lent 2015 will arrive, and we’ll dig in a little further.

James

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What I Learned During Lent: Ascension

Thur May 29

I am embarrassed to admit that somehow it has never occurred to me until 2014 that the 40 days of Lent leading up to Easter is mirrored by the 40 days after Easter until Jesus ascended into heaven (Acts 1:3). A season of repentance leads to an identically profound season of joy and hope.

Today marks that 40th day – and Jesus’ ascension into heaven. In Bible times, since people thought of the world as flat, and heaven as a chamber up above the cloud, the story of Jesus ascending seemed almost natural. But for us modern people, where “up” loses its meaning after so many miles… and telescopes peer far beyond where biblical people imagined as the “top” of heaven. So how do we make sense of Acts 1:8? “Jesus was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.”

Jesus “appeared” for 40 days and then was gone – and yet he was exactly where we would expect him to be: with the God he had spoken with so intimately on earth. Jesus could be nowhere else but in heaven, which for us need not be a place an astronomer could pinpoint – and perhaps for that very reason is the fullness of togetherness with God. And he has blazed the trail we will eventually be blessed to follow. Christ’s mission was to bring all of us home to God.

In The Lord of the Rings, the wise, old wizard Gandalf is with the hobbits for while on their adventure, but then he leaves them on their own for some time. They face horrific difficulties, requiring ferocious courage and intense hope; they need each other, and stick together in a fellowship that would rather suffer than falter. Gandalf shows up again at the climax – but then bids them farewell once more.

The Bible’s narrative is kin to this: Jesus heals, teaches, dazzles – and then he leaves. He seems to trust us down here. The Christian life leaves considerable room for us to make our own way; courage, hope, and fellowship are essential. Of course, we’re not alone: Jesus promised, “I will send the Spirit, the Comforter, who will guide you into all truth” (John 14). But without seeing Jesus, we have work to do.

When Jesus left, Acts tells us that they continued “what Jesus began doing.” This is the Christian life! and the life of the Church! We continue what Jesus began. We are the body of Christ. “Christ has no body now on earth but yours… Yours are the eyes through which the compassion of Christ looks out on a hurting world; yours are the feet with which he goes about doing good; yours are the hands with which he is to bless now” (Teresa of Avila).

James

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