What We (and they) Couldn’t See

April 19, 2015
Luke 24:33-49, Acts 1:1-4
Mary Hammond

We are going to begin with a guided meditation. I don’t want to assume anything about your very personal journey, your hidden questions and doubts, or your deepest convictions. It may be that this meditation does not speak to you. In which case, I invite you into a time of silence. It may elicit strong emotion. That is OK, too. I promise you, this journey I am taking you on is deeply related to our scripture story as it continues to live in and through us.

Make yourself as comfortable as you can (on a wooden pew), and take a deep breath. Slowly release that breath.

Remember a time when you believed something very strongly, or hoped for something very deeply (maybe even prayed for it a lot), and things didn’t turn out the way you expected them to. Experience that time in your body, in your being. Feel what you feel. Be conscious, and gentle with yourself (Silence).

The foundations of your beliefs may have been shaken. Maybe any prayers felt shattered, too. You wondered how to make sense of what really happened, maybe even how to trust, or how to trust God, again. Sit for a moment in this space. Experience that disorientation in your body, in your being (Silence).

Maybe you are still in this space about that particular reality. If so, stay where you are, and let that be what it is for now, as uncomfortable as it may be. And be gentle with yourself (Silence).

For others–maybe you have wrestled with your beliefs and expectations and come out to a new place. Maybe this experience has changed you prayer life, moving it in new directions. Maybe you understand yourself, the situation, or God differently because of this journey. Maybe mystery makes more sense now. Maybe some semblance of wisdom–with or without understanding–has come.

If you are in this new place, feel that in your body and spirit. What is it like? How hard won has it been?

Whichever space you are in, notice that space within you (Silence).

Now let’s come back to our gathering with one another. Take a moment or two to just re-enter this gathering of one another (Pause).

Our lives are filled with inner stories such as these. They continually call us from one understanding to another, from “what we could not see, to what we come to see.” In his book, “The Message of the Psalms: A Theological Commentary,” Walter Brueggemann speaks of this process as one of disorientation, reorientation, and integration or transformation.

I believe we could also describe that final step as ‘resurrection.’ At first, something dies in us. Disorientation feels much like being lost. Deep within the cavern of the soul, new life slowly recreates itself. Over time, reorientation brings us home to ourselves once again, but in a new way. What is seeded in us, at long last, yields to transformation or resurrection. We are out, on the other side!

Today we continue to celebrate the liturgical season of Eastertide—this mysterious, mystical 40 day period after the Resurrection, when Jesus appears alive to many of his followers. According to the first verses of the Book of Acts (Acts 1:1-14), Jesus is not just popping in to say hello. He is meeting and eating with his disciples, teaching them about the Kingdom or Realm of God.

Yet the disciples are still doggedly holding onto their exclusive view of the Realm of God. As Jesus gets ready to ascend into heaven, they ask him, “Is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:5). When new information comes, they doggedly feed it back into their familiar belief systems.

The 40 days between the resurrection and ascension mirror the 40 years of the Israelites in the wilderness, wandering toward a new home–skeptical, faithless, doubting, over-confident, fearful, confused. We all know those wilderness periods of our own lives, times where we must confront the fact that life turns out differently than we anticipated, and we have a lot of soul work to do to make the necessary transitions of heart.

Could this be what is going on during and after those meals with Jesus throughout that period between the resurrection and ascension? Does he expect the disciples to get what he is saying then? I doubt it.

Yet, does Jesus hope for their future–for the time when the Spirit will blow fiercely upon them–fresh conflicts with political and religious authorities will erupt, and the disciples will stand up strong; questions about including Gentiles in God’s project will arise, and inclusion will ultimately happen; issues of law vs. grace will fester, and grace will triumph? Does he hope for a time when the seeds he has planted in their souls will break forth from the moist, dark earth of their beings, and bear astonishing, abundant fruit? I think so.

The disciples are witnesses to resurrection. They also become bearers of that story in their own beings. So do we. You and I become unfolding stories of resurrection.

There’s no side-stepping the fact that it can be a hard road to get there. Once we move through disorientation into reorientation and sow the seeds of transformation, then the next leg of the journey begins. That, too, offers its challenges, as the accounts of the disciples in the early church demonstrate so clearly.

Most of the time, we are at all stages of this process. As we continue to open ourselves to see what we cannot see, something old is dying in us, and new life is rising. Amen.