Encouragement for a lifelong journey of faith

Category: After resurrection (Page 1 of 2)

April 19, 2020 — Hello to doubt

Jesus is risen!  This is the final installment in a series exploring the appearances of the risen Christ.  For resurrection week, our daily prayer has read along with Padraig O’Tuama to consider seven of these interactions.  O’Tuama is a poet, theologian, and peacemaker whose book, In the Shelter, will help guide us.

The Resurrection, Albrecht Durer

Today’s Bible reading

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them.  When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.  And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” — Matthew 28:16-20

More thoughts for meditation 

Today’s reading, known as the Great Commission, represents the capstone teaching of Jesus’s ministry on earth.  Objectively, it has all the set pieces of triumph including: a mountaintop setting in Galilee where it all started, expansive teaching, encouragement, assurance, and a dramatic exit.  When they make this book into a movie cue Jackie Wilson’s Your Love Keeps Lifting Me Higher, roll credits.  This passage is often used to kick off church missions campaigns and anchor teachings about religious conquest.  

I am impacted by the doubt that shows up in the second verse.  Repeating elements of Jesus’s resurrection encounters are confusion and doubt.  Doubt grounds the experience in the tension of the incarnation. Of Jesus “entering the lives of ordinary people living in a society that holds hope with corruption”, writes O’Tuama.  We have in one hand the assurance that God is making all things right, while the other hand bears witness to a “society that punishes those who are already punished.” We hear that God is using us to bring about his kingdom of love, while we hear echoes of our own failures and confusion.  This beautiful tension helps me to make sense of faith in the world that confronts me, the now and not yet transformation of which I have a meaningful role.  

We are people of story, it is how we make sense of our world and how we communicate meaning to others.  Doubt makes room for others, as Jeanette Winterson writes, “when we tell a story we leave a gap, an opening.  It is a version but never a final one.” The gospel of Matthew closes by leaving a gap, a way to bring Jesus’s teachings into our lived experience.  

Suggestions for action

The rhythms of our Christian calendar are designed to help frame stories we tell our families about the faith.  Consider preserving gaps in the stories you tell this season, leave room for others to find themselves in the story.  Here is a prayer from Dr. King you can carry with you today:  

“Purify our hearts that we may see thee. O God in these turbulent days when fear and doubt are mounting high, give us broad visions, penetrating eyes, and power of endurance. Help us to work with renewed vigor for a warless world, for a better distribution of wealth, and for a brotherhood that transcends race or color. In the name and spirit of Jesus we pray. Amen” Dr Martin Luther King Jr

April 18, 2020 — Hello to forgiveness

Jesus is risen!  This is the sixth post in a series  examining the teachings and visitations of the resurrected Christ.  Jesus sojourned with his disciples for 40 days before departing to be with the Father.  The daily prayer will be considering passages from Padriag O’Tuama’s book, In the Shelter, to help guide this study.

Today’s Bible reading and excerpts

Read John 21:1-17

Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.”  Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord.  Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish (vv. 12-13 ).

He[Jesus] said to him a third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”  Peter felt hurt because he said to him a third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”  Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep” (v 17).

More thoughts for meditation 

Of skinny dipping, lonely nights, charcoal fires, absolution, loads of guilt, breakfast, bucketfuls of projection, and forgiveness    — Padraig O’Tuama

Dove naked into cold water,
near the cove where the clothed man cooked fish.
The water was teeming with one hundred
and fifty-three screaming out
I do not know the man I do not know the man 
I do not know the man whose shackled hands
I’d held the last time I’d seen the sea 
walking towards me on Sophia’s heels
stepping over chaos and creating madman’s dreams.

One hundred and fifty three
and he a carpenter, telling me the fisher:
‘Cast your nets in the light of day’
So I explained the while I am a ragged man,
my sins are rich and meaty,
I would take a beating before I’d heard a carpenter
lay down the rules of eating from the sea.

One hundred and fifty three
and me, I followed
because I knew no other way.
This was the way of glory, 
the only way before me.
My wife she understood, or at least she kept her peace.
Seven score plus thirteen
leaping from the sea to nets so empty they seemed dry

Now I am leaping naked from the deck to the sea
and me, I’m hoping for a bit of absolution
while I perform my oceanic ablutions.
I am naked ploughing depths of wombing waters,
salty with tears and years of 
endless trying

Three times of saying:
no, I do not know him, no, I do not know him, no I do
not know him.
so can I show him anything that is different now?

He said ‘hello’
The carpenter, he said ‘hello’
and I said, ‘Yeah, I know’ pulling clothes around my body, 
covering my hair and skin from showing.

Three times with bread and fish around a charcoal fire
and I was questioned of my love:
-do I love him more than fish?
more than all this? more than miracles? and me? and all
that’s in me?

Jesus, you know everything I said,
and then I wept,
You know damnwell everything,
I drank from miraculous new waters and then
I faltered while the devil sauntered downtown.
I am a pebble in your crown.
Jerusalem’s new clown.

I’ve let you down,
I’ve let you down,
I’ve let you down,
I’ve left me damnwell down 
Jesus, you know everything, I said,
and then I wept

‘Are we beyond all this?
can we move on?’ he said.
‘The miracles, big bravado
ah, your sad old ego vying for acceptance
are we beyond all this?
can we move on? He said.

‘Jesus you know everything
and the weight inside my head,’
I said.

And he said
‘Come now, fisherman, come on
and maybe sing a different tune
and find a room where you can let me stay
and maybe take that oar out of your own eye
and paddle back to where I started with you.
Let’s be beyond all this
and let’s move on,’ he said to me.

Suggestions for action

Jesus calls Peter to action by first offering forgiveness.  With each question, Jesus acknowledges Peter’s failures but brings the focus back to loving him through service.  Today, pray for those who are hungry and food insecure, that our forgiveness would motivate us to intervene. Share a meal, practice resurrection.

April 17, 2020 — Hello to pilgrimage

Jesus is risen!  This is the fifth post in a series examining the teachings and visitations of the resurrected Christ.  This week our daily prayer will read along with Padraig O’Tuama to consider seven of these interactions.  O’Tuama is a poet, theologian, and peacemaker whose book, In the Shelter, will help guide us. 

Third Station of the Resurrection: The walk to Emmaus by Rowan and Irene LeCompte

Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt

Read Luke 24:13-33

When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.  Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?”  

More thoughts for meditation

We have a way of seeing the world, a frame through which we process the impossible scale and complexity that surrounds us.  These frames are often stories, narratives that weight some experiences and discount others. This is a benefit for Jesus followers in that it allows us to attach eternal worth to the ordinary.  Padraig O’Tuama quotes Anais Nin, “we do not see things as they are, we see them as we are” to illustrate that we struggle to escape our particularity. Pilgrimage is one way to address this condition.

Often, pilgrimage is understood as a journey and defined by the destination.  Another way to think about it is to consider the change it brings about in the pilgrim.  It is a way to reframe our perspective. In today’s Bible reading, Jesus joins two of his followers on their journey and shares a meal.  He transforms these ordinary rhythms of life and explodes his disciples’ perspective, “were not our hearts burning within us.” To walk with others may mean a hike, but I suspect it has more to do with living in community and sharing one another’s burdens. Breaking bread likewise includes eating together and feeding those in need.  These are common tools, meals and community, that we may pick up and use in daily practice. This past summer I went to a wedding in Banff, Alberta. Both the Canadian Rockies and the bold marriage promises were completely out of scale with my ordinary grind. I was confronted with a story larger than myself and in that way I viewed the trip as pilgrimage.  

Suggestion for action

Consider setting the dinner table this evening with an expectation of divine encounter.  What would it feel like to sit down to a simple meal with an eternal perspective? If you are able to share this meal, how will you relate to each other with this in mind?

Giorraíonn beirt bothar — two shorten the road

April 16, 2020 — Hello to our wounds

Jesus is risen!  This is the fourth post in a series examining the teachings and visitations of the resurrected Christ.  Jesus sojourned with his disciples for 40 days before departing to be with the Father. The daily prayer will be considering passages from Padriag O’Tuama’s book, In the Shelter, to help guide this study.

Children of Lir by Malcolm Robertson at Ballycastle, Co Antrim, Northern Ireland


Today’s Bible reading

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them.  Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”  Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.”  Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” — John 20: 26-29

More thoughts for meditation

Testimony is a powerful feature of many circles of faith.  Telling the story of conversion, re-conversion, repentance, and restoration.  In his years leading the Corrymeela Community, a spiritually based peace and reconciliation organisation in Ireland, Padriag O’Tuama witnessed the transformational power of personal testament.  It has the ability to cross sectarian divides and change hearts. Vulnerability welcomes in the hearer and builds intimacy. He describes his own insecurity about sharing the most real parts of his testimony, the wounds that shame.  Ultimately, it is our wounding that leads us to understand our need.

In today’s reading, Jesus teaches his disciples a new way to witness.  He is returning to the upper room one week after his initial appearance.  Thomas is now with the other disciples in community when Jesus appears. Let us leave aside the unfortunate notion that Thomas is a character study in doubt.  Back in chapter 11 he was the lone “ride or die for the messiah” voice. Instead, I think the text paints him as frank and direct. He states his need to see Jesus’s wounds boldly, though perhaps only understanding the surface level need. Jesus compassionately grants his request and offers a moment of intimacy that fully honors Thomas’s needs.  We, as Jesus followers, carry wounds that shape us to deliver a unique witness. God redeems our hurts by allowing us to use them for reconciliation and restoration.  

Suggestions for action 

Spend some time in silent reflection to consider your wounds.  Meditate on how you have been shaped by those experiences and how God has met you in your pain.  How is God making things right? Listen to the song Beautiful Things and think about how your testimony might honor those wounds.

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