Happy Easter, Valpo!
This past Sunday the (non-Orthodox Church) Christians in our community celebrated the amazing news: “You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised!” (Mark 16:6).
Over the coming weeks we will be telling stories of Jesus Christ appearing to his followers — even to one who denied him (Peter); even to the one who openly doubted the news of the resurrection (Thomas); and even to someone who didn’t follow him at all, who in fact worked against his followers (Saul of Tarsus, soon to become Paul).
I revel in the reminder in these stories: God doesn’t save us, love us, or show up in our lives because we are good enough or have enough faith to deserve it; God just does what God wants to do!
It’s not about our worthiness; it’s about God’s grace and God’s desires for us and the world. God loves, and God shows up, and God changes the world.
As we begin this season of remembering stories of the resurrected Christ appearing, let’s take a moment to remember the ways that Jesus has promised to appear among us.
- Jesus Promises to Appear in the Church
St. Paul loved to call the Church the “Body of Christ.” This is full of meaning: it reminds us that we belong to Christ (Rom. 7:4); it reminds us that we are so connected to one another (Rom. 12:4-5). It also reminds us that when people are looking for Christ in the world, they look to the Church. “So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us…” (2 Cor. 5:20).
This reflects what Jesus promises as he said goodbye to his disciples: “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).
- Jesus Promises to Appear in Those In Need
This is a great mystery: Jesus appears in the Church through the way we reflect his love and mission, especially how we serve those in need; Jesus also promises to appear in those who are in need.
“‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me’” (Matt. 25:37-40).
“The mystery of the poor is this: That they are Jesus” (Dorothy Day).
- Jesus Promises to Appear in Holy Communion
At the Last Supper, Jesus said of the bread, “This is my body,” and of the wine, “This is my blood of the covenant” (Mark 14:22-24).
For Martin Luther, this language was crystal-clear: Christ promises to be present in the bread and the wine of Holy Communion in a unique way. He wrote: “…let us adhere to the words as they are read: that the body of Christ is present in the bread and that his blood is truly present in the wine. This does not mean that he is not present in other places also…But it means that he wishes to make us certain as to where and how we are to lay hold of him” ( from “The Sacrament of the Body and Blood — Against the Fanatics”). Therefore Communion is a place to seek comfort and connection with the Body of Christ — both Christ himself and the Church.
This Easter season let us look for Christ in the places he has promised to appear to us — and may Christ appear to others through us.
O Living Jesus
you are the next day of this crashed life
when we can no longer live
our lazy daydream life in and of and for ourselves
now we who follow you our brother and friend,
eating broken-body-bread and bloodshed-wine
living in the ethereal Spirit of your haunting presence
now we find ourselves unexpectedly
mysteriously, resistantly, and joyfully
living Jesus as our new selves-in-action
out of control in loving and giving and praising
and out of our minds in following you
where ever your next crazy offering
of yourself-in-us may be
[Closing prayer by Michael Coffey in Mystery Without Rhyme or Reason: Poetic Reflections on the Lectionary, (Eugene: Resource Publications, 2015).]
April 7, 2021
Rev. Katherine Museus Dabay serves as university pastor at the Chapel of the Resurrection at Valparaiso University and takes turns writing weekly devotions with University Pastor James A. Wetzstein.
Image from Vanderbilt lectionary library.