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Easter Sunday, Year C

Luke 24:1-10 - link to NRSV text

"Why do you look for the living among the dead?" the messengers asked the women.

It's a question I ask myself from time to time.

Some years ago, I went to a spiritual director with complaints about my prayer life. I missed the easy, chatty intimacy I felt with God when I was younger, especially when I was in college. In comparison, my prayer life in the present felt dry. I prayed the Daily Office, I prayed the psalms, I interceded for the church and the world and I listed my own concerns. I also spent a lot of time in silence -- something I never did in college, when I thought of prayer exclusively as a conversation. And I just wasn't getting the same kind of emotional charge in prayer that I used to get. I thought maybe I was doing something wrong.

"You've walked into a bigger room," the spiritual director said. "The walls are further away and you can't see them, so you're not quite sure where you are. But you're where you need to be."

And I was where I needed to be. My life was far more full than it had ever been, and so was my prayer life. I had found discipline (something entirely absent from my college years!), and specifically I had taken up disciplines of contemplative and corporate prayer that were bearing prodigious fruit in my life. I had a hard time seeing that, though, when I was focusing on what used to be rather than on what is. I was looking for a living spirituality among memories of things that were long gone, but that's not where abundant life is.

Actually, I'm groping for the right verb -- "is" sounds too static, and abundant life, the life Jesus gives, is always beckoning us onward. When I was a child, I read C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia over and over, and one of the most vivid images I have of our life in Christ comes from the conclusion of The Last Battle, the final book from the series, in which the heroes finally enter Aslan's country, Narnia's vision of heaven. Once there, they find that Aslan's country is a little like the wardrobe they climbed into so long ago and found themselves in a whole new world, the world of Narnia. The inside is bigger than the outside. In Aslan's country, the cry is always "Further up and further in," and as one journeys toward the center, things seem increasingly more real somehow. The wonders left behind from the last step seem like shadows in comparison to the increasingly more vivid and wondrous country one journeys through in the present.

When I find something -- a spiritual discipline, a ministry, a step in my relationship with God -- that "works," that brings me closer to God, the temptation I find is usually to look upon it as a sign that I've arrived, whatever that means. Like Peter on the mountain of Jesus' transfiguration, I'm tempted to build a house right there and declare it my permanent address. But Jesus' call is always "Further up and further in!" If I stay there, I may be comfortable, but eventually I find I'm no longer growing there. It doesn't mean that something's wrong with the place, and it doesn't mean that something's wrong with me; it means that abundant life lies ahead, and I'm called onward on the journey.

These feel like uncertain times for many of our communities; I hear a lot of fear and confusion in conversations about our church, our nation, our world, and where we're called to go in each of these. I also hear a lot of anger from some. It's an anger that springs from a sense of loss: Where is the church and the world I knew -- my church, my world? Who took it away? How do we get it back?

I understand the sense of loss, having experienced enough significant losses in my own life. But when I feel the fear that often follows such a sense of loss, the words of the messengers in this Sunday's gospel come to me: Why look for the living among the dead? Even what was good before may not be what I am called to now. Further up and further in! Jesus is not dead. He is alive -- and furthermore, he is on the move! We will meet him not as a preserved body in a tomb, but as the stranger on the road. Further up and further in! Come to the table with companions on the journey; Jesus opens our eyes as we break bread together. Jesus is not gone, but he has been transformed, and we are called to follow. Abundant life lies ahead on the journey. No time to pack -- the next leg of the journey starts now! Further up and further in!

April 6, 2004 in Easter, Luke, Year C | Permalink

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Dylan's lectionary blog: Easter Sunday, Year C

« Good Friday | Main | Second Sunday of Easter, Year C »

Easter Sunday, Year C

Luke 24:1-10 - link to NRSV text

"Why do you look for the living among the dead?" the messengers asked the women.

It's a question I ask myself from time to time.

Some years ago, I went to a spiritual director with complaints about my prayer life. I missed the easy, chatty intimacy I felt with God when I was younger, especially when I was in college. In comparison, my prayer life in the present felt dry. I prayed the Daily Office, I prayed the psalms, I interceded for the church and the world and I listed my own concerns. I also spent a lot of time in silence -- something I never did in college, when I thought of prayer exclusively as a conversation. And I just wasn't getting the same kind of emotional charge in prayer that I used to get. I thought maybe I was doing something wrong.

"You've walked into a bigger room," the spiritual director said. "The walls are further away and you can't see them, so you're not quite sure where you are. But you're where you need to be."

And I was where I needed to be. My life was far more full than it had ever been, and so was my prayer life. I had found discipline (something entirely absent from my college years!), and specifically I had taken up disciplines of contemplative and corporate prayer that were bearing prodigious fruit in my life. I had a hard time seeing that, though, when I was focusing on what used to be rather than on what is. I was looking for a living spirituality among memories of things that were long gone, but that's not where abundant life is.

Actually, I'm groping for the right verb -- "is" sounds too static, and abundant life, the life Jesus gives, is always beckoning us onward. When I was a child, I read C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia over and over, and one of the most vivid images I have of our life in Christ comes from the conclusion of The Last Battle, the final book from the series, in which the heroes finally enter Aslan's country, Narnia's vision of heaven. Once there, they find that Aslan's country is a little like the wardrobe they climbed into so long ago and found themselves in a whole new world, the world of Narnia. The inside is bigger than the outside. In Aslan's country, the cry is always "Further up and further in," and as one journeys toward the center, things seem increasingly more real somehow. The wonders left behind from the last step seem like shadows in comparison to the increasingly more vivid and wondrous country one journeys through in the present.

When I find something -- a spiritual discipline, a ministry, a step in my relationship with God -- that "works," that brings me closer to God, the temptation I find is usually to look upon it as a sign that I've arrived, whatever that means. Like Peter on the mountain of Jesus' transfiguration, I'm tempted to build a house right there and declare it my permanent address. But Jesus' call is always "Further up and further in!" If I stay there, I may be comfortable, but eventually I find I'm no longer growing there. It doesn't mean that something's wrong with the place, and it doesn't mean that something's wrong with me; it means that abundant life lies ahead, and I'm called onward on the journey.

These feel like uncertain times for many of our communities; I hear a lot of fear and confusion in conversations about our church, our nation, our world, and where we're called to go in each of these. I also hear a lot of anger from some. It's an anger that springs from a sense of loss: Where is the church and the world I knew -- my church, my world? Who took it away? How do we get it back?

I understand the sense of loss, having experienced enough significant losses in my own life. But when I feel the fear that often follows such a sense of loss, the words of the messengers in this Sunday's gospel come to me: Why look for the living among the dead? Even what was good before may not be what I am called to now. Further up and further in! Jesus is not dead. He is alive -- and furthermore, he is on the move! We will meet him not as a preserved body in a tomb, but as the stranger on the road. Further up and further in! Come to the table with companions on the journey; Jesus opens our eyes as we break bread together. Jesus is not gone, but he has been transformed, and we are called to follow. Abundant life lies ahead on the journey. No time to pack -- the next leg of the journey starts now! Further up and further in!

April 6, 2004 in Easter, Luke, Year C | Permalink

Comments

The comments to this entry are closed.