Jesus appears where we least expect him...

"While the season of Lent means to teach us to engage our guilt, our sins against ourselves and each other, and to acct our guilt as an incentive to suffer for a change," writes Gertrud Mueller-Nelson in To Dance with God, "Easter inspires us to get on with our work of becoming whole for a change." There is another linkage that warrants comment, too. Namely if our quest during Advent is to listen, watch, wait and discern where the Christ is coming into the world with innocence and joy, then our watching, waiting and discerning in Eastertide invites us to discover the Crucified and Risen Lord in both the simple realities of our days as well as in the injustice and pain of the broken and alienated. A member of the faith community recently sent me this quote from Oswald Chambers that cuts to the chase: Jesus rarely comes where we expect Him; He appears where we least expect Him, and always in the most illogical connections. The only way a person can keep true to God is by being ready for the Lord’s surprise visits. 

This evokes the upside down wisdom Bonhoeffer spoke of, too: Discipleship is never limited to what you can comprehend – it must transcend all comprehension. Plunge into the deep waters beyond your own comprehension and God will help you to comprehend… for bewilderment is the true comprehension. Not to know where you are going is the true knowledge. In this holy comprehension transcends (anything we can imagine.)

Mueller-Nelson continues by observing that the readings for the first few Sundays of Eastertide are all about Jesus showing us his wounds:  "As the risen Christ shows us the wounds that brought him to death, we remember our own woundedness. Brought to consciousness by our own hard work during the Lenten seasons of our lives, our wounds are now transformed in the resurrection to become for us a source of Christian joy." Note the connection between consciousness and resurrection: yes Christ's resurrection is a gift - an unexpected and incomprehensible blessing from God -  that we neither control nor understand. The healing and transformation of our wounds, however, do not initially come as a gift. They come, like the Lord's own resurrection, by consciously coming to the Cross.

That is a truth all too easily forgotten - and without the transformation and healing of our wounds we keep passing on their pain.  How did Richard Rohr put it?

Pain teaches a most counterintuitive thing—that we must go down before we even know what up is. It is first an ordinary wound before it can become a sacred wound. Suffering of some sort seems to be the only thing strong enough to destabilize our arrogance and our ignorance. I would define suffering very simply as “whenever you are not in control.” All healthy religion shows you what to do with your pain. If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it. If your religion is not showing you how to transform your pain, it is junk religion. It is no surprise that a crucified man became the central symbol of Christianity. If we cannot find a way to make our wounds into sacred wounds, we invariably become negative or bitter—because we will be wounded. That is a given. All suffering is potentially redemptive, all wounds are potentially sacred wounds. It depends on what you do with them. Can you find God in them or not?

Now that is revolutionary thinking - not just in American culture - but for all trapped in an adolescent way of living. Pain hurts so we want to get rid of it. Sometimes we blame others, other times we self-medicate, and often we deny its truth for decades. In this, the sins of the mothers and fathers are, indeed, passed on to the third and fourth generations. 

Small wonder that the Reformed tradition in the West has not fully celebrated the season of Eastertide. We honor a sanitized Christmas and a cute albeit anemic Easter, but do nothing for the 50 days between the Feast of the Resurrection and Pentecost. Yes, there were profoundly important reasons for the Reformation, but so much of the spirituality that resulted remains rooted in adolescent rebellion that we are now drifting in a morass of uncertainty . And as so often happens during wild acts of rebellion, deep wisdom is discarded. In our obsession with "being right" truth is often lost as we tear down the external symbols of our discontent. Iconoclasts, it seems to me at this point in my journey, revel in the energy of destruction while missing entirely the deeper insights of the images they have smashed. 

Back in the 80s, when so many people fled the once mainstream churches of the USA, they did not quit religion. Rather they went on a search for a spiritual center. Think of the spiritual autobiographies of Kathleen Norris, Annie Dillard, Anne Lamott or the exodus out of our buildings into retreat centers. Some 35 years later, the Reformed tradition is finally realizing that a nourishing faith tradition requires both head and heart. People are hungry for nourishing and healing wisdom and imagery and symbolism that leads to life, hope and wisdom.  And so, in perhaps a new way for me, I am excited by our entry into Eastertide. It is counter cultural in all the best ways. Fr. Rohr is spot on for Eastertide:

Christians are usually sincere and well-intentioned people until you get to any real issues of ego, control power, money, pleasure, and security. Then they tend to be pretty much like everybody else. We often given a bogus version of the Gospel, some fast-food religion, without any deep transformation of the self; and the result has been the spiritual disaster of "Christian" countries that tend to be as consumer-oriented, proud, warlike, racist, class conscious, and addictive as everybody else-and often more so, I'm afraid.

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