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How do we live out of the mystery of Easter, the mystery of our union with Christ?
I’ll get right to the point.
After the drama and the details of leading a community through Easter; after the drama and details of leading during covid; after the intense polarization of masks and vaccines; after the intense polarization of attempting to have healthy conversations around human sexuality, not to mention preaching the gospel in communities trying to grapple with the complexities of systemic racism, decolonization, and climate change while living through financial worries, loss of community, personal illness…
After all that these last few years have been, I NEED to hear something about how we live FROM this mystery, this risen Christ.
If anything has been revealed in these last years, it is that I am thirsty for an encounter with mystery and not my own capacity to inspire. My own capacity is not very much, it turns out. I am not thirsty to hear about my own understanding of all the issues, nor about my own attempts to lead across the gulf between echo chambers. I am not thirsty to rely on my own ability to articulate a formula for successful resurrection living. It’s not enough.
So I keep asking, “How do I live from this mystery?” Not only, “How do I live because of Christ?” as if an intellectual understanding, with some categories and formulas could be enough. But I am asking, “How do I live from this root, this mystery of union with Christ?”
And like Paul Verhoef last Sunday, I keep coming back to Jesus and the way he shared meals.
In the last moments of John’s gospel, after Jesus called Mary’s name, stood among his friends pronouncing peace and invited his friend to touch his scarred-over wounds, Jesus goes to the shore, makes a fire, brings his own fish and bread, and gets cooking.
He is preparing a meal for his friends, who, after deciding to take to the water and casting nets all night, had not caught anything. It’s then that Jesus, busy and all resurrected on the shore, shouts to them, “Hey! Try the other side!” When they do, the haul of fish is bigger than they could have imagined and yet their nets handled it — they handled it.
And then. Then they are invited by this man on the shore to eat. Because they were hungry.
It’s the invitation in these scenes that compels me. It’s not a directive the disciples get from Jesus but an invitation. When directives come from the risen Lord, they come after the invitations. Here Jesus’ invitations are revealing. He gives his friends a practical invitation to try something new, to be open to a new thing, a new way. And then he gives a tangible invitation to share the food he has gathered and he has prepared. An invitation to receive a healing, human, restorative meal during incredible uncertainty, after witnessing the humiliating power of the empire.
In the aftermath of everything they’ve been through, God’s invitation is not anxious nor busy nor demanding but rooted in something more mysteriously good. And it sounds like this: “Try something new – you’ll be able to handle it” and “Do it with food and rest and community that I make for you.”
The confusion and the questions of “what now?” are met with invitations to be their needful selves with Christ, to receive from Christ, to wonder. They don’t have to figure it out. They just can say yes to the invitations offered.
This is the way the resurrected Christ reveals himself and the way they all recognized him – with an offer to share food, time and a table. This is the way the disciples begin to live from the mystery.
It seems too. . .small. . .to be true.
Maybe that’s the mystery.
How do we live from this mystery? How might we grow out of this Easter reality, with roots pushing down and limbs growing up, as opposed to try to merely manifest it? Someone offered me this phrase recently: “The mystery owns us.” So how do we keep from trying to own the mystery in our uncertain and overwhelming times? How do we keep from trying to own the mystery in our need to control, need to be valued, need to be loved? And how do we let the mystery own us, grow us?
It is a good news question that leaves us, me, not with answers, but a twinkle-eyed hope and an invitation to keep living out from the mystery.
And so I’m grateful for the gift of a good question.