We did a poll in our confirmation class last week over Zoom. From a multiple choice list, the confirmands were asked to identify what made them happy during this pandemic. Several of them, about half of the class, chose being with family or a close friend.
Family indeed has becoming forefront in our experience of life during this difficult time for us all. Some of us live alone and our yearning for connection with loved ones may be acute. Some have experienced this time of isolation with family as stressful. Others have deepened their relationships with family members making good use of video and phone calls, or just spending more time with a spouse, child, or parent.
Before Jesus death and resurrection, the Gospels make reference to Jesus’ family. In addition to his parents, Mary and Joseph, Jesus had brothers and sisters.
But, interesting, afterhis resurrection the Gospels of Matthew and John record Jesus’ special instructions to the women at the empty tomb. He tells them to go tell his ‘adelphoi’to meet him in Galilee.Here, Jesus directs this word reserved normally for members of a household family, now to include his disciples, his friends, his followers.
After the resurrection a new relationship of intimacy with Jesus has been made possible. After his resurrection, Jesus expands the circle of whom he considers his ‘adelphoi’ – his siblings, his family – to include those not just connected by blood but by faith. Because of the resurrection, you and I are not just his followers, or even his friends. More than that, we are all now Christ’s siblings. We’re of one flesh! And that is quite stunning news.
In the Spirit, Jesus has a deep and intimate connection with us. We’re not just soldiers with marching orders to follow someone far ahead of us. We’re not just cogs in a wheelhouse of incessant activity called the church’s mission. We’re not just detached parts of some mechanism running on its own power far removed from us. No, we are of one flesh with Christ. Christ in us. Christ through us. The power of the resurrection lies within us and all the faithful. And that is, indeed, quite stunningly good news!
In the Gospel for today,Jesus shows his disciples that faith in Christ is an embodied faith. Having a personal relationship with God now is not disconnected from human flesh. Jesus says, “A ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” Then, in front of them he eats some fish.
A meal, shared together with his siblings constitutes the faith. The embodied presence of God in Christ, in us, is the power of the resurrection that expands outward “from Jerusalem” to include the whole world and all people. And that is why eating the Holy Meal, the Holy Communion, is so integral to our life together as Christians. For every time we celebrate this Holy Meal we participate, our very bodies, in the very life of the living Lord Jesus. The body – the Life – of Christ, given to you!
The confirmands have some homework to do for our next class: They have to consider something that represents hope, love, life in their lives now, and ‘place’ it in the empty egg. After all, the Easter egg symbolizes new life.
In the Zoom poll, there were listed other things that bring joy to us, even in COVID-time: In addition to family and friends, the good weather that beckons us outdoors, a new hobby, pets and learning new skills, to name a few more.
Especially these days, you might have to work a bit harder to uncover that awareness of new life, because the egg shell can be discouraging. The egg shell looks lifeless from the outside. Like a stone, the shell is cool to the touch and feels hard.
New life is, at first, hidden and buried, like Christ in the tomb. Yet behind the shell a small gift of life is just waiting to come out, to be seen, to grow, to be lifted up and celebrated. How is the presence of the living Lord manifested in yourlife?
After the polling, the confirmands practiced writing prayers in the class last week. Let me close with the words of a couple of young women in the family of God who offered these words of prayer:
The first writes:
I have been anxious lately about school and everything that is happening in the world right now. It seems as if nothing is going right. But thank you for giving me hope and a reason to smile everyday by seeing by best friend at school and being around loving and caring family. Thank you for all the good things that have come with the bad things. Amen.
This year hasn’t been the best year there have been ups and downs but I am so grateful to still have a roof over my head, food to eat and everything I have. Please just watch out for and take care of the people that have been struggling and that have lost their jobs.
Mark 6:3; Matthew 13:55-56
in Greek, translated most often into English as ‘brothers’ but meaning siblings of a household family; see Bronwyn Lea, “Scripture Says, ‘Sisters, I’m Talking to All Y’all’” in Christianity Today (April 9, 2019).
Matthew 28:10; John 20:17