Lightning – Life in Christ

Lightning will strike (photo by Martin Malina, Arnprior, June 2020)

I’ve found myself reading more children’s stories over the past few years. In the simple language and images not only do I gain insight into a perspective from children, but I also find deep wisdom in the writing.

There is a genre of children’s literature known as transition stories. Focused on the in-between moments that cause young people stress, topics range from bedtime to moving, from separation anxiety to grieving, and more. [1] These books help children grow and mature into accepting the reality of life we all face, no matter our age.

How do we make those transitions in life—transitions that are significant milestones? From living with someone for decades and then you lose them. From one job to another that is completely different. Moving to another country on the other side of the globe. From good health to illness. We may find ourselves at a station of life where we’ve gotten off one train, and we are waiting for the next one to arrive.

How do we make those transitions? And how do we make them well?

Today’s gospel reading is a transition story too.[2] From the night of that first Easter morning, to a week later. From fear to faith. From the disciples not knowing what to do, to being given a big job to do. 

And, like the first disciples, we cannot make a significant transition by ourselves. We cannot shepherd ourselves through our own transitions. We rely on others—family, friends, pets, a community of faith. Who is in your relational circle? 

How do our relations help us? For one thing, we rely on our shared stories—common interests, aligned perspectives, similar and dis-similar life experiences. And when we share those stories—when we are heard and when we can listen—we discover meaning. We may even unlearn or face our fears. In the sharing of stories, we discover meaning in life’s transitions. We may, like the disciples and in the awareness of Christ’s living presence with us, greet a renewed purpose for life.

Books and films whose main characters are children or young people impress me when, at the onset we meet a young child, innocent, immature. But by the end of the epic adventure or quest they undertake, facing seemingly impossible odds and dangers, they have become strikingly mature and adult. It causes me to pause and reflect on how much they have changed to come into their own.

Last week I preached about the power unleashed at the death of Jesus. And, at his resurrection, the great power of love overcame the world’s powers of violence, fear, and hatred. This resurrection power was not just for Jesus, but for all people in Christ for all time. Recall that when Jesus died and rose, “the tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. After [Jesus’] resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many.”[3]

The power of the resurrection was also then given to the disciples in the upper room on that first day: “When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’”[4] This is incredible. It is a great gift to receive the power of the Holy Spirit and to have the capacity to exercise it.

What strikes me is that the power of resurrection resides in the disciples with purpose to make a positive difference in the world. The responsibility now lies in them to affect the world for good.

Easter is not just about the individual miracle in Jesus’ life. It is a miracle for all of us.

Jesus’ life is a grace and a gift to us now. The purpose of Jesus’ life is not so much to arouse empathy but to create empowerment.[5] In other words, Jesus is not particularly interested in increasing either your guilt or your devotion, but rather, in deepening your personal capacity to grow, to transition, to make the passage into a fuller, wholesome life.

That power resides in us.

We find ourselves in what is sometimes called the shoulder season of Spring—the in between winter and summer. It is a transitional time, weather-wise. In one short week we went from going through the worst ice-storm in Ottawa since 1997 to 20-degree, summer-like temperatures. During that ice-storm I even heard thunder and saw flashes of lightning.

Lightning occurs, of course, primarily because of conditions from above—the charged air-mass and weather system moving over the land and coming from somewhere else. Most lightning strikes are from cloud-to-ground. The power of God occurs from the start because the Spirit moves into our space.

But does lightning always strike only from the sky down? 

While most lightning is initiated by downward leaders, upward discharges are also possible, occurring almost always from towers, tall buildings, or mountain tops.[6]

When I consider the power of the resurrection unleashed by the empty tomb, when I consider the gifting of that power to forgive, to love, given to the disciples, I think of lightning as a good metaphor.

Because the power of God is a two-way street. It cannot be complete without being connected to God’s power. It cannot be complete without our participation in the powerful activity of God in the world.

We are given the Holy Spirit to make a difference. Having life in Christ’s name means we have the power. The Spirit has been given to us in Christ Jesus. We are connected to Christ. Thanks be to God, who by the power of Jesus’ resurrection, empowers us to be Christ’s presence in this world we inhabit today.

[1] Sundays and Seasons, Daily Resources 16 April 2023

[2] John 20:19-31

[3] Matthew 27:52-53

[4] John 20:22-23

[5] Cynthia Bourgeault, “A Transforming Passion” Daily Meditations (, 5 April 2023)

[6] Upward discharged lightning

A sermon for the 2nd Sunday of Easter, Year A (Rev. Martin Malina)

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