Answering Jesus’ prayer

The next time we will see each other face-to-face I’ll likely be wearing one of these. I have different colours and types for different occasions …. (you can see them by viewing the video sermon at on Sunday, May 24, 2020).

I know the mask may present a barrier. It covers half of our face. It’s uncomfortable. It may inhibit us from feeling normal in our interaction. It’s a telling symbol of the times we find ourselves in. That a physical barrier needs to be in place to protect us all.

Paradoxically, the mask underscores how inter-connected we are. In forming this new habit – wearing a mask every time we leave the home – we are becoming aware of how each of us is connected to others. 

The unity we experience is not just visible. It’s not just about those who are evidently symptomatic – who are coughing, riding high fevers, and are very sick. We now know that over 40% of COVID-19 is transmitted by people who don’t have any symptoms at all.[1]

Of course, we didn’t need COVID-19 to introduce us to the idea of our common humanity. Especially as Christians we have always affirmed our inherent connection, our ‘unity in Christ’. Whether we say we participate in the invisible, spiritual unity, or hopefully sometimes even participate in some wonderful visible expressions of unity, we are united nonetheless.

In this last Gospel selection in the Easter season, the lectionary invites us to reflect on some of Jesus’ last words to his followers when he was physically with them on earth. John 17 represents what is known as the High Priestly Prayer of Jesus for his disciples, his benediction, his blessing to them as a human being. This is his message to them – human to human. 

And he prays for our unity. His prayer affirms our connection in the Body of Christ which is the church. And on earth, we are interconnected, interdependent in Christ.

How do we live that interdependence, as Christians, as followers of Christ?

Jesus prayed, “And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world … Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.”[2]

“I am no longer in the world,” Jesus says, “but they are…” Jesus is no longer in the world. But we are. We are the hands, the feet the heart of Christ in the world for each other. We participate in the answer to Jesus’ prayer. You could say, in a sense, we are the answer to Jesus’ prayer.

“We cannot jump over this world, or its woundedness, and still try to love God. We must love God through, in, with, and even because of this world.”[3]This is the message Christianity initiated, proclaimed, and encouraged, and what Jesus modeled. We were made to love and trust this world, “to cultivate it and take care of it”[4]. The answer to Jesus’ prayer is not in some far-off heavenly realm. The crux of it all lies here, right now, and in this place and time. 

The church has left the building these last few months.  But the church has not disappeared. We are in the world. And we need each other. We are our brother’s and sister’s keeper. There is no avoiding it, especially now. 

People wear masks not to protect themselves. We wear them to protect others from possibly catching the virus from us. That is why care-givers wear masks and all sorts of other Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

May this mask-wearing season of our lives be a sign and symbol of our care for one another. We don’t just say, “Stay safe”. We practice it when we are together in whatever way. Our togetherness then becomes a Christ-sign of caring for the other. When we return to the building – the day will soon come – our main focus – as it always has been implied but now fully apparent – is the care for each other.

For now, every time you pick up the phone and call someone, we are the church.

Every time you send a short email to check in on someone else, we are the church. Every time you pray, read scripture, say words of compassion and nurture thoughts and feeling of love for another, we are the church.

Every time you don a mask – even though it is awkward and not very comfortable, but you do it anyway for the sake of others, we are the church.

Every time you do this for the wellbeing and care for another, we are the church. United in Christ Jesus. For all time. And in every place.

[1]Rachel Gilmore, “It’s now recommended that Canadians wear face masks”, CTV News (20 May 2020)

[2]John 17:11

[3]Richard Rohr, “Cultivation Not Domination”, Daily Meditations (Tuesday, May 19, 2020;

[4]Genesis 2:15

God’s heart in us

I wonder many times these days how does a post-covid-19 world look like? A post-covid-19 church look like? And are we ready to tackle whatever the new normal looks like?

The honest answer – I don’t know. Does anyone? A church in Toronto has a sign in front of its building, and it now says: “Closed until God knows when.” True – only God knows when.

I’m video-recording this sermon in our home office.[1]And in my background are three doors. Not just one, nor two, but three. If you’ve never been here, you might not know which door you would use to leave, or enter into, the room.

Here’s a silly riddle … often humor is helpful in times of anxiety and fear: So, when is a door not a door? When it is a-jar. !

We may prefer the doors to remain shut always. We may prefer not only not to know what’s on the other side, but also prefer not to go there. We would rather avoid thinking about and avoid going through. We shut the doors of our imagination and willingness to wonder about what’s beyond. We would rather remain in the comfortable memories of the past – instructive and significant though they may be. But if we just stay there, scared of the unknown, uncertain future, we will refuse to take the steps of change forward.

How can we begin even to consider taking that first, tentative step – into the unknown, into a future without the certainties of the past to guide us?

I heard a podcast this week about Frank who lived out of a deep love for his son, Justin.[2]Even though his job was a fulltime professor, Frank made parenting his primary vocation for fifteen years. Frank described it this way: that during that time Justin became a person who had a part of his own, father’s heart. Frank’s heart did not belong completely to Frank alone anymore. 

No matter what happened in their relationship, Frank speculated, if Frank and his son had a falling out and they didn’t speak for twenty years, Justin was in Frank’s heart and Frank was in Justin’s heart. Justin’s joys gave Frank delight. Justin’s pain touched Frank like nothing else could. Literally, his experience was so deeply connected. Even though Justin had an identity apart from his father’s – he was his own person; he was not his father – there was nothing Justin could do that would make Frank not love him. Frank’s heart was completely embracing of him.

This is like the love between God and each of us. Like Frank with Justin, we can first experience a small taste, small glimmer of God’s all-embracing, unconditional, steadfast love in a human relationship – in marriage, in partnership with another, in parenting children, in families, among friends. In some relationship, may we come to know this feeling. And this understanding of God’s love.

Julian of Norwich wrote we are not just made by God we are made of God.[3]It’s like when God makes us, God gives a part of God’s heart into us. And God knows that feeling of no matter where we are or whatever situation we are in, no matter the highs or lows, or whether or not we’ve talked to God in months or years, God is achingly connected to us – deeply, intimately. And would have it no other way.

Rooted in being known, being met, being embraced in that blanket of love – despite and amidst all the suffering we encounter – that’s life.

In the scriptures assigned for Easter, Ascension, and Pentecost, there is a positive, affirmative and encouraging word. When Jesus prepares his disciples for when he will leave them, he tells them about the truth of our very existence: That he is in us as we are in him – or, to use Saint Paul’s oft-repeated phrase: “in Christ.”

On the surface, at first glance, it doesn’t look good for the disciples. Jesus is leaving them. When does it ever feel good to leave a friend, say goodbye, lose them or be forevermore separated from them? And then go on living, without them?

But the leave-taking of Jesus means that the power of God’s love and the energy of Jesus’ life-giving presence is now given to them. And to us. The truth is, because of Jesus’ bodily departure or absence, we will convey the power of God like never before witnessed.[4]What we leave behind turns into something wonderful we could never have imagined. Because the Spirit of God flows in and through us all. And we embody, the presence of Christ in whom we “live, move, and have our being”[5]for all time.

The Gospel message, in the light of the Easter promise, is fundamentally empowering to us. We are the bearers of Christ. Whether we see it in this moment or not. Whether we feel it or not. Whether we are able to muster our own meagre resources to realize it or not. 

But we don’t have to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. We don’t have to manufacture this love, this reality, on our own. We just need to step into the flow. We just need to embrace what already is! 

Because God comes through the closed doors of our hearts – opens those doors – not to scare us, not to frighten us nor shame us nor guilt us. But simply, wonderfully, to love us.

[1]Visit, Sixth Sunday of Easter, May 17, 2020

[2]“Conversation with Frank Rogers”, Academy Podcast, May 6, 2020 (an international ministry of The Upper Room).

[3]Cited in Richard Rohr, “Julian of Norwich” in Daily Meditation (, 13 May 2020).

[4]John 14:12

[5]Acts 17:28

Divine tears, divine love

Spending more time outside these days, I’m reminded of standing in the grove, in Arnprior, with my arm outstretched, with birdseed in my open hand. I stand still, and wait.

The chickadees know that visitors to their part of the grove will sometimes bring them treats. And if they happen to be perched in the trees around you when you go with seed for them, you might have dozens of birds feeding two at a time from your hand.

This is like the posture of prayer. Which is our connection with God. Our part, is to be intentional about going into that place of prayer first of all. We have to choose to enter into it. It also a posture of being still, and being open. As with feeding the birds from your hand, prayer is about putting yourself in a position where grace can catch you. You know the saying: Faith is not so taught as it is caught.

In our relationship with God, we cannot control the outcome. We don’t know if and when what we may want will happen. The only thing we can do is return regularly to nurture that inner stance of openness to God.

Because God is free. And in our relating with God, in our prayer with God, we become free. It is in the savoring, the waiting, the creating space and time for God that over time and with practice we become free.

In a recent poll, half of respondents said their mental health has worsened over the last month, including 10 per cent who said it has worsened “a lot.” “Worried” and “anxious” were the top two answers, emotional states that experts don’t expect to dissipate any time soon.[1]

Physical distancing, for example, has taken its toll. Perhaps the most emotionally difficult aspect of this whole experience has been losing our freedom to touch, to hold, to comfort and be physically present with those we love – whether in the ICU units, gravesides or around dining room tables.

Physical distancing and self-imposed seclusion have exposed our attachments. “What do you mean I can’t visit my loved one?” we object. Our attachments correspond to what we control in our lives. Or, believe we have some control over.

Losing control over our attachments has understandably caused us increased anxiety, fear and anger. We have experienced a collective loss – a way of being community, of gathering in public places shoulder to shoulder. I wonder how long it will be, if ever, before we experience some of those things again. That is why it is so important not to delay or postpone our grief. We cannot wait until after the crisis is over to grieve.[2]

We must lament now all the things we have lost and are losing during this time – travelling, weddings, celebrations, holidays and holy days, jobs, business, dreams, friends and family members – all of it. While we can delay certain services, there is no postponing grief. Now is the time for each of us to feel it – the guilt, shame, rage, fear, frustration, denial. All of it.

I remember learning in seminary of the importance of being present to someone in ministry. We called it the ‘ministry of presence’. At the same time, we were encouraged to reflect on its counterpoint: the importance of embracing a ‘ministry of absence’.[3]That is, the healing, grace and growth that happen in times of being absent from one another. Then, I wasn’t exactly sure I understood that concept fully. But now, I am coming into a greater appreciation of its meaning.

Because during the COVID-19 crisis, we are realizing that our physical distancing – our ‘absence’ – actually saves lives. We are practising a new way of being with others. Who would have thought that creating physical distance would be an authentic and effective way to care for our loved ones and neighbours, especially the most vulnerable?

It’s hard to move in this direction, however, when we haven’t come to terms yet with our losses. The irony is that we come to affirm our healthy, life-giving connections during this crisis only by grieving what we have lost throughout all of this. Losing something or someone is letting go. Letting go is about acceptance. Acceptance is freedom.

There was a period of time shortly after I was ordained that it seemed in every funeral I did the family chose the scripture that is the Gospel for today.[4]Jesus says, “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places …” It appears that at times of loss, Christians express their hope with a vision of coming home. A spiritual home. A place of union in the eternal love of God.

God shows this incredible, free, love to us now. God is a God who chooses to show that love in tears shed for us in our losses. In Christ, we can see those tears when Jesus wept at the death of his friend Lazarus[5], when Jesus lamented over Jerusalem for murdering its prophets[6], on the cross begging for the forgiveness of those who tormented him[7].

What the present crisis is offering us is an opportunity to approach ourselves with the love and forgiveness of Jesus. So desperately needed, now. What this crisis invites us to do is become open to the love and care that is offered to one another, imperfect though it may be. What this crisis invites us to do is practice being vulnerable – with ourselves, with others and with God.

When we give ourselves to prayer – however we do it – we practice the awareness of God’s presence. One of my favourite outdoor lawn care activities is aerating the lawn. It’s when that machine goes over the lawn leaving clumps of dirt lying all over the pocketed yard. This allows much need oxygen to enter and stimulate growth in the earth. Prayer time, meditation, contemplation, biblical reading, mindful walking – this work aerates the lawn of our minds and hearts. So the breath and the life of God can enter in.

To begin with, just notice your breathing. And not just breathing in, but especially the outbreath. We can’t hold our breath forever. We can’t control it. We’ll die if we don’t let go. So, exhaling is necessary for life. It is also an act of great trust. At that moment when you finish exhaling, there is a space, the moment of ‘death’. That’s when grace happens. Trust the outbreath, and God will breathe life into you. Again.

[1]Jonathan Forani, “Half of Canadians report worsening mental health, experts say woes just beginning” (www.CTVNews.caApril 27, 2020) 

[2]Nathan Kirkpatrick, “How to think about what’s next when the future is unclear” in Faith and Leadership (Durham N.C.: Duke Divinity,, 2020)

[3]I believe the writings of Henri Nouwen introduced me to the idea of ‘absence’ being just as an important part of ministry as ‘presence’.

[4]John 14:1-14

[5]John 11:35

[6]Luke 19:41; Matthew 23:37

[7]Luke 23:34

Going through

Spring is in the air! In more ways than one we are beginning soon again. In our hearts and minds we are turning towards a new start.

With hope and anticipation we look forward to the time we can meet in person together again. We look forward to the time when we can experience the freedom to eat out, and meet in public spaces again. 

The posture in our hearts of ‘starting over’ is an Easter theme. New beginnings. New life. Like the proverbial phoenix rising again out of dust. Jesus’ resurrection announces this truth. And if it’s true with Christ, it is true everywhere and for all.

We are all beginners, rookies on the field of life. In a sense, no matter how experienced we are. Whether we have been Christian all our lives or just a few days, each time we do anything in the awareness of God-with-us, we begin again. With this attitude of always a beginner, we are then ready for anything, and open to all possibilities.

How do we start over? Remember the basic pattern of liturgy: Someone must start it all. Someone initiates the conversation and says, for example, “the Lord be with you”. Those of us practiced in this way of worship will know that the conversation may start there but doesn’t end there. We respond, “And also with you.”

There is this back-and-forth flow dynamic between God’s word, God speaking and how we hear that and what we do with that. There is this back-and-forth flow between what God says to us and our response to God’s life and love in all and for all.

How do we begin again? How do we begin each time to strengthen this relationship? We can consider Jesus’ words in the Gospel for today: “I have come to give you life and life abundantly”[1]; that is, we nurture our own lives as a responsiveness to God’s own life. Our lives share in the abundant vitality of God.

If anything, we may have been shocked by this crisis to consider how to live well. What we’ve had to stop, what we’ve had to pause, what we’ve had to close – and not just for a week or two as I suspect many of us initially expected but for months – all these restrictions are causing us to reflect on the meaning of it all and what might emerge from it.

I also suspect more and more of us are coming around to accepting that what does emerge will not be “back to normal” to the way it was right before we had to lock things down. What does emerge will likely, over time, be some kind of integration, blending, hybrid of what we have been doing in the last several weeks in physical distancing with social gathering.

During the Easter season we celebrate Good Shepherd Sunday. Images of Jesus tending flocks of sheep and holding the lost sheep over his shoulders populate our imaginations. Yet in the Gospel text today, specifically, Jesus self-identifies as the gate. This is one of many “I am” statements Jesus says in John’s gospel. He’ll go on later in the chapter to say “I am the good shepherd.” But here we dwell momentarily on the image of Jesus as the gate. The care, the love, the compassion of Jesus come to us through the gate.

A gate is a way through. A gate is a place of transition. A gate marks a boundary between what is and was to what can be, beyond. Jesus is that gate that beckons us forward.

We have found ourselves these days in seclusion and isolation. It is an in-between space in time, of being in that ‘already but not yet’ place. It is not a comfortable place to be in. It can be very disruptive to those especially who have lost jobs or have become sick, who have lost loved ones and who suffer fear and anxiety as a result. 

And yet, rejecting, repressing and avoiding that in-between and uncertain place keeps us from entering and going through the gate. The gateway threshold, in Christ, is in truth a graced time, but often does not feel ‘graced’ in any way. Because moving through the gate, as slow and as long as this feels like, keeps us struggling with uncertainty, and calling so-called normalcy into creative question.

In such space, we are not in control. That is why Jesus must be the gate. 

The gift of being in this place in the love of Christ is that Jesus guides and leads. Moving through this space, we do not do so on our own terms or strength. It is the love and faith of Christ that is the engine, the propulsion and momentum to new life beyond the gate.

The gate leads us to a new way of seeing and being in the world. It is the place, too, where we can begin to think and act in new ways. While we are betwixt and between now, having left one room or stage of life but not yet entered the next, the very vulnerability and openness of this space allows room for something genuinely new to happen.[2]

It’s hard now to know for sure what that ‘new thing’ exactly will be. At the same time, we can foster within us an approach to abundant life in Christ in such a way that gives life and energy to possibilities. Theologian Charles Eisenstein wrote about leaning into “a more beautiful world our hearts imagine can be possible.”[3]

The new life post-COVID, even new life in Christ, is not “now all my problems are solved”. This new life is not “going back to the way things were.” The new life is not problem free nor tripping into some sentimental, perfect past. 

It is a new thing. It is a new way of seeing the world as it is, whatever it is. The Prophet Isaiah captured this divine work in Hebrew poetry: “Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”[4]

An opportunity lies before us all. We may witness a global reset of priorities. Individually, too. What are those priorities? And let’s live into them, in the weeks and months to come. Remember the life-giving visions we have seen in the last month: the foxes trapesing across the Golden Gate bridge, the clear, smog-free blue skies over Los Angeles and Himalayan peaks never before seen, the new species being discovered because of human economic restraint, the clearer waters in Venice, the political will to give financial aid to the most vulnerable in the economic crisis and recently increase the hourly wage by $4/hour to essential health care providers.[5]

Let these visions inspire us to enter the gate. Let these visions empower us to become what Jesus is calling us to be. Let new and abundant life fill you as you follow Jesus through.

[1]John 10:10

[2]Richard Rohr, ‘Liminal Space’, Daily Meditation, 26 April 2020,


[4]Isaiah 43:18-19

[5]In Ontario

Love finds us

This past week across Canada we’ve seen more and more indication that we are starting to ‘flatten the curve’. That is to say, new cases of coronavirus infection today do not greatly exceed the new cases recorded yesterday. Day over day, we aren’t seeing anymore spikes in new cases.

This is good news. But people are still getting sick, and dying. And our officials are telling us not to waver in our disciplines around physical distancing. We are not out of the woods yet. We can’t relax isolation practice. We must still stay at home and go out only when absolutely necessary.

A glimmer of hope that our hard work is starting to pay off. But we’ve been at this over a month already, and just now we are starting to get some good news. This process is taking a long time. As someone told me, we are in a marathon.

I’m not a marathon runner. But I did walk part of the Camino in Spain a few years ago. And I remember those days when I accomplished thirty to thirty-five kilometres were days that I bided my time and pace. I had to conserve energy, especially at the beginning of the day when I had energy and drive. I held back from going ‘all out’ early because I knew I would be walking late into the afternoon and still have hills to climb and descend at the end of the day.

Despite my good efforts and intentions, however, it didn’t always work out. I didn’t walk thirty kilometreseveryday. Occasionally unexpected obstacles prevented from moving on – Half way through what was turning out to be a good day on the trail, my knee locked. Sometimes finding food or bad weather delayed or cut days short. Sometimes it felt like I wasn’t making any progress at all. I wondered if I’d ever make it to my destination.

Two disciples are on half a day’s walk to Emmaus, and away from the holy city and the dramatic events surrounding the death of Jesus, their friend and their Lord. This resurrection story from the Gospel of Luke[1]reflects all that is good on a pilgrimage: the vulnerable sharing in intimate, trusting conversation; the encounter with strangers who become friends; the sitting at table and sharing in breaking of bread. And, in all of these very human experiences we recognize, sometimes in a moment of surprise, the risen, living and loving God in Christ Jesus who accompanies us in all these ventures.

The disciples are surprised with joy when they finally recognize Jesus. The full realization doesn’t happen until after the fact: “Weren’t our hearts burning when we talked on the road?” This surprise factor – a blessed goodness – is given, not earned. Indeed we are not in control of the love and grace that comes our way. Love finds us in the journey. Even if we don’t see it right away.

On Easter Sunday I spoke of the life that finds us. The life of God in Christ is animated, is conveyed and energized by love. In Easter, life and love come together as one. The life of Jesus comes about through death and resurrection. And it is all made possible by love. On our pilgrimage in life, love finds us. God seeks our good. Even when we can’t recognize and fully appreciate it right away.

My driven self feels sorry for those disciples for having to make that long walk back to Jerusalem. They went all that way to Emmaus only to head back to Jerusalem – the place of their fear and anxiety. What a wasted journey! How unproductive and inefficient a process! Why couldn’t Jesus just appear to them where they were to begin with, without having had to walk all that distance?

And yet, God’s love comes to us. God’s love comes to us even when we are not necessarily fully aware of God’s presence. God’s love comes to us despite our inefficiencies, mistakes and heroic interventions. God’s love finds us in doing things imperfectly, within our human limitations, when things don’t quite work out in the way we had envisioned. 

“There is no direct path to goodness,” Theologian David Ford so describes the paradox of being found by love amidst the confusion and messiness of life. We don’t construct a good life. Rather, he talks about an “active passivity”.[2]Especially when we don’t know exactly how things will work out in the end – this is when we experience Christ sustaining us, being present to us. And it’s while we are on this uncertain journey when we are surprised by grace and love.

I learned an expression walking part of the Camino de Santiago a few years ago: “Attaquer le chemin!”. Perhaps because for a few early days I walked with a couple of French speakers, the attitude expressed in that phrase (to attack the road) revealed a rather compulsive driven-ness to succeed and accomplish something.

My negative reactions when things didn’t work out for me on the Camino exposed my pretense and delusion of being in control of the outcome of my good efforts and intentions. My rather masculine and heroic attempts to attaquer le chemin kept me from being receptive to God. My anxious determination to take control, to be in charge of my destiny obstructed my view of God where God was.

My egoic need to possess ‘my own’ Camino experience blinded me to the good and the grace that was, in truth, coming my way and offered to me over and over again, each day: Despite the exhaustion, frustration and discomfort of the pilgrimage, I was given safe and comfortable shelter each night. I did find enough nourishing food and companions along the way to share with. I was only able to fully appreciate these gifts in hindsight.

This grace – the love of God – is born again in your heart this Eastertide. Christ is risen! Not once the marathon of physical distancing, seclusion and what may feel like imprisonment is over. But Christ is risen right in the midst of the efforts, the fits, the starts, the backtracks, the failures and the mundane. Right now. Right here. Can we therefore not step into the love, hope and grace of God that is always there? And live out of that love?

I pray you know this love and hope. Amen.

[1]Luke 24:13-35, for the Third Sunday of Easter, Year A (Revised Common Lectionary).

[2]Australian Anglican priest, theologian and writer, Sarah Bachelard, cites David Ford in her webinar on ‘A Living Hope: The Shape of Christian Virtue’, 21 April 2020,

An earth-quaking resurrection

An earthquake makes sense on Good Friday. With the passion of grief, the sorrow of injustice and the horror of torture and painful death. An earthquake makes sense there, in those situations. We normally associate dying, losing and suffering with disruptive forces, earth destroying events.

Indeed, the earth itself is involved and participates in the dramatic telling of Jesus’ death. When Jesus breathes his last on the cross, there is an earthquake and the rocks split according to Matthew.[1]

Do we notice, nevertheless, that the resurrection of our Lord also includes an earthquake? In Matthew’s gospel, there is a great earthquake at the dawn of the first Easter when the women come to the tomb. In fact, this earthquake precipitates the telling of the resurrection, when the angel of the Lord comes and rolls the stone away. Then, sits on it.[2]

The story of resurrection is not without its own earth-quaking truth. The words ‘fear’ and ‘afraid’ dot the landscape of the telling not only in Matthew’s version but John’s as well. As the angel in Matthew tells the women: Do not be afraid,[3]so Jesus tells the disciples hiding for fear behind locked doors in the upper room.[4]The context of the resurrection reflects tectonic degrees of disruption, anxiety and fear among those closest to the power of Jesus’ resurrection life.

And, the power of resurrection is not limited to Jesus. Matthew is very clear that “after Jesus’ resurrection, they [the bodies of the saints who had died and were raised] came out of the tombs [after the Good Friday earthquake] and entered the holy city and appeared to many.”[5]

Resurrection also happens unto us, and in us! The living Christ renews us – not only for the life to come. But starting in this life! We are continually being reborn and renewed towards the good that awaits us.

Resurrection, therefore, is not regression. When Thomas the disciple finally arrives at his beautiful confession of belief in the risen Lord, it comes at the expense of his old self. He is not at the end the person he was a week earlier, when he had expressed his disbelief.[6]The story-telling compresses the time and process of his transformation. In truth, for most of us, that process of change takes much longer.

And yet, the dynamic is the same. Resurrection is not regression. Once Easter happens, there’s no going back. Think about a loved one who died some time ago, or when you lost something or someone, when you lost a certain way of doing things that you once cherished … 

We know that we can never again experience that which we lost, in the same way. There’s no bringing back ‘the way it was’. Even though at some point we will be able to interact again, socialize and worship together in one room, it will be different. Our hearts will be moved in a new way. The process of change introduces a new reality for ourselves and for the world.

In a short video-meeting with the confirmation class earlier this week, the question we asked of each other was: “What’s one thing you believe will be different for you and in the world, when all this is over?” The confirmand’s responses were varied: Everyone will wash their hands better and more often; the stores won’t remove the plexiglass and physical distancing signs; many more social gatherings, appointments, education and meetings will take place online. The truth is, we will not come through this experience unchanged. The world will be different. It won’t be ‘going back to normal’ but rather growing into a ‘new normal’.

This is resurrection. New life. It doesn’t come easy. In truth, getting there almost always requires an earthquake, a ground-shifting and -splitting experience. At the same time, it means we are headed in a life-transforming, a life-enhancing, a life-renewing direction. To a conclusion that is good, for all.

[1]Matthew 27:50-53

[2]Matthew 28:2

[3]Matthew 28: 5,8,10

[4]John 20:19

[5]Matthew 27:52-53

[6]John 20:24-29