Deacon Tom had promised us a surprise or two for our ACTS Team Day of Prayer, so I was a little wary when I entered the meeting room yesterday… and spied the stack of classic board games.
At my age, a game of Twister is more likely to qualify as “torture” than “surprise.”
Thankfully, Deacon Tom had entirely different spiritual surprises in store for us – none of them involving board games. (As for that stack of boxes: Apparently, it was just awaiting stowage…or perhaps keeping Mary company. Who knows?)
Among the surprises was a meditation exercise. “Pick a favorite scripture passage and chew on it,” he said. That’s pretty much it: He didn’t suggest any passages in particular – or even direct us toward a Testament, “Old” or “New”.
At first, I found the freedom a bit paralyzing. Guess I’m accustomed to having a bit more direction in my spiritual musings. Soon enough, though, a clear notion formed about where to dive in, as our Easter season draws to an end in 2019. I headed straight to the 16th chapter of Mark’s Gospel…the earliest of the written accounts of Jesus’ resurrection.
It’s a bit of a spiritual Twister, I discovered.
When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James and Salome brought spices so that they might go and anoint him. Very early when the sun had risen, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb…[where] they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a white robe, and they were utterly amazed.
He said to them, “Do not be amazed! You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He has been raised; he is not here.”
Don’t know about you, but I think I’m with the ladies on this one. “Amazement” seems like a perfectly natural reaction to this scene.
But the mysterious young man isn’t quite finished with the trio. He’s got a job for them to do:
“…Go and tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going before you to Galilee…’”
Alas, it was more task than they were inclined to take on in the moment:
They went out and fled from the tomb, seized with trembling and bewilderment. They said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
The story doesn’t end there, of course. But I found that I was happy to sit with this ending yesterday, short-circuited though it may be. The scene seemed something worthy of meditation – as we celebrate, liturgically, the feast of Jesus’ Ascension today…and as we await his promised gift of the Spirit, on Pentecost next week.
We come to the tomb, in amazement. We discover – like those earliest disciples – that logic and reason tend to get us nowhere in our encounters with the Risen Lord. Easter calls us to enter into an entirely different realm of consciousness – the realm of being where angels roam.
And notice how “amazement” has no Monopoly (ahem!) on our emotions.
We, too, have a tendency to leave the empty tomb in fear. Like Mary, Mary and Salome, we often find ourselves bewildered and trembling. And in such a state, it’s utterly reasonable for us to want to keep the Good News to ourselves.
But in an intriguing twist, we learn that even this fear is a gift – a grace of the Easter season. Fear convicts us. Fear convinces us that we could never do this witnessing on our own.
Fear opens our hearts…to the power of the Spirit.
And so we pray, as we await Pentecost: Come into our fearful hearts, O Holy Spirit!
Come, Holy Spirit, come!
At my home parish, we’re keeping watch on the eve of Pentecost with a one-day Life In The Spirit Seminar. You can sign up for the June 8 event here:
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.