The urge to go out
23rd April 2020
Here is the reading and the reflection from today’s Communion service. I mention two resources in my reflection…
a weekly podcast by Nick Helm called Beyond the empty tomb (part of his Journeying with Jesus series) and is a weekday email series by Brian Draper called Soulful Steps which begins on Monday and is free for students and anyone who would struggle to pay.
Brian is also offering a Midday Moment every Friday at 12.00 noon beginning tomorrow. You can find it on his YouTube channel here, along with a beautiful short film called Soul Space which takes you on a gentle Spring walk with lovely reflections.
Our reading is taken from John’s gospel:
Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”
The disciples were behind locked doors. Despite the witness of the women who had gone to the tomb – and what Peter and John had seen there – they were still in their own lockdown of fear that evening.
So this is where Jesus comes to them. He doesn’t wait for them to go back to Galilee. He doesn’t call them to come out and meet him somewhere. He comes to them where they are, with words of peace.
Last Friday at Breathe Jo asked how this experience we are living through had changed the way churches are, and the way we are with God. On Monday at Morning Prayer I reflected on that despite the real difficulties of social distancing, online services like this take us right into the homes of those who are leading – whether it’s our kitchen table, the office sofa of our vicar, or the slightly grander kitchen of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Instead of seeing them at a distance in the usual way, it has felt very intimate. We have been invited not just into their homes, but also into a deeper sharing of themselves, and of their life with God.
Maybe for us all part of the experience of this time is that although we cannot go to meet God in our churches, we can discover a greater sense of his presence with us in our homes. Meeting us each day, with his greeting ‘peace be with you’. In our limited physical space being invited to explore our inner landscape with our Lord, one which is unlimited – a place of endless possibilities for exploration and adventure.
I do believe that this is true, and I have been experiencing it myself. But I have to admit to still finding the words of Chris Whitty yesterday pretty challenging, confronting us with the reality of a longer time of social distancing and change. More things aren’t going to happen, the future is less certain, and I have a renewed sense of being frustrated and limited – even though my circumstances are not really at all difficult. I can feel a tension building up.
It’s important to acknowledge our feelings, whatever they are – as the wider situation and our own circumstances change – and to allow ourselves space to recognise and share them, and to share them with God. And maybe there is a positive side to my frustration – which likes to what we see in our reading today.
The disciples are passive, hiding, and fearful when Jesus comes to them. But he says these words to them ‘As the Father is sending me, I am sending you’. They will be sent out with his message of love and forgiveness. And we can see already an inner impulse to share the amazing news that Jesus is alive. As soon as they see Thomas they have to tell him ‘We have seen the Lord!’ Like Mary Magdalene, running back from the garden to tell them ‘I have seen the Lord’. And the two disciples running all the way back from Emmaus to share the news.
Each of these meetings with the risen Lord is intimate, and personal – but such is their power that they must be shared. And maybe this has something to say to us, now.
One of the things I miss at the moment is the opportunity for chance encounters and gently growing relationships in the Chapel – partly because I love meeting people – but also because I have a longing to help people to grow and to flourish in their inner life, with God’s help.
We no longer have those opportunities in the same way – but maybe we can prepare for them. We can use this is a time go deeper with God, and renew our own encounter with our risen Lord. We’re using an weekly Easter podcast called Beyond the Empty Tomb – link above, along with the link to a new email series from Brian Draper called Soulful Steps which also leads on to Pentecost. You may be finding other ways that are helping you.
Meeting more deeply with Jesus may give us, like his first disciples, an urgency to share through our lives the meaning, and hope, and peace, and love which we have found in him. We may have to wait to do this. Jesus went into the wilderness for 40 days before he began his ministry. Paul went off to grow into his newfound faith for three years before he began sharing it. Others like St. Ignatius and St. Francis discovered deeper relationships with God and a powerful impulse to share this through forced periods of inactivity.
But maybe, as we begin to feel that growing impulse to share God’s love and his life, we may begin to find small ways of doing this even now – a gift left of a doorstep, a letter, card, email, or text which expresses care for someone and for their flourishing, a prayerful awareness of someone’s needs that leads us into action.
I wonder if you already sense that longing of love for those around you? I wonder if you are becoming aware of ways that you might express it?
- Loving Lord, we bring to you the reality of our feelings just now. Our own sense of fear, anxiety, frustration, and loss. And our awareness of the hard places that others are in. Please come to us, and to them, with your words of peace, and your lifegiving presence…
- Loving Lord, we bring to you the names and situations of those who are on our hearts – those who are lonely and deeply fearful, those who are sick, and those caring for them, those who have the heavy responsibility of leadership, those who are grieving – and we remember before you those who have died…
- Lord, come into these dark situations and deep challenges with your light and your hope – and hold all those we pray for in your eternal love..
- Loving Lord, you come to us where we are and invite us to spend time with you, to grow closer with you, to allow your love to soak into our souls. May we respond with joy to your invitation, and know more of your gift of grace not just for ourselves but for all people – and may we open our lives more fully to the impulse of your outpouring love.