In our daily prayers God was every manner of image and metaphor and meaning, and always, "God the Father." We never ever prayed to "God our Mother." What were women in the economy of God? The answer was only too painful: We were invisible. I had given my life to a God who did not see me, did not include me, did not touch my nature with God's own....Joan Chittister, "Called to Question"

Friday, April 24, 2009

Easter 3B

Reflection for Easter 3B, Luke 24:36-48 by The Rev. Margaret Rose

The reflection this week is the result of a dinner table bible study among women priests on retreat. There are nine of us, most of whom have been spending a week during Easter together since the late 90’s. Each was ordained more than 25 years ago, and our ministries are in parishes and social agencies, pastoral counseling, and national church. We are scattered now along the East Coast and Ohio, but share a history of ministry in the Diocese of Atlanta. Each of us has no doubt preached through the texts of Year B more than a few times.

As supper was ending on Thursday, we read again Luke’s story allowing the familiar words to come among us again in this 2009 Easter. I took notes.

What if we all took seriously the greeting that comes so easily on Jesus’ lips? “Peace be with you.” It was a common greeting for Jesus’ day. We claim to offer that peace in each Eucharist. But what if we allowed that greeting to infuse our hearts? What if we allowed it to shape our actions among friends and in our communities?

The conversation went on:

It was noted that in Luke’s gospel, whenever sin is mentioned, there is forgiveness which follows. We remarked on the combination of fear and joy the disciples experienced in the slow realization that Jesus, himself, was really there. We laughed, imagining the scene many of us had experienced with our adolescent children who seemed to appear out of nowhere demanding, “Have you anything to eat?” We wondered about Luke’s motives, that even in writing to a Gentile community, there was the need to emphasize that Jesus was the fulfillment of God’s promises as set forth in scripture.

We reflected on other Easter appearance stories, notably Thomas and the Road to Emmaus and on how long it took even for those who had known him well to recognize Jesus. And on Thomas’s need to physically touch the wounds. In Jesus’ teaching and breaking of the bread came the disciples’ recognition and realization that radical change had occurred. There was no going back to the way things had been, no return to the Jesus they had known, but a new reality had broken open their way of life, their hearts and minds.

Jesus reassures them, but even that evokes confusion. Stay in the city he says—and the spirit will give you power. None of this was new to us women gathered around the table. We’d read it all before. Luke comes up on this Sunday every three years. There was plenty of material for a sermon. After all we represented over 200 years of reflection on these texts. Was there yet another new reality to this text?

And then one of us remarked, “The disciples identified him by his wounds. By this they knew that he was authentically Jesus, that the suffering of the crucifixion was real, yet his presence assured them of a future. In his request for food Jesus not only showed his full humanity, but offered the possibility of a renewed life as real as the suffering which had gone before.

And that seemed to be the word for us, for this Easter, for the women of this circle. Through the wounds, which are an inevitable part of life we come to resurrection; through the grief we come to joy; through the suffering we also come to new life.
The Good News for us is not that Jesus died for our sins or that he suffered so we might avoid it. We can’t. Real life does not offer us that. Rather, we get to the resurrected life by moving through the depths of Hell and death to a new place.

Perhaps it is the other way around as well. We know grief because we also know love. We know hunger because we have enjoyed the broiled fish and are aware of its absence. It is our willingness to experience the depths of each that draws us to Jesus.

Around the table as we spoke of Easter, I felt the deep gift of the Spirit represented by these faithful women. In the years since our ordinations, we stayed in the city as Jesus commanded and then scattered as the Spirit gave us power. None of us was unscathed, personally or professionally by the wounds of real life in the church and beyond. There were vocational snares that being a priest in those early years entrapped us in. Others entrap us still.

At one moment that evening we listened, like the disciples huddled together after Good Friday, to the story of disappointments and hurts inflicted by modern day religious authorities on one of our number. We, witnesses to her account, asked ourselves how Jesus might appear in our fellowship, how we too might be reclothed with the power of the spirit, to reclaim the Easter joy for our fellow priest and for us. The answer of course was there at the table in our own small community of disciples. We recognize the reality of Jesus in our own midst and his power to open our minds to the places God may still be calling us.

Margaret Rose on behalf of this community of women.


Jacqueline Schmitt said...

Thanks, Margaret - I found this very moving.

mompriest said... too!

RevDrKate said...

Thank you for sharing this.