I used to think that when we feel the absence of life as it had been, or when the world we know comes tumbling down, or when we were enveloped by a cloud of disorientation or disbelief, God then showed up and responded by ushering us into a new life, by meeting us in that place of deconstruction, of chaos and disorder, in order to reconstruct or re-order our lives into something more whole and true. I still do believe God meets us in the place of letting go of what we knew before, but I have come to understand that God is also the force that pulls at the seam of the reality we have constructed in order to keep us on that ever-moving path of renewed life, which is one way to witness to Jesus’ resurrection.
Jesus made an audacious living promise to the disciples. It still sparks hope, leaves us breathless and wondering – could this be true? In these few words of John’s gospel is the pearl of promise pointing to how we can claim a full life in the face of the fear, terror, panic, isolation, loss, and grief that comes to us. The strain and struggle that comes to us simply from living, that comes simply from the very nature of our being alive in this world.
For the piece we know about God from our passage today is that God has chosen not to be God without us. God’s promise, through this statement in the gospel of John, is that God has promised to love us, to make room for us, to know and be known by us, and that promise never ends, and, with that certainty, there is no reason for our hearts be troubled. When we look within, through the doorways that lead into our hearts and souls, may we find the place of God, the place we have set aside for God, so that our lives may be touched with a peace that passes all understanding, for it is only God who can offer us that comfort. And the challenge to us is to match God’s preparation for us with our preparation for God.
And Peter exhorts them not to give into fear. He suggests rather, in the midst of trials and persecutions for “doing good”, for living as Christ did, to prove themselves faithful to the essence of Christ, with the deep belief that people will recognize that, and lives will be changed. His model for evangelism was, in my summary, “live a good life, by a quiet and steadfast witness to what you believe to be true, and people will want it too and people around you will be changed.”
The disciples took with them their broken hearts, their sense of foolishness for believing in something good, perhaps some hurt pride, because they thought they were right and it turned out they weren’t, or at least at this point in the story. They took all of this brokenness and betrayal and walked away. But Jesus comes alongside them, and they invite him to stay with them, perhaps just as a common gesture of the day, or perhaps because they had a sense that something wanted to be broken open within them. And it was. Jesus broke open the bread and broke through as the Risen Christ. The two travelers broke open their blindness to see another way. The now-disciples gave it all away, by their action of running back to Jerusalem, full of confidence, giving their story and their lives for others, so that bread could be broken for everyone, and all can be fed.
There are an infinite number of meanings for it. Faith is the foundation for which everything is built upon. I am sure if I were to go around the church today and asked everyone here what your definition was I would get a different answer from everyone and that’s ok. The question I pose…..does your faith continue to grow…….are you open to other views and definitions of what faith means to others and do you respect them? To me faith means being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. It is knowing that I am loved unconditionally beyond my ability to grasp and comprehend it. Let me explain BEING SURE OF WHAT WE HOPE FOR……. I trust our Father to provide everything I will ever need, I remind myself from time to time that God knows me best and what I need. It has been my experience over the years that when God gives me a gift or answers my prayer it is always far greater than I ever could have imagined.
It is noteworthy that Jesus does not come back looking as he did before death. Mary didn’t recognize him until he called her name. Coming back to what we were before is called resuscitation, or being restored to a previous state. That’s not what Jesus was or is about. Jesus is about that continual process of being made anew. This means not changing for the sake of change alone, not changing only to circle around and return to a previous state, but to continually allow to die that which is not of God within us. A spiritual death that leads to spiritual resurrection. For Peter that might have been the shame, or guilt, or anger at himself, which is so easy to hold onto. Peter needed that to die in order to see the new path Jesus was placing him on, of meeting him again, and being filled with a renewed sense of purpose. He wasn’t ready to see or embrace this when he ran into the tomb, but the story didn’t end there.