Hope in the in between

Eastertide. It’s tempting to think that, after the resurrection of Jesus, all was done that needed doing; all the loose ends neatly tied, the t’s crossed and i’s dotted. The whole Easter pie had only to cool on the window sill and hungry people could dig in to its holy goodness.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

In fact, it was only the beginning. The fifty day period that followed the empty tomb, celebrated at Pentecost (which means fifty weeks) and with it the coming of the Spirit, saw Jesus’ daily planner more packed than ever. Facing him were a veritable army of quaking, heart-broken, soul-sick, emotionally shattered disciples. Probably no one in history ever needed an encouraging word more than they!

So, while the religious leaders happily gloated over their perceived victory over this Nazarene upstart, Jesus was re-ligamenting (the same root from which we get religion) the faith of his broken followers. While they busily politicked with the ruling Roman elite, further positioning themselves for power, prestige and pull, Jesus was subversively showing himself to his startled friends and laying the foundation for what would help to crumble the false one upon which had been built such a vast religio-political empire. These humble souls, gradually enlivened and encouraged in the presence of the one to whom they had so completely surrendered but who had so unimpressively left them, would eventually go on to change the face of the known world. It would change our world. Indeed nothing would ever be the same again.

In and through the whole debacle that we’ve come to know as Easter there comes a promise like no other. In a way, never before seen in time or eternity, here heaven and earth kissed. God had stooped to embrace this damaged, sinful and light-starved cosmos in the most unexpected way. God slipped in the back door as a baby, with parents and jobs and bills. He became a man; a man with a story, a life, and that life was the light of all.

If we can learn anything from this time in the great salvation narrative it’s that there is always hope in the in between. Those periods when the book of our lives has been slammed shut and everything from which we drew hope and inner sustenance has been blotted out like a solar eclipse are only precursors for what we cannot yet see. Matthew’s gospel has the first words from Jesus’ post-resurrection lips as simply, “greetings.” With precious little fanfare for one they would come to understand as the King of kings, he gives them a simple, howdy! It is almost as though he was playing some twisted game of life and death peek-a-boo and he’d just been found out.

For all the complexities of our mortal lives, Jesus ever comes in the simplicity of everyday conversation. Before we can piece it all together and make sense of the tangled liminality of this-world living Jesus pokes his head in the shower door and catches us completely unaware and vulnerable. But, for the joy of seeing the one face we most needed to see, we forego any shock or dismay and welcome anew the place he once held in our lives.

The joy of lovers reunited is all the sweeter following the pain of separation. Eyes are never happier to see than when they’ve lost all hope of ever seeing again. The heart’s deep pain is quickly forgotten in the realization of that which once held it captive so effortlessly.

Let’s allow ourselves to dig deeper into the Easter story, letting it dig deeper into us and become our story. Having journeyed through the penitence and preparation of Lent, the strange irony of Palm Sunday, the tense calm of the Last Supper with its eerie undercurrents of betrayal, the black forgottenness and despair of Good Friday, the deathly silence of Holy Saturday, for those first disciples, that was where it ended. No triumph and fanfare. Just hopelessness.

But it didn’t end there. For those who place their trust in the Nazarene carpenter, it never is. Like those before us, we are continually being reintroduced to the forgotten Savior, the one who left us alone, but the one who returns. And he returns with goodies.

Before they could receive what was promised at Pentecost, when eyes were opened, tongues loosed, lives renewed, they waited. That’s what disciples do in the in between. They wait.

We wait.

We listen.

We prepare.

Then, at the right time…hope springs eternal and, like the Spring we are…

reborn.

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