Having to trust what we can’t know is a challenge. That’s the problem the disciples faced as they had their first encounters with the risen Christ. They are clinging to the dead leaves of heartbreak, disbelief, and fear, because they think they have been left bereft, and those leaves are all they have left. It is there that the risen Christ appears among them, reassuring them and preparing them for the next phase in their ministry.
Our readings in the daily office for today remind us of the gift that doubt can give us, and the challenge that we face when we attempt to embrace and proclaim the wonder of God’s presence in our lives, especially during a time of fear such as this. Living beyond and through doubt can give us the clarity of taking our questions seriously and forthrightly.
When doubt becomes disbelief, it can blind us to possibility and imagination, especially that which is required to see the risen Christ in our midst, who often appears where and when we least expect him. He is there in every person asking us for something to eat or drink. He is there in every person who asks us for shelter, or for refuge. He is there, in every person, asking us to really see him and to welcome him.
In this world of pandemic, we face the conundrum that we need the promise of resurrection more than ever, and yet the resurrection IS an incredible thing to believe. Those of us living two millennia after those disciples can take comfort in the fact that those who knew Jesus best during his earthly ministry had to overcome a huge amount of doubt themselves.
Jesus closes with his reminder that his apostles are “witnesses of these things,” a claim we also saw in our first reading at v. 15. Being a witness is a solemn responsibility. Witnesses are expected to testify to the truth, fully and without embellishment. The disciples are called to be witnesses to “all nations.” For those of us who call ourselves “Christians” in the 21st century in North America, that promise rings true- even across the continents and the millenia. Alleluia! We are witnesses!
And that reminds us of our calling. We who are disciples— lay and ordained, doubting as we all are at one time or another—are tasked with carrying that witness out into the world. In last week’s passage from John 20, that was made explicit when Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit upon them, which for us recalls our baptism. We are called to witness to when we have encountered the risen Christ in our midst, or in our hearts.
We are called not just to witness, but to LIVE Resurrection, right now.
In turning toward reconciliation and resurrection, we called to shake off who we have been, and turn instead to embrace and embody who we are called to be. It’s not enough for us to see the glory of resurrection and what promises it holds for ourselves. We are called to witness to that resurrection and how it continues to work in a world that desperately needs to see it and be transformed, too.
And that resurrection must be seen through us, as we rise too into new life, now, choosing to set our faces and hearts toward Christ. Jesus Christ is with us, risen indeed. He is still calling us to embrace life and love over death and need, calling us to place the well-being of each other, compassion, grace, generosity, and mercy at the center of our rebuilt lives. Jesus is calling us to embrace him by embracing our responsibilities to each other, to walk in the way of abundant love where there are no winners or losers. Only overflowing compassion and empathy, and acting for the reconciliation and dignity of every single part of this beautiful creation that offers us its beauties even in times of turmoil.
The Rev. Leslie Scoopmire is a retired teacher, mom, and musician, and serves as priest-in-charge of St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Ellisville, MO, in the Diocese of Missouri. She blogs at Abiding in Hope and at Poems, Psalms, and Prayers.