Monday, March 20, 2017

The Day we Changed

We were not afraid. That was the thing that surprised us the most. We had been afraid, so afraid for … well, it felt like forever. Even seeing the Risen Lord, while it had set our hearts dancing, had not eliminated our fear. We had a new confidence, we were certainly praying differently, but we still lived in the old habits of fear, just as we had so often when He walked among us in flesh and blood. We were human, and all human beings come into this world with some degree of fear, and most of us carry it so habitually that we do not even name it when we shrink away from the terrors of life and the risks of love. I can still hear His voice, the very tone of it, so tender and yet so challenging, as, over and over He said to us, “Oh you of little faith …”

But now it had all changed, and, when we had time for reflection, we only knew and named our fear for the first time by its absence. And to think that it was only fifty days after the greatest terror most of us had ever known! Some, mainly the women, had dared to stand there and watch Him die; the rest of us had already fled in terror, and the news they brought us only broke our hearts further. There is no darkness like the night when you believe that even God has failed you.

Then He rose from the dead, and our understanding was turned inside out, and our hearts were reborn. He came, He went, and we could not reason His comings or His goings, but we drank from His presence, for we knew then, with a universe re-shaping certainty, that we were more privileged even than Moses or Elijah, for we saw the face of God in the Man, Jesus Christ, even while we yet walked upon the earth.

And then he left us, hidden by a cloud as he returned to a glory we cannot yet comprehend.  We mourned His going, we who had been privileged above all those who had lived before us, and we returned to huddle prayerfully in the upper room, while we waited for the fulfilment of a promise we did not understand. But we knew that the One who promised had conquered death and returned to the glory of the Father, and we were learning to believe Him.

Then, on the morning of the feast of Pentecost, our world was changed forever. For as we prayed, God came down among us. He came with the sound of a mighty rushing wind, and a visible sign of tongues of flame, and more than one of us recalled the story of how he had come down to our people on Mount Sinai, so very many years ago. Those were the outward signs, the things that we could name. But deeper, of course, was the experience we could not name, the experience of the transformative power of God, the unshakeable glory of His love, taking up residence in our hearts. For one moment a corner of the curtain that separates the mortal from the eternal was twitched aside. We saw, we felt, we knew just a fragment of the truly holy, and we were changed forever. We stepped out into the world to tell them of the wonder of Jesus, in tongues we never knew.

And we were not afraid.

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