Have you ever had a moment in your life where you stand at a turning point? A turning point where you know the moment you take the next step, in any direction, life as you know it is going to be very different? Have you ever had a moment where you have been in the throes of a perfect storm in your life, where events and things happen at a frightening speed, and life becomes surreal, even for a moment, where you are not sure what is going to happen next, but you do know that whatever does happen next, is going to change you deeply?
Whenever I read the Resurrection Narratives, especially the one we heard today from John’s Gospel, I am always intrigued but the reaction of the two disciples. We read of how Mary, upon discovering an empty tomb rushes to find the disciple whom Jesus loved and Simon Peter. These two disciples then run to the tomb themselves. Did you catch what happens next? The disciple whom Jesus loved stops at the entrance of the tomb! Simon Peter catches up and enters the tomb immediately. After a pause, the first disciple enters, sees and believes.
Friends, the disciples and so many others who had been following Jesus throughout his earthly ministry at various points are in the midst of a perfect storm in their lives. This man who they have followed, left everything for is tragically killed at the hands of the state. This man, their leader and teacher who gave them a new purpose and direction and hope in life is suddenly and brutally taken from them. They have no idea what tomorrow will bring. They have no idea what is going to happen to their group and the bonds that have held them together through thick and thin as they walked with Jesus. Life as they know it has changed, never to be the same again.
And so, these two disciples, as if things couldn’t be any more difficult; as if there could be any more turmoil and unforgiving twists suddenly hear the news that the man they just buried is no longer there! So, they run, they run with everything they’ve got and arrive at the tomb. Simon Peter catches up and enters immediately, and sees that Jesus is no longer there. Almost immediately after, the first disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, enters the tomb, sees the evidence and believes. It is the pause from the first disciple that is so compelling, especially now, in the midst of General Synod 2019, amid a changing church, amid a changing world, locally and globally this pause, this moment of hesitation is so compelling. As a Church we are caught in that same pause of the first disciple. We are caught in a pause as the Church has gathered as a Synod. This has been an emotionally charged time, as it was always going to be. We have gone from the highs of hearing an apology for the Spiritual harms that we have caused the First People of this land. A high that continued as the Church approved an important document: “A Word to The Church” that outlines a blueprint of how we can live and work together as a Church. These are some of the Resurrection moments that we have witnessed and participated in this week.
Then we came to Friday evening, an evening that turned in Good Friday once more where we as a Church were tried and found wanting as the second reading on changes to the Marriage Cannon was defeated. We stood at the foot of the Cross as our Lord gazed over all that was said and done and said, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.” This pause is a ‘Thin Space’ where we stand between what has already happened, and what is yet to come. The already, but not yet.
Early the next morning the air during the Electoral Mass of General Synod was palpable with feelings of anger, hurt and lament at a broken Church. At the conclusion of the Mass the energy changed once more as the election of a new Primate began. The Church elected Archbishop Elect Linda Nichols to be our next Primate. Linda will have the task of walking humbly with God and the Church as we take our next steps as a Church. Another ‘Thin Space’ as we come to the end of one era and haven’t quite yet begun the next.
We stand at the entrance of the empty tomb in a pregnant pause where we know life will never be the same again the moment, we take our next step. Ready or not, we must enter the tomb fully to realize and know that we are in a different time and place than we were yesterday. So much is happening and already happened, and our future is still unclear. So, we pause, in our ‘Thin Space’; knowing that our next step is coming, whether we like it or not, whether we are ready or not, it is happening. Because we are now on God’s time and not our own. Because, God, quite frankly, trumps everything.
We must enter the tomb to begin anew and once again re-connect and re-commit and embrace a new life in Christ. Church, this is the messy-ness of Resurrection. Oh, how we love to mark every resurrection moment with sounds of trumpets and great fanfare. But the reality is, as Barbra Brown Taylor reminds us, resurrection happened in the dark, with no witnesses, no pomp and ceremony, resurrection happened in a small way in the quiet of the night. “While it was still dark . . .” Scripture says, “Mary Magdalene came to the tomb” (John 20: 1). And so it is for the Disciple whom Jesus loved, and so it is for you and me when we come to the empty tomb for the first time or after a life-time to pause and make our own commitment to the Resurrection that we are being invited to enter. A resurrection that starts small, in the quiet of our own soul it happens there, then takes root and begins to grow and blossom.
Resurrection happens in our lives and world every day. This is something we already know. But what we can often overlook and not appreciate, is that Resurrection is a choice that we can make for ourselves, for our Church and for our world. This does not mean that we fully understand what is happening or what has just happened. Even for the three of them who arrived at the empty tomb early in the morning, they did not fully comprehend or understand what was happening. As our gospel reminds us today, “for as yet, they did not understand” (John 20: 9). Thank God belief does not require understanding. If that were so, none of us would be here today. This is part of the work and messy-ness of Resurrection. The part after the empty tomb where we return home, to those places in the world where we are called by God to make sense of it all. To make sense of this new life as it begins to take root and grow in you and me and everyone else, we are called to meet God and engage in God’s work for the world. Because ready or not, God is making all things new and has called you by name to participate in this new work and mission for the Church and the world.