Saturday, April 14, 2012

After Easter

I was reading today my newest issue of the Christian Century... here are a few words from the editor- the most important Sundays in the church year are the Sundays afterward, when we are left, as were Jesus disciples, with the meanings and implications of what happened. He is reflecting on what comes after the celebration of Easter and or Christmas. He releases that what is greater than the events themselves are the implications that follow.

That really is true about Easter. It impacts everything else in our life from that moment forward. Once we accept the resurrection then everything Jesus taught has to be processed and dealt with on a personal level. If Jesus did all that is recorded about him and then his life ended with only death we can ignore his life and teachings. We would have the option to pick and choose those things we felt had some ethical value to us personally. However, the resurrection makes it all relevant and unavoidable.

This first Sunday after Easter is given to reflection on the doubts and questions that arose among the disciples and followers of Christ. For those who SAW Jesus suffer and die seeing a risen Lord was not easy to accept and it had to be processed. Process is what we do when we have to deal with doubt. Lord, I believe (sort of) so please help my unbelief (help me process and work through my unbelief so I can come to a stronger belief).

Over time I came to believe in "process conversion." (my Anabaptist heart) I just am not comfortable with the magic moment conversion where we flip a switch and are forever something different. To me we are always "being saved" - we are always processing our journey, our experiences, our understanding of Scripture AND we go from doubt to faith and back to doubt and back to faith. It's a process through which we discard the unnecessary and hold on to eternal values and grow stronger one step at a time in our faith.

When I was a young minister I was very sure about everything - especially about what I believed. The truth is that I had not lived long enough to have a lot of what I felt sure about be tested or challenged. In fact, I felt it was somehow not spiritual to let anything be challenged. But, thankfully over the years I have mellowed - which may be hard for some of you to believe. By that, I simply mean that I have learned to be comfortable with doubt. There is so much now that I have to admit I don't have a clue about in terms of certainty. I have some thoughts and I have some inclinations but certainty - not so much.

So let me rephrase the concept I started with... you know every Sunday is the high point of every week but what is most important is what comes afterward. Do we jump from one Sunday straight to the next? Sure we do. I know that most people who heard me preach on Easter have no memory of anything I said just six days ago. Most never take even a few minutes to process the central point of the message. So what is most important is what comes afterward. It is what we do with our doubts and our faith. It is how we process our faith daily that matters the most. AND in my mind it is always in process. I am daily reshaping my thinking. In this case I know I am taking the next quote out of some of its context but I like the phrase and feel it fits here as well. It is a phrase used by the United Church of Christ - God is still speaking.

What a difference the Resurrection made. The life and teachings of Jesus matter and through them and more God is still speaking to me. As soon as I work through something and strengthen my faith even that process itself opens up a new question and a new doubt so that I have more to process. Growing, never stops and I'm glad. So never be upset about doubt. It is an important motivator to dig into life and grow. Never be upset about process instead of arrival. It's the journey that matters and the arrival will take care of itself.

We've celebrated Easter - now the work begins.