I don’t know about you, but Easter feels like it was eons ago. Yes, I know Easter is a season and not just a day. That doesn’t change the fact that much has happened in the last week or so to make the worship and celebration of Holy Week and Easter feel like it was so distant. The fullness of life doesn’t stop. The liturgical year flows on. The demands of commitments need fulfilling. Now I stop and take a breath and realize that for those on that Emmaus road, only hours had passed since the first reports of Jesus’ rising. It must have felt like eons for them, too. They were burdened by grief, fear, shock, and a bit of disbelief.
Our state of mind matters as we approach the text this week. My mind, in all honesty, is in a bit of disarray. On Easter evening I went to the hospital because I thought I was having a heart attack. That wasn’t the case. However, I will likely need a pacemaker soon. And I keep thinking I’m not quite 50 yet. The next day, we had our elderly cat euthanized because she had cancer and no longer had any quality of life. Grief touches grief so lots of tears were shed in my house. Then the next day we bought a magnolia tree to plant with my mother’s ashes for the second anniversary of her death which was yesterday. More grief and some other feelings, too.
And in the midst of this, life goes on. I keep going in a state of exhaustion, mostly, but not without hope. With this swirl of thoughts and events, I read Peter’s proclamation in Acts and I wonder about repentance. Peter makes it clear that faith in Christ requires repentance, not just for those early believers in that moment, but for all of us. I ask myself where I need to repent in my personal life. Where does the congregation I serve need to repent? How do I preach repentance in a progressive church that is often uncomfortable with the idea of personal and communal sin?
Maybe I don’t preach repentance. Maybe I preach the psalm. The Psalmist speaks so eloquently of giving thanks to God for the salvation and love God freely gives. We don’t make literal sacrifices to show our gratitude to God these days, so what do we do? What actions can we take that show how truly thankful we are for the gifts God has given us?
1 Peter offers some words of advice on what actions we might take as followers of Christ. It’s as simple as it gets, really. Love. Love the way Jesus loved. Don’t wait. Do it now. Love your neighbors. Love yourself. Live in love. How better to show gratitude to God for God’s love and salvation so freely offered?
The Gospel text is, of course, the culmination of these texts. Once your eyes and your heart have been opened to the presence of the risen Christ, what will you do? Those first followers told the story. They also did more than that. They had to have lived the story, too, or we wouldn’t be here. Now I wonder about seeing the risen Christ. Have you seen Christ? Have you felt the Spirit burning within? I know I have many times. Yet, I don’t always do something in response. So, if our eyes and hearts are open, now what? What will we do to embody the story for future generations? Seek justice? Liberation? Freedom? Wholeness?
Yes! All this and more. All the while giving thanks to God our maker for the amazing gift of life and the opportunity to be agents of Christ’s love, grace, and hope in a world that is so often paralyzed by grief, fear, shock, and disbelief.
Where is the Spirit guiding you this week? Where do you feel energy renewed? What will you preach to people for whom Easter is just a day, not a season or a lifetime?
Rev. Dr. Rachael Keefe is the pastor of Living Table United Church of Christ in Minneapolis, MN. You can find links to her blog, vlog, and books at Beachtheology.com.
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