In the wake of the crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Jesus, I often wonder what the disciples, Jesus’ friends and family were thinking. Thankfully, we have four similar and slightly different perspectives on this reality in our gospels. I imagine those who loved Jesus and believed in him as the one who came to save, wondered, now what? Where do we go from here? How can we continue without Jesus? Especially after Jesus appeared to them – ate breakfast, walked down the road, entered through a locked door, and prayed over them – all to leave them again as he ascended into heaven. I imagine that transition was difficult for all of them. Their grief was palpable and fresh, some of them doubted, many had questions, others were afraid for their lives, some wondered if they were enough and were capable of delivering Jesus’ message to all of humanity. I think I would have been paralyzed with the enormity of the task at hand, and would find myself asking the question – now what?
As we begin to slowly return to church in person in the (hopefully) waning pandemic, I can’t mistake the parallels and the liturgical timing. In many ways, returning offers us a chance to clarify our vision of who we are as a church. In a sense, our church, FUMC in Waynesville, has the opportunity to be reborn. Perhaps you have been evaluating your lives, choices, commitments, and family lifestyle as we have in our own household. We have been asking the questions: What have we lost that we don’t feel the urgency to regain? In what ways do we hope to make a change? How will we seize the opportunity for change, for transformation? How can we live even more authentic lives, for the sake of the gospel?
In some ways we are rebuilding the church. In other ways, we are continuing to live as the vibrant Body of Christ that we have always been. We have much to celebrate, because our physically distanced and isolated church body has thrived in many ways. In what ways may we never be the same because of our experiences and the jarring movement of the Holy Spirit? Yet, we also yearn and long for the days where we can gather freely, worship with reckless abandon, embrace one another without fear, and fill our sanctuaries with overwhelming congregational singing.
We find ourselves in a similar space as the disciples at the Great Commission, “Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’” (Matthew 28:16-20) I am so very happy that we will continue to live into Jesus’ commission together. Now, that’s something to look forward to!