Elizabeth Rives gave me the packet, but I didn’t have a chance to look at it until a few days later. Inside were prayer cards from the Society of St. John the Evangelist, one of The Episcopal Church’s monastic orders, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I have always loved SSJE, having read so much of what the brothers have written—especially their work around developing a Rule of Life and exploring ways to ground oneself in monastic spirituality in the midst of crazy life.
The cards all focused on a different aspect of our Easter story: Resurrection, Power, Victory, etc. The one that caught my eye was entitled “Embodiment.”
After Jesus rose from the dead, his disciples experienced life changed…the unexpected had happened. The impossible was possible. Death wasn’t the end of the story. But they still struggled to live into this new reality.
I love the text from St. Luke’s account, when Jesus showed up with the disciples and showed them his scars. “Look,” he tells them. “I’m really here.” And the text describes this wonderfully honest space where “while in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering.” (Luke 24:36-48). What a true feeling: joy mixed with disbelief with more than a drop of wondering thrown in to keep things on edge.
Jesus meets them where they are and asks them, “Have you anything here to eat?” Apparently Jesus was a Southerner. And they gave him a piece of fish. And he ate it. And they saw him eat it. The text is remarkable.
Jesus knew that it was going to take a level of embodiment to enable this new reality to sink in to those dark spaces of fear and despair. He knew that he wasn’t going to be able to explain what had happened to him. Resurrection isn’t a rational reality; you can’t explain the details of resurrection. You can’t map it out with a formula. Through the resurrection, reality was changed. Life wins.
And, Jesus knew that embodiment happens in the ordinary moments of life. He could have taken them all, sat them down, and explained the theological implications. But, he asked for something to eat. Fish became a sacrament: “an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace, given to us as sure and certain means by which we receive that grace.”(BCP 857).
The challenge of embodiment is that we are called to continue looking for Jesus in the ordinary. We take ordinary bread and wine—nothing special—and it becomes something extraordinary. We take simple olive oil, but when we make the sign of the cross on the head of a dying friend, it becomes embodied grace. We take water from the tap, but when we pour it on someone’s head, they enter into new life. This happens not because it’s magic. Not because we have strict and certain frameworks to follow. It happens because Jesus gives us the assurance that it does. It happens because Jesus asked for something to eat. It happens because Jesus showed us that the resurrected life is realized through and in embodiment.
So, here’s our challenge: how can we keep our eyes open for these extraordinary ordinary moments? How can we attune ourselves to be receptive to the frequency of divine grace? How can we cultivate a practice of mindfulness, keeping open eyes and hearts that sing for joy when we feel an angel come near?
Welcome to the resurrection! Christ has risen!
Now, let us embody Christ in the world around us.
Many blessings, my friends,
In & Out: Easter 2015