19When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you….”
“Let him easter in us, be a dayspring to the dimness of us.”
These are the words that English Jesuit Priest and Poet Gerard Manley Hopkins uses in the last stanza of a his poem entitled “The Wreck of the Deutschland.” He wrote the poem in tribute to five Franciscan nuns who died in a shipwreck fleeing persecution from Germany in 1875. It is striking to note how Hopkins engages the idea of Easter as verb rather than noun.
We currently find ourselves just a week removed from having passed through the narrative arc of Holy Week that lead us through the crucifixion, the disorientation of Holy Saturday silence, and finally the unbridled joy of an empty tomb. “The resurrection is God’s Amen to Jesus’ statement, It is finished” writes S. Lewis Johnson. Yet, while the tomb that had held Jesus is now empty, our lectionary text introduces us to disciples who have become self-entombed behind walls of fear, doubt and disillusionment. They have not yet experienced the truth of the resurrection, so they cower in fear behind locked doors and covered windows.
It is into that darkness that Easter becomes a verb. Jesus slips into the room as the forgiving victim and vividly creates the experience of Easter. The “verbness” of Easter is essential because the resurrection cannot be explained; rather, it must be experienced. When it comes to life’s deepest mysteries, experience trumps explanation every time! When it comes to the resurrection, the Gospels offer no explanation as to how it happened. Instead, we are given a series of personal encounters with the risen Christ who forever changes the world.
In a locked room full of discouraged disciples drowning in doubt and shaking in fear, the resurrected God’s first words are “Peace be with you.” He then lovingly shows them his wounds and commissions his disciples to be, for the world, ambassadors of the very forgiveness that they are now experiencing.The risen one then performs a stunning act of intimacy. He “breathed on them.”
The breath of God functions as the kiss of the Creator that remakes the world. With this divine kiss, Jesus is modeling the very core of the mission that flows from resurrection, “As the Father sent me, so I send you.” In kissing us into existence Jesus empowers us to do the same, to forgive as God forgives in a courageous act of union and communion. This is how creation and re-creation unfolds.
Sadly, many of us don’t live in the perpetual experience of the kiss from the risen Christ. As a result, we “retain” (bind up) the sins of others and spend inordinate amounts of energy justifying our self-destructive behaviors of rivalry, bitterness and resentment.
Mercifully, the risen Christ continues to practice the “verbness” of Easter by entering the locked rooms that we (like the disciples) self-entomb ourselves within. What are the closed places of your life? What keeps you entombed today, a week after gazing into the empty tomb of the Easter story? Unexpected, uninvited and sometimes even unwanted, Jesus gently and gracefully (with a kiss) enters our closed lives, minds and hearts. Standing in front of our doubt, fear and disillusionment, he offers peace and breathes new life into us. All he asks is that we allow ourselves to be breathed upon, knowing full well that the person kissed by the risen Christ will naturally and eagerly participate in the ongoing act of creation itself.
This is the glorious truth of what it means to be “eastered.”
“Oh Lord, hear our prayer!! Easter yourself within, around and between us that we might receive your kiss and experience you as the dayspring that dissipates dimness.”
Joel Van Dyke & Kris Rocke
Street Psalms Staff
Inspiration garnered from Michael K. Marsh with his “Interrupting the Silence”