Reflection Hearts Overflowing May 3, 2020
It’s tempting after all the chocolate Easter eggs are eaten to put Easter behind us, but this is still the season of Easter. There are 50 days in the season of Easter; 50 days for us to experience what Jesus’ first disciples experienced after His death and reports of His resurrection. Easter was weirdly disconnected for the church this year, and even for people who don’t observe Easter as a religious holiday. Easter’s got a “feel” to it like all holidays, and while we were sheltering in place it didn’t feel like normal Easter. There was nothing normal that first Easter, that first season for the disciples of being without their friend, Jesus. There was grief and disappointment and fear and probably a lot of numbness. Gradually the disciples came back to life, back to the new normal, of fitting back together the shattered dreams of God’s new kingdom come to earth; of fitting together what Jesus had taught them and shown them. They began to re-member (to put back together) their life with Jesus, and to piece together something new.
They began to rely on each other in a different way; each of them bringing (to the table) a teaching or an example or a prayer Jesus had taught them. They began to be the church. No building… but gathering when and where they could to eat and pray together.
That first Easter season is so poignant this year, while we’re all sheltering in place and still being a community of faith who teaches and models and shares the love of Christ with each other and with the world. I confess that in the past, when the Easter flowers have wilted and we’ve sung “Christ the Lord is Risen Today,” that I’ve checked Easter off my to-do list and moved on to the next thing. But this is Eastertide in quarantine and it feels very much like that first Easter season must have felt to the disciples and friends of Jesus.
As they began to come out from behind locked doors and shed the oppressive coats of fear and disappointment and anger, I wonder if the disciples started talking about Jesus and laughing and… celebrating. “Remember when He used to say…?” “I loved it when He’d…” and “Let’s do what He told us to do…” Slowly the stories of Jesus began to take on a life of their own, just like when the teachings of Jesus become real to us and we embody them. That fractured community began to heal and become the church, without the physical presence of Jesus, but with His love still burning in their hearts.
Meals began to take on a new significance – and church potlucks became a “thing” – as the disciples gathered around tables to share what they had, to tell the stories of Jesus, and to remember that He used simple elements like bread and wine to demonstrate the radical, sacrificial, inclusive, abundant love God has for all the world.
Today we gather at our own tables with those same simple elements of bread and beverage, to remember and reenact the abundant love of God, and overflowing blessings we have often taken for granted and failed to share with others. In this time of pandemic many people in the world are suffering and grieving. Many people are afraid and lonely and tensions are high. Global hunger is at an extreme high – more than 265 million people could be pushed to the brink of starvation by the end of this year – and sane and compassionate response from elected leadership is astonishingly low. We can relate to those first disciples who felt that all hope had died with Jesus.
And yet we continue to gather… at ZOOM meetings, over phone calls, with snail mail, with email… and around our own tables… remembering and reenacting the love of God and the overflowing blessings.
Easter asks us to look beyond – or rather to see clearly – both the desperate state of the world and the Kingdom of God right here. Easter asks us to notice the overflowing blessings at hand… the abundance of all we have… and to look for opportunities to embody God’s love. We’re breathing in the want and fear and helplessness (what my friend Pastor Burke Owens has referred to as a persistent fog in the air) that surrounds us. So how can we breathe out love? How can we breathe out peace and hopefulness?
We can gather at our tables with an extra chair for the Risen Christ. We can see the bread and cup before us as signs of God’s abiding presence. We can see our overflowing blessings – friends, food, family, our homes, our pets, gardens blooming, warm sunshine… every single little thing we may have taken for granted before – we can see in our overflowing blessings God’s desire for our hearts to overflow with love and gratitude. We can see God’s desire for our overflowing hearts to spill over… in acts of compassion and service and sharing. Jesus gathered at the table with His friends and even His betrayer, and with those simple elements of bread and wine He showed them that love is meant to be broken open and spilled out and given away.
In this morning’s gospel lesson, Jesus used one of His “I am” statements. “I am” is how God introduced God’s self to Moses in the desert. Jesus said, “I am the gate.” This is from the Message translation: “I am the Gate. Anyone who goes through Me will be cared for – will freely go in and out, and find pasture.” And then, “I came so you can have real and eternal life, more and better life than you ever dreamed of.” Jesus is a gate through which we can see… God’s love, God’s Kingdom not just to come, but the kingdom at hand, the kingdom blooming and blossoming right here and now. You and I are invited to be gates through which God can be seen and heard and experienced.
As we gather at our tables this morning to eat this sacred meal together, let’s be mindful of our overflowing blessings. Let go of what scares and worries you, and in these moments just notice your heart overflowing. God’s heart is overflowing with love for you (and for me and all the world.) Let your heart overflow with love for God in return. Let your heart overflow with love for friends and family and community… and then let it overflow with compassion and concern for the world. There is enough… there is enough love to go around. There is enough love to embrace all the world.