“He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”). Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” ~ John 20:15-17
We are in what the church calls “Eastertide.” This is the 50 days between the experience Mary and the other women had at the empty tomb, to Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit blew in through the Upper Room and landed as “tongues of fire” on each of the disciples, causing them to speak in different languages. The blowing of the wind changes their lives forever.
The empty tomb, with the linen death cloths folded on the stone where Jesus lifeless body had been laid, changed lives forever. What is interesting in this passage, is that Jesus, while wanting to comfort his friend, tells Mary she can’t hold him because he “had not yet ascended to God.” She didn’t recognize the one she called Rabboni, because he looked different.
Maybe this shouldn’t have come as such a surprise to Mary, he “changed” in front of Peter, James, and John on the mountain top when Elijah and Moses appeared in the Transfiguration.
Okay, let’s go even further back. Jesus is the ultimate “change.” He is the Son of God, come to earth in human form (and yet fully divine). Being born as a human baby, to live and breathe, to feel and taste and smell, to experience life like a “normal” human, Jesus changes from whatever form he was prior to birth, to human—made from dirt—having sinew and bone. He changed from something we “normal” humans couldn’t see—or really understand—to something tangible, something that made sense to our brains.
What if that is what change is all about? What if the whole reason things change—whether it is how we understand the world as we grow from infancy to adulthood, or making leaps and bounds in technology, or figuring out how to be neighbors—is because we are moving from one state of understanding to another state of understanding? What if we knew deep in our cores that we can’t stay the same, life can’t stay the same, because there is always something better to be working toward?
What if this is the case when it comes to being church—the Body of Christ? Depending on your age, the world has watched the decline of the church since the 50’s. Our sanctuaries are no longer full. Our Women’s Groups no longer meet during the day because most of the women are working. Our Men’s Groups don’t meet for Saturday breakfast because there are games to coach, children to chase around, and chores to be done that can’t get done during the week. And don’t get me started about children and youth programs!
Again, what if this change is what the church needs? Maybe, like someone with an addiction, the Body of Christ must hit rock bottom before we face the reality that change is inevitable, and the church was never supposed to be tucked away from people in a building in the first place? Before he leaves earth to ascend back to God, he tells the disciples “Go into the world and make disciples.” GO INTO THE WORLD.
Faith UCC is at that critical point. We need to decide what our “change” is going to be. We need to be talking about how we will GO INTO THE WORLD and make disciples. We are small in number, but we are HUGE in compassion, care, forgiveness and love, and those are the things we need to be sharing with the world.
In the months and years to come, how can we—Faith UCC—spread God’s love and light in the world? How can we be the salt and light we are called to be? We have started, by sharing space with First Christian, by opening our doors to Cub and BSA Scouts, to a homeschool group. But what else can we do? Can we do a neighborhood clean up? Can we worship differently? I know that is a really hard question, and thinking about changing how we worship makes us uneasy. But worshipping like we do now is not how we will survive. So what can we do differently? Let’s start talking about these things. If we do, maybe we won’t have to hit “rock bottom.” Maybe we can show up changed, like Jesus, and be who we were created to be in the first place!
~ Always Peace, Pastor Heidi