Seeing God, face-to-face...
I find that one of the greatest gifts that scripture offers is a sense of connection. There are threads of thought, of hope, of inspiration in the Bible that continue to provoke in me an awareness of the holy in my daily life and the knowledge that God is with us all through time and space. God is continually opening us up to life, and to renewal, with a creation that is always being lifted up from having fallen, mended from being broken, restored from having sinned. It is pure grace that exceeds the capacity of any finite life to compass. It's that big, that cosmic, that transcendent and yet at the same time it is immediate and imminent. Life in God's will for me is feeling that grace, knowing I can't ever live up to it and being welcomed into it again and again by a savior who knows what a screw-up I am yet still loves, forgives and calls me back to labor in service to the Body of the Son again, and again, and again....God is good, and look what God has done with this poor vessel and so many others like me across the ages. God is good, because God forgives even the worst in us. God is good, because even death on the cross can't break real life apart and put it down forever. God is good, because-to quote an old mentor's best Easter sermon-in God the worst thing is never the last thing....
And that brings us to today in the Bible Challenge. Matthew ends on a high note with the resurrection and Jesus' tendering to the disciples the Great Commission in Galilee before he ascends to the Father. It is always Easter morning, no matter what day it is that I read account of the resurrection...always Easter morning with its atmosphere of confused joy. There are bits and pieces of exploded grief lying around our feet, and we can now finally-at least for a moment-see what we long to see, a living Jesus. Face-to-face with resurrection itself, we witness what real life looks like. We see, feel, smell, hear and know that Jesus, who was dead, now lives. He is, and we are...alive.
It's not Lent yet, so I can say (write) it: Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! He is RISEN!
That is not to say that we are all that and a proverbial bag of chips, for we still struggle with our golden bulls (ref. the Exodus readings today!) that we too often put to use to assuage our impatience and anxiety that rises when we are not quite sure what God is doing in our lives, because God is not always so visible, as in seeing the resurrected Jesus, or having Moses in front of us, between us and the tent of meeting.
Israel made a bull calf out of gold because Moses was too long on the holy mountain. As the disciples did when they laid Jesus' cross-broken body in the tomb, they gave God up for dead. For us on Easter, Jesus winds up standing before us-urging us on our way to build up the Church with more and more newly baptized. For Israel and Moses in the desert, it is a chance to purge, refocus and renew a commitment that was too easily dropped in favor of a little god made from left-over earrings. In both cases, however, God is the reality we have to come to terms with, a God who exceeds our rational abilities to force things into a perspective that makes us comfortable, makes us feel safe.
Again, God is not a god who reassures us. God is a god who takes us, shapes us to purpose and then commissions us to not only live better lives, but to live them as a witness to the world that God is...and we, saved by God, are extending that same invitation we accepted on that first Easter morning....Come, get shaped to purpose in God and join us in being witnesses to a grace-filled love that triumphs over sin, and with irresistible intent to save prevails over death itself to usher creation into new life in Christ.