Thursday, April 12, 2018

Easter: Reconciliation as Pilgrimage


Eastertide as a Journey, not a Destination


Related imageEastertide is a natural season for pilgrimages. The heat of summer has not yet baked the roads and waysides into parched submission. Though the risk of a late snow squall or frost still bears a certain threat, the spring rains promise refreshment. Life is blooming along the way. If you couple that with the general uplift in spirit amongst the faithful as Lent and Holy Week mark their terminus and the celebrations of resurrection that are to last for 50-count them!-days, then there is perhaps no more auspicious time to begin a pilgrimage. It is a time to begin a journey that is meant to offer transformation along the way, in addition to a destination that promises an arrival at a new place of self-understanding in our common relationships to each other and to God.

Eastertide in my household is often a time of both recovery and of changing gears. The trees need to be pruned and shaped. The beds need to be turned and mulched. The spring garden is planted. The chores I put off at the end of the growing season last fall now must be attended to, with roses trimmed and grape vines dressed for a new season of flower and fruit. As well, we catch up on the neglected chores inside, and perhaps some recovery of energy in the wake of the past season's liturgical demands.

The Church is closing a year of Sunday School, of service and pastoral needs met and of renewing their Baptismal covenant during the Vigil, or during the baptisms that tend to cluster in the tides of spring. The perennial flowers poke their heads up through newly strewn mulch. The new trees planted last year push out new buds, new growth and join the flowering symphony of aging magnolias, cherries, crab apples and locust. There is a general cheer that bubbles up as people remember that their Sabbath rest is also a cause for celebration...with sunshine, longer days and warmer breezes adding encouragement to the cause.

The communities surrounding the Church turn their faces toward the downhill run to the summer months. Young families and children count the days lost to snow and ice, reckoning by that when summer will really "start." Baseball season, outside soccer, field hockey and lacrosse kick into high gear. Track meets and recitals hold sway over weekends. Awards banquets and graduations loom high in calendars.

With all that going on, I return again to the idea that Eastertide is not just a destination, but a place of being on the way. We are journeying through the Church's, and the world's, most important season of becoming aware of God's immeasurable, redemptive love for us. We are being reminded, as Spring renews us, that God's love in Christ's resurrection redeems us all. For once and for evermore, with Jesus' rising from the dead, we have borne witness to God putting sin, and death, to flight. We are no long lost, but discovered and redeemed. Not for now, and not just this once (or one more time), for God in Christ, resurrected, has sundered the brokenness of our relationship to the Almighty.

We no longer need fear being lost to God. We must also come to terms that we are now God's, forever.

Easier said, or proclaimed, than done.

Because when we proclaim Christ risen from the dead, when we admit that God's redemption has arrived, then the next step in our journey in redemption begins. What opens before us, in the same way the Camino opens in front of a pilgrim, is a path of reconciliation. With God redeeming us, we are now bound to a reconciliation with God in that redemption. We can no longer remain where we were, for where we were was before God lifted us up and claimed us as God's own. We must be on our way, and the way is to God and revealed in our blossoming relationships with God and each other. To walk that path is to become reconciled to a new reality of being beloved and forgiven, forever. To walk that path means a continual experience of transformation from sinner to saved, from lost to found, from bound to free. It also requires continual renewal...for though God's redemption is accomplished, we are all still a work in progress. We dance just close enough to the edge of the pilgrim's path of reconciliation that we from time to time stumble from the path and lose our way. We get distracted by the noise and glare of the traffic around us that we choose to be bedazzled, rather than clear-eyed. We lost perspective on our relationships with each other. We lose perspective on our relationship with ourselves. We lose perspective on our relationship with God.

We get lost.

Reconciliation is the ongoing response to all of that. It is the wind at our back. It is the water in the gourd. It is the cladding on our feet, protecting us from the sharp rocks and potholes of sinfulness that pave the way itself. It is the bond between fellow travelers. It is the bread we break and the cup we drink from as we share meals that sustain us from way point to way point.

A new ministry of reconciliation is the very thing God in Christ presents to his followers when he appears in his resurrection. It is the very life-blood of the Church to which, and with which, we have been entrusted.

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