Category Archives: Epistemology

April 12, 2015 (Year B, Easter 2) Celtic Meditation

John 20:19-31

On the evening of his resurrection, Jesus went to his disciples and showed them the proof that he was the same person they had always known by showing them his pierced hands and side. The disciples rejoiced that Jesus was, miraculously, alive![1] Jesus commissioned them with a message of peace and reconciliation and empowered them with the Holy Spirit. How do we, as church, demonstrate that we have been commissioned and empowered to participate in God’s mission of peace and reconciliation?

Thomas wasn’t there with the other disciples on that first Easter. John doesn’t tell us why Thomas wasn’t there with the other disciples. When Thomas returns, the other disciples describe what they have seen and experienced. Thomas doesn’t trust them. By his request to touch Jesus, he expressed his grief and frustration. He wanted to know that the same Jesus that he ate with, that he bumped up against on the road and in boats for the last three years was the same Jesus that they are talking about. Dead men don’t suddenly appear in locked rooms, show their death wounds, and bless those who abandoned them in their hour of need. Resurrection is hard to understand, especially when grief is so fresh. Thomas needed to see Jesus for himself. He needed to not only see, he instinctively knew that he needed to use all of his senses in order to get his head wrapped around the reality of Jesus’ bodily resurrection. This is understandable; we who live in the “Show Me” state recognize that until we are convinced with our senses, some of us can be as stubborn as Missouri mules. Either the truth of the resurrection was just too much or somehow the other disciples had lost Thomas’s trust. What attitudes and dispositions do we, as church, have toward each other, and especially towards those who are suffering, that makes trusting us difficult?

Maybe what Thomas was asked to believe was beyond what even the most trusting person can believe in the midst of that much sorrow. Either way, the week between that first Easter and the next Sunday must have been miserable for Thomas. When Jesus appeared the next time, Thomas is present. Jesus offered Thomas exactly what he said that he needed to believe, but just being in Jesus’ presence was enough. In Thomas’s joy, belief, and relief, Jesus didn’t rebuke him for not trusting the other disciples. Instead, Jesus used whatever had caused Thomas to suffer through a lonely week to bless us. We who can’t see Jesus the way that the disciples did (because we live after Jesus’ ascension) are called to trust the very people that Thomas had trouble believing. Trusting in the testimony of these disciples is a life or death proposition: by believing that Jesus died and was raised from the dead and living accordingly, we have real life. How can we, as church, more fully live into our baptismal vows to embody the trustworthy teaching of these apostles so that others can come to know Jesus as Messiah, the Son of God, the life-giver?

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[1] Jesus also appears within a locked room, apparently without going through the doors, so while he is still the same Jesus, something is now very different about his body.

© 2015 Donna R. Hawk-Reinhard, All Rights Reserved

April 19, 2015 (Year B, Easter 3) Celtic Meditation

Luke 24:36b-48

This reading describes the events back in Jerusalem on the evening of Jesus’ resurrection. Earlier in the day, the women had gone to anoint Jesus’ body, but found the tomb empty. In that confusing moment of discovery, two angels[1] explain to the women that Jesus was not in the tomb because he has risen (Luke 24:1-7). The women told the disciples, but the disciples didn’t believe the women.  Peter, however, went to the tomb to investigate. He saw the strips of linen that Jesus’ dead body had been wrapped in, but what he saw didn’t make sense (Luke 24:8-12). Sure, he had heard Jesus say that after his death that he would rise from the dead. He had seen Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead, but in the midst of grief, how could any of this make sense?

In the midst of all this confusion and sorrow, two disciples left to return to Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They encountered the resurrected Jesus along the way, but didn’t recognize him until after he explained, from Scripture, his mission to them. But it was when he stayed to eat with them and served the meal that they recognized Jesus for who he was. Jesus disappeared; they got up immediately from the table and went back to Jerusalem to tell the eleven disciples (Luke 24:13-33). In the meantime, Jesus had appeared to Peter (Luke 24:34; 1 Corinthians 15:3-5). The addition information from these witnesses must have made for a wild conversation!

While the disciples were discussing these events, suddenly, Jesus was among them. Whatever had been the mood in the room before, now the room is full of startled and terrified people. Jesus immediately responds to their fear that they are seeing a ghost by demonstrating that he is present with them in a physical body that can be touched and can eat. The bodily resurrection of Jesus has been central to the Christian faith from this moment in time. Why is it important for us, as church, to recognize that Jesus’ body was resurrected, not just his spirit?

After settling their anxiety by proving to them that he was really alive,[2] Jesus explained to them how his death and resurrection is in fulfillment of the Old Testament Scriptures.[3] But in order to understand the scriptures, Jesus had to open their minds. The two men on the way to Emmaus described this experience as having their “hearts burning within them” as Jesus taught them (Luke 24:32). How does knowing that even the disciples who were eye witnesses to Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection needed God’s assistance to understand what the Scriptures teach about Jesus affect how we, as Church, read, study, and discuss Scripture?

Understanding who Jesus is—the Messiah—and what the mission of the church is—to continue being a witness to the truth of the gospel that the Messiah suffered, died, and was raised on the third day in fulfillment of the Scriptures—is necessary for the next stage of God’s work of restoration. Through Jesus, repentance brings forgiveness of sins. How can we, as Church, more fully live into the confidence that God will finish the work of redemption because of Jesus’ resurrection?

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[1] Luke describes these two persons as men in gleaming clothing (Luke 24:4). In John’s gospel, Mary Magdalene talks with two angels (John 20:12).

[2] Not only is Jesus alive, but he is also still fully human. To be human requires having a body.

[3] That the “law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms” are explicitly mentioned demonstrates the importance of accepting the entirety of the Old Testament as Christian sacred scriptures.

© 2015 Donna R. Hawk-Reinhard, All Rights Reserved

January 4, 2014 (Year B Christmas 2) Celtic Meditation

Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23

Angels appearing in our dreams with a message from God is not something that we expect. My guess is that Joseph didn’t expect angels to bring messages to him in a dream every time he needed to make a decision. But Joseph was called by God for a very specific part in the unfolding saving actions of God. He was called to protect a child that wasn’t his own and take care of this child’s mother, in spite of the circumstances that could have wrecked his relationship with her. In this reading, we hear of three times when Joseph was attuned to hear God’s voice to fulfill his specific mission.

In the first instance, an angel came with an urgent message that Joseph’s mission was in jeopardy. Joseph first had to discern whether this angelic being was from God or the adversary. The message was extreme and required immediate action if the information was accurate. The actions of these political forces who were seeking to destroy the child he was called to protect were beyond Joseph’s ability to anticipate or to stand against. For Joseph, the actions given by the angel resulted in the fulfillment of Scripture. In our day, even if we don’t expect to hear from angels, we do expect to hear from the Holy Spirit. Our promptings from the Holy Spirit might not always so direct, urgent, or clearly anticipated in Scripture, but we, as church, still need to listen for messages from God and obey. From what, as church, is the Holy Spirit telling us to flee?

Joseph was waiting for the second angelic encounter. How else would he know that it was safe to return? What are we, as church, called to patiently wait about until the Holy Spirit gives us a clear message?

In the third angelic encounter, we get some insight into how Joseph was listening for God’s direction. Joseph used reason and intuition as well as supernaturally supplied information to plan his course of action. Joseph must have been relieved to learn that he was to take his family back to their homeland even if it was not exactly to the same place from which they had left. In what way are we, as church, called to return to our traditional ways of doing things, but with modifications that are sensitive to circumstances?

Celtic Knots and Ebenezer Stones

I love to trace the lines of Celtic knotwork.  Without beginning or end, the thread twists and turns, weaving its way around other designs, doubling back on itself, and even interlacing with other threads.

The journey of life is like Celtic knotwork — our lives twist and turn, weaving around events and experiences that shape who we are.  Each pass through an experience is shaped by earlier passings; we never experience a place, thing, or event the same way as the last.

Our lives are shaped by events, experiences, and repeated lessons that are like Ebenezer stones, stones of help (1 Samuel 7:14).  These are the places, times, and seasons in our lives where the repeated dwelling on, in, and through leads to intricate weavings of the thread back and forth, around, under, and over the stone. Some stones remain long after we move on, waiting for our journey to lead us back to another pass or set of twists and turns around that stone.  With each passing, the stone shapes our life.   Two stones of primary interest for this blog are the stones of Christian tradition and scripture.

Our lives together are like a Celtic tapestry composed of the weaving together of many threads of individual lives.  Some threads never meet directly, some only overlap and intertwine once, some are entangled together, and some form intricate patterns that affect the entire pattern of each life’s thread.

Our lives are like Celtic knotwork — while we seem to have a beginning and end, birth and death, the promise of Christianity includes eternality through sharing in the divine life of the Triune God.  The little deaths along the way are moments of conversion, restoration, and rebirth such that, in retrospect, the hard turn or hidden portion of the loop is still one continuous thread.  These shifts in the pattern remind us that the sharpest turn, physical death, is but one more feature of the overall design as death comes prior to the general resurrection.