Spiritually Speaking – May 2019

“Where Do We Go from Here?”

In the church I grew up in, we had a woman who wrote the most moving plays and pageants. One year people of all ages came together and put on a pageant she had written for Maundy Thursday. I was pretty young, but I had a role as one of the people waving palm branches in the Palm Sunday celebration. The pageant followed Jesus on his triumphant ride through Jerusalem, to the upper room where we heard from each of the disciples, and ended with Jesus on the cross. The final moment of the play was in complete darkness, and the sound of thunder echoed through the silent sanctuary. The ending of that service in the dark with the roaring thunder unsettled me deeply. It also made me tremble inside. Even though I was young—and even though I had only a minor part in the production, that experience stayed with me.

But—something unintentional happened as a result of that final scene. Word got back to our pastor that several children who had been in attendance were devastated that Jesus had died. They went home heartbroken, and nothing their parents could say could assure them that things turned out all right in the end.

That Easter Sunday morning, our pastor invited all the children to come forward for the children’s lesson, as he did every Sunday. We gathered around him on the floor, and he sat on the bottom step leading up to the chancel. He spoke kindly and compassionately.

“How many of you were here on Maundy Thursday to see our play?” All the kids raised their hands.

“The ending was very sad, wasn’t it?” There was silence.

Suddenly, one of the children jumped up and yelled out, “It’s Jesus! He’s alive!” That child ran toward the back of the sanctuary. The man who had played Jesus in the pageant was standing in the back of the room, dressed in a brilliant white robe. He walked down the aisle, sat with us kids, and explained that he had been playing the part of Jesus in the play, but the real Jesus had risen from the dead. The children hugged him. He read them the story of the resurrection from the Bible, and he invited the kids to ask questions about what he read to them.

“It’s Jesus! He’s alive!” I can still hear the joy in that little one’s voice—as clearly as if it had been said just today. Jesus is alive!

I feel for the women who were at the tomb on that first Easter morning. They didn’t see Jesus—only a stranger who told them even stranger things. They were likely disoriented by their grief, and they couldn’t process anything that was going on. And who could blame them? No proof. No evidence. No Jesus speaking their name. Just, “Go and tell.” They were terrified. And they didn’t tell anyone…at first. When we are confronted by things too wonderful for comprehension, when we are invited into the overflowing love of abundant life in Christ, we may be too afraid to begin. God can speak into the silence, and perhaps we will eventually be able to hear.

We may begin at the point of fear, but the most exciting part about the question, “Where do we go from here?” is that the answer isn’t the same for everyone. When I was in 4th and 5th grade, I loved to read (and still do!), and I absolutely loved going to the library and checking out Choose Your Own Adventure books. Do you remember those?

In a Choose Your Own Adventure book, you are given choices to make. Choose one action, and something will happen to you. Choose something else, and your journey ends up in a completely different place. I used to read the same Choose Your Own Adventure book over and over, until I had exhausted every possible combination of choices. Mark 16 doesn’t give us a clear, satisfying ending to the tory. He doesn’t give us a detailed account of the first witnesses to the resurrection going out and telling the disciples. Mark doesn’t wrap up the story neatly for us, because we are invited to enter into the story ourselves. He doesn’t give us the ending, because…

We are the ending—you and me—as we stand at the scenic overlook and discern where God is calling us to go. Our spiritual lives may follow different courses. We may take different paths in the Choose Your Own Adventure of our life in Christ. We may begin with fear and silence, but—as God continues to speak and move and act—eventually we will be propelled forth through the power of the Holy Spirit to embrace the path that is ahead of us.

We may be over-eager, misguided, or uncertain as we follow Jesus. We may veer off the path, or find ourselves questioning and wondering if we should head back. The good news for all of us is that God continues to work in and through us—despite our doubts, our fears, our uncertainties, and our worries. God continues to speak into the silence and into our trembling, until we are finally brave enough to go forth. And, even when we are too afraid to believe it, Christ is risen—He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Thanks be to God!

by Reverend April Fiet
First Presbyterian Church, Scottsbluff, Nebraska