Springtime arrived in Chicagoland this past weekend, and even a little bit of summertime was peeking its head around the corner as we gathered this past Sunday night to hear Sarah Bessey speak on Resurrection in Religion. It was as if the deadness of winter was being shed for the new life of warm days and bright sun. A sense of expectancy and hope seemed to be in the air as we began our liturgy last night. After starting with a magnificent reading from the lectionary reading from Revelation, there seemed a recognition in the room that worship was taking place. Different refrains each echoed the same thought: for all our wrestling with grief this past season of lent, in view of Eastertide there is much to praise.
The liturgy continued into a confession and assurance–an invitation to reflect on the words of Psalm 23, “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.” After Jenna read the passage, she asked, “What word or phrase is standing out to you this evening?” For me, the words that stood out were fear and comfort. “I will fear no evil, for you are with me, your rod and your staff they comfort me.” Those darkest valleys have been looming large, and I was in need of those gentle words.
Before passing the peace with one other, we were invited in to the difficult practice of praying for our enemies. There was something so moving about being assured the provision and presence of God in Psalm 23, only to be called to respond by praying for those we’d prefer to scorn, blessing those who we’d rather curse. I’m embarrassed to admit faces easily came to mind for me, people both near and far, though as we prayed for those people, I felt their burden lift. Life is more lightly lived when we’re praying for our enemies.
All of this, of course, was rich preparation for a time of teaching and practice on stories of resurrection in religion. There truly could not be a more helpful voice to guide us into that exploration than Sarah Bessey’s. She wove together a complex tale of youthful faith, persistent doubts, tragic grief, and resurrected hope. You can listen to her message through The Practice Podcast .
What stood out to me most about Sarah’s story was her peace in the midst of continuing questions. She modeled to us what it looks like to hold together all the beauty and brokenness. She told us about kind voices in the midst of lonely churches, and moments of celebration, watching her children dance in a charismatic church even as she needs the rhythms of contemplative liturgies.
We followed Sarah’s words with time to reflect on our stories of resurrection through three movements:
- Eyes to see gratitude for the resurrection around us.
- Eyes to see longing where resurrection has not yet occurred.
- Eyes to see the spaces and places in our lives where we are being invited to join with God’s resurrection.
Friends, as I conclude this reflection, I’m struck by Sarah’s story of unknown woman who approached her during her season of great sadness and said to her these beautiful words: “God has not forgotten you.” I wonder if some of us, as we reflect on our stories with religion, need to hear those words today. Yet even more, I wonder if there are some of us who need to offer that word to someone we know. For resurrection to take place in religion, it requires faithful, Christ-loving women and men to join with God’s resurrection by offering new life to dead places. Is there someone you know who needs to hear a word of comfort from God this week in their own story of religion?
May we together be a community of believers with eyes to see the good news of resurrection taking place all around us, even as we extend that resurrection to others.
Grace and peace,
John and the Practice team