Monday, 28 March 2016

Sense of place

The discovery of the empty tomb was so contrary to anyone's expectations that the accounts of what happened to the disciples immediately afterwards are confusingly mixed. It is difficult to establish a coherent time-line, as each evangelist recounts the story slightly differently, although each intends to state with confident certainty that Jesus has returned to life from certain death. 

In each of the accounts the women disciples of Jesus play a prominent part in relaying the good news to the men. They come out of the background of a story which has been told largely from a male point of view. Without the women the message would not have been conveyed to the world the way it has been. The angel at the empty tomb says;

'Go quickly and tell his disciple that he has been raised from the dead and indeed is going ahead of you into Galilee.' (Matthew 28:7)

And a few sentences later

' Then Jesus said to them "Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me." ' (Matthew 28:10)
Jesus also meets with them in Jerusalem was well before they can travel home. To go to Galilee will mean putting behind them the horrors of the last few days, detaching themselves from the empty tomb discovery and facing a different kind of future together.

The religious authorities are already conspiring to spread a false story of conspiracy on the part of the disciples to steal his body, in order the counter the risk that the rumours about his return to life will cause trouble for them with Pilate, and maybe with Jerusalemites hearing these strange stories. They need to put a distance between themselves and dangerous controversy. They need some time and space together to strengthen their grasp on the truth which has caught hold of them so unexpectedly. Matthew is suggesting here that the risen Lord is at work guiding them to a place of safety.

There may often be occasions in the life of prayer when there is no alternative to being exposed to risk and danger, and the Psalms so often contain the pleas of people threatened and under pressure, making a conscious effort to trust in God. There are also other occasions when there is a choice or opportunity presented to quit an exposed position, to withdraw from confrontation and seek God in safe seclusion, where it is possible to relax and let go, and be strengthened by the peace of God's presence. Learning to discern the right moment comes from asking is this right for now? Am I in the right place?

An essential component of realising any vocation on life's path is knowing where you are called to be in order to flourish and be blessed. Sometimes it is not always clear what you're meant to do or how you're meant to act when you're there, but this becomes apparent when the inner impulse to go to a  new right place has been obeyed.

'Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying "Whom shall I send, who will go for us?" And I said; "Here I am; send me!" ' (Isaiah 6:8)

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