Jesus, Mystery, Endings, and New Beginnings
Inexplicable…unexplainable…intriguing…unknown…puzzling… each of these words are contained in the American Heritage Dictionary definitions for the word mystery. The mystery of God’s grace comes to us on Easter morning as we sit amongst the community of faithful and listen to trumpets play; as we sing joyfully the hymn “Jesus Christ is Risen Today”; and as we resoundingly proclaim, “He is risen…He is risen indeed!” And once more we are invited to exclaim with renewed fervor Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.
Certainly the empty tomb fits the descriptive words for mystery…inexplicable, unexplainable, intriguing, unknown, and puzzling. To our rational minds the resurrection of Jesus is an impossibility and many have developed theories of what they contend “really” happened that Easter morning. What Christians know is that God did something through Jesus to change our understanding and experience of death and endings.
One aspect of the mystery is that the message and meaning of Jesus’ death and resurrection continues to instruct and give us hope today. This is especially important in my work of pastoral counseling. Much of a counselor’s work entails “journeying with” people struggling to make sense of endings and searching for new beginnings. From a psychological and spiritual perspective each of us goes through a series of internal endings and new beginnings…death and resurrection experiences. Jesus provides both the model and the hope as we journey through this process. The following are a few reflections on what Jesus offers us as we confront endings and await new beginnings in our lives:
1. Jesus demonstrates that speaking the Truth demands an act of courage, especially when we know that the truth may not be acceptable to others. Speaking the truth is an act of integrity to self in relationship with others.
2. Jesus draws his courage and knowledge of the Truth through prayer. Whenever facing a turning point in his life and ministry Jesus turns to God for guidance. Jesus’ actions encourage us to give up reliance on our American ideal of “rugged individualism” and seek the way from God who offers us new direction in times of darkness.
3. In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus wrestles to accept the end of the life and ministry he has begun. He struggles, even as we struggle to accept the death of our hopes and dreams; even as we struggle to embrace the reality of our ultimate physical demise.
4. In the moment of his deepest pain Jesus feels abandoned by God. When we wrestle with our own endings it may feel as though no one, not even God, is able to comprehend the depth of our fears and our feelings of aloneness.
5. Ultimately, Jesus puts his trust in God. At the very end, when there is no more he can do, Jesus trusts God as he says, “Into your hands I commit my spirit”. When we face an ending and we have done all that we can Jesus teaches us to let go and place our trust in God.
6. Three days pass between Jesus’ death and resurrection. Within any ending and new beginning there is a period of waiting. It can seem unbearable as we stand at the end and await a future we cannot see. Yet, Advent reminds us that a time of gestation is necessary before new life can come to birth.
7. Easter morning and the resurrection awaken us to the mystery of God. In our own lives, when everything seems dark and we have lost our way, when it feels in some ways like we, or something within us is dying, Easter assures us that there is hope for resurrection. This hope gives us the courage to continue journeying through our endings and into the mystery of our new beginnings.
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!