If you live in the dark a long time and the sun comes out, you do not cross into it whistling. There’s an initial uprush of relief at first, then – for me, anyway – a profound dislocation. My old assumptions about how the world works are buried, yet my new ones aren’t yet operational. There’s been a death of sorts, but without a few days in hell, no resurrection is possible.
It is Eastertide, the season when Jesus appears in the strangest situations: as a fellow traveler on the road; as a fleshy human bearing mortal wounds; as a lone, armchair fisherman hurling advice to the disciples from the shore. The people who meet this risen Christ don’t really know if they should be happy or frightened. As Karr writes, there is a sense of “profound dislocation” from everything they consider normal.
For a long time, I participated in my church under the shadow of doubt that what I was doing mattered. If, some day, my church closed its doors, would it all be for naught? Would I have wasted my time? Had the disciples wasted their time following a teacher who was ultimately hung on a cross?
And then I left that church and pushed myself to visit others. Some of them were full of life. But this didn’t make me happy. It confused me. How could other churches still be alive with the Holy Spirit, while mine was falling apart? I felt like Thomas when he comes back to the Upper Room and everyone is excited about having seen the risen Christ. The people in those happy churches were having an experience I could not have.
Easter comes slowly to people like me. Now, after many months, I can listen to people tell happy stories of their ministries without feeling resentful. I can see the beauty of God’s Church again. I still believe it has great power to enliven and heal and bless the world. One local church closing does not negate that power.
I love it when Jesus stands by the shore with Peter and asks, “Do you love me?” Peter says yes, of course, three times, and each time, Jesus responds, “Feed my sheep.” What is most precious to Peter has been tragically taken from him, and his friend says simply, Okay. Now get back to work.
This post is for all those church leaders who have had their heart broken by a church that closed or is closing. May Christ call you back from death to life and bless you with the power to feed His sheep.