By Dick Barrett, Conference Minister
This past Sunday we celebrated Easter in a way far different than most of us have celebrated Easter in the past. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, we couldn’t celebrate it together in our churches with all the pomp which we normally do. Most of us had to celebrate in a much more subdued manner in our own homes. The way we experienced Easter this year was probably much more like what Jesus’ original disciples experienced on the first Easter — much more subdued and much more questioning, with questions like, “What does it mean?” and “Now what?”
The original disciples had experienced the risen Jesus in different ways and at different times — Mary Magdalene and some of the other women at the tomb, Peter and the other men in the room when they were gathered together, Cleopas and the other disciple on the road to Emmaus. Yes, the risen Jesus had appeared to them, but what did it mean for their future? It wouldn’t be for several more weeks, at the first Pentecost and the sending of God’s promised Holy Spirit, that it would even begin to make sense.
The time between Jesus’ resurrection and Pentecost was a liminal time. Liminal means “an intermediate stage, phase or condition; in-between; transitional.” This year during Easter we find ourselves in a liminal time. We’re confined to our homes, the economy is in free fall, many have succumbed to the virus, and we don’t know what lies next. The truth is that our entire lives here on earth are lived out in liminal time: the time between life, death and eternal life; the time between Jesus’ first coming and his second coming.
On that first Easter Jesus’ original disciples, both the women and the men, had to be anxious and fearful. It wasn’t just a coincidence that the doors were locked when the disciples gathered together on that second Sunday and Jesus appeared to the doubting Thomas. The risen Jesus’ most quoted words when first appearing to his earliest followers were, “Peace be with you!” Despite their fears, their anxiety and their not knowing the future, Jesus was trying to assure them that everything was going to be okay. He is still doing that to his followers today. Despite our fears, our anxiety, and the uncertainty of our future, the risen Jesus comes to us and says, “Peace be with you; everything is going to be okay.”
It is during this liminal time in our lives that we need to be reminded of some of Jesus’ other last words to his original disciples, even before his death: “A time is coming and has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own house…. I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:32-33). As members of what is known as a “peace church” because of all our efforts working for peace around the world, we need to be reminded that first and foremost, true and lasting peace can only be found in Jesus Christ. Take heart; he has overcome the world!