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March 27th, 2013

Easter’s Hidden Presence

Hidden Presence

The storyline of Easter week is so rich and yet so capricious. On Palm Sunday the crowds shout ‘Hosanna’ – a few days later ‘Crucify him’. On Maunday Thursday Peter declares his undying loyalty but denies knowing Jesus several hours later. Capricious. Twists and turns we don’t expect. It raises questions. And not just in us.

Echoing Psalm 22, Jesus cries out: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”

Such joy and anticipation at the start of the week, yet such disappointed hopes at the end. Two men on their way back from Jerusalem discuss the recent events together. A third person joins their conversation, inquisitive as to why their faces are so downcast. Surprised at such ignorance they explain what has happened in Jerusalem when Jesus, the prophet, was crucified, and with Him their hopes were nailed to the cross:

“We had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel” (Luke 24)

“We had hoped….” We see in part. We understand in part.

In the faith journey that follows, their fellow sojourner opens first the Scriptures to them and then opens their eyes to the fullness of the redemption. More than they had hoped for. Not only is He a prophet – powerful in word and deed – He is the Messiah. Not only would He redeem Israel; He would inaugurate a new creation. And He is with them.

“What experience interpreted as the absence of God, the resurrection showed up as the hidden presence of God,” writes the theologian Alister McGrath.

The formation of God’s plan takes place in the midst of the unexpected and is worked out through disappointed hopes. Our faith in the way of the cross needs to deal with the parts when He seems absent and silent and our hopes seem dashed.

Jesus, however, is not a visitor to our lives. He is interested in conversations that start with, “I had hoped…” He joins us on the path when we are without answers to pressing questions and our hope needs a new anchoring. For our lives are marked by the paradox of the cross, not just in the content of our message, but also in the way it is lived out in weakness. “Lament and trust are in tension, like wood and string in bow,” writes Nicholas Wolterstorff in his beautiful Lament for a Son.

The solitude, silence, dashed hopes and pressing questions – He is more present than we are aware of. He’ll mix and mingle in our conversations this week, open our eyes and enable us to see more clearly. We’ll pick up the threads of life and develop our work.

“Beyond profession, my concern has been to find and follow a calling, a deeper voice. In the truest sense of the word, vocation is that which stirs inside, calling out to be heard, calling out to be followed. Vocation is not what I do. It finds its roots in who I am and a sense of purpose I have on earth.”, writes the peace-builder John Paul Lederach in The Moral Imagination.

As we walk through Holy Week and the ache for a new day intensifies, may we sojourn with Him more closely and live faithfully the reality of Christ’s rising and death’s dying.*

Marijke Hoek, co-editor Micah’s Challenge and Carnival Kingdom

* phrase borrowed from Nicholas Wolterstorff

This Easter reflection featured first this week on www.themedianet.org

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