Dear Members of the St. Philip’s Community,
For the second week of this season of Easter, I decided to share with you this beautiful meditation published by Rev. Daniel Heischman, Executive Director of the National Association of Episcopal Schools. In this meditation, Rev. Heischman told the story of the Gospel of John assigned for the second Sunday of Easter. It describes the events that occurred when Jesus comes to the disciples as they are in a house with locked doors, afraid and uncertain of what will be happening now that Jesus is no longer with them. I hope that, like me, it helps you to embrace the hope that Easter brings with prayers of better times to come.
The Peculiar Presence of God
The Rev. Daniel R. Heischman, D.D., Executive Director
It is hard to go through these days without asking the larger questions about God, not the least being, where is God right now? As we battle this powerful virus, we cannot help but wonder whether, as Dr. Rieux suggests in Camus’ novel,
, God “sits in silence,” remote from the urgency of the moment, or whether God can be encountered in the midst of what we are experiencing. Perhaps a portion of John’s Gospel* may help us in understanding God’s presence or absence at a time of pandemic.
The disciples, on the evening of the resurrection, are behind closed doors, cloistered there in fear, an ironic kinship with our current situation. Jesus comes among them, greeting them with the words, “Peace be with you.” Then a most remarkable event occurs: instead of Jesus showing them his resurrected power, he offers his hands and his side. In other words, he shows them his wounds. On the surface that may be the way that the disciples are able to recognize him—this is Jesus, not some ghostly figure. At a deeper level, this action, along with Jesus’ very appearance, can serve as a guide to finding God in our own time of closed doors and fear.
Finding God may well come when we feel fear—fear for our own health, for our loved ones, or fear for what this pandemic means for our future. Rather than God being an escape from fear, God may be found at the very heart of our experience of fear. So, too, God can be found, as Thomas discovered, in the wounds. Jesus’ wounds reflect our own wounds, particularly the physical or emotional wounds we encounter—at close hand, or from a distance—in these fearful and uncertain days. One might think that Easter would wipe away Jesus’ wounds, but they accompany him into the new life of Easter, a powerful indication that wounds are not a diversion from God but a way into finding God. Easter triumph and joy is not a denial of these sufferings; it is about the transformation of very real suffering.
In a letter to her school community last week, Jennifer Danish, Head of Grace Episcopal School in Kensington MD, observed, “This time [Easter in the midst of a pandemic] has shown me that the light and the dark are always part of one another. We can be filled with fear and anxiety one minute and joy and relief in the next. We can be up at night concerned for loved ones not in proximity to us and rise in the morning to bright sunshine outside our window.”
This unparalleled experience has confounded, yet illuminated all of us. God’s presence—in the midst of fear and wounds—may feel equally confounding. Yet, as Thomas discovered, this peculiar form of presence can actually draw us into God’s presence.
I leave you with these words and the video of this week’s Chapel led by our Student Council Secretary, Veronica Font.