Have you ever worked so hard on something and had it be such a big part of your life that went it’s done you aren’t quite sure what to do with yourself? I believe we all go through this at various times in life. I would say that the very first time for me happened when I was ordained on June 10, 2008. I was very focused and driven for seven years. I had a plan. I was to go to college major in history, go to Andover Newton and finish grad school in three years and be ordained in the early summer of 2008. That was the plan and I worked tirelessly for that plan.
I was busy and it didn’t matter what it took, I was going to achieve my goal. Everything was planned and carefully put together. But after graduation and my ordination, there was an emptiness I felt. All of a sudden for the first time in my life there was no plan. I knew it was time to get a job. But I had no idea how to go about doing this. In school, I knew what I needed to do. I was good at school. I knew how to make deadlines and how to study and write 20 page papers in three days flat. In school, I understood what my role was and my purpose. And by that time, I was even able to guide others through the process as well. One questioned loomed in my mind for that whole first year after school, a question I had never been faced with before. Now what? Where do I go? What do I do? What is expected of me? Would I be good at whatever lay in my future? All of a sudden, I was going through some pretty serious home sickness. My whole life was changed really in an instant with that ordination.
I was no longer a child and I had the student loan bills coming in, to prove it. I was getting married. I no longer lived with my parents. I lived in a whole new community, a whole new world an hour and a half from all that I held dear and I no longer knew my purpose in the world. I missed the certainty of school, the protection and comfort of home, the support of my family and the guidance of my community. All of a sudden, I was in an apartment in Danbury living in a neighborhood with neighbors closer than I had ever experienced before, hearing people screaming at each other in Spanish across the street, neighbors partying until the late hours on Sunday night, working in a preschool where I didn’t know what I was doing and feeling disliked and hated by my coworkers for replacing their beloved teacher that held that room for 30 years.
I remember spending many a night lying in my bed wondering “What am I doing here? Am I strong enough to make it? What am I supposed to be doing with my life?” I am a planner by nature and for the first time there was no plan. But there was plenty of anxiety and tears as I struggled to find my way. And find my way I did, lead I believe by the hand of Christ.
The story of the resurrection of Christ found in the Gospel of Mark has always been my favorite because of the ambiguity of it, because it ends with a question and not with the answers. It reminds me of life. I connect with this version more so now than ever before. Life is full of more questions than answers and so it is more relatable. Here the disciples had followed Christ and engaged in his dynamic ministry for three years. Christ had a clear picture and plan for the future that the disciples felt comfort in, hope for tomorrow, a message that they gave up everything for. They left their homes, families, careers and all that was familiar for Jesus’ ministry and teachings. With Christ behind the wheel, they knew what their days would look like. Their lives had a clear focus and purpose. But with Christ’s arrest, trial, and crucifixion this all ended for them.
The disciple’s lives were changed forever in the moment of Christ’s death and like them I feel their anxiety and their questions in my soul. They asked the same question that plagues our lives: Now What? The disciples would remain hidden in that upper room paralyzed by such questions and grief. Then Christ’s body just disappears and an angel is there to say that he is no longer there. Christ’s physical presence was literally gone. So what do they do when their leader, their friend, their teacher who filled their days with purpose for three years is no longer physically there to lead them? They needed direction in coming to an understanding of these questions and it looks as if they got it.
Christ is resurrected as was promised. He did not allow for death to be the end, there was more. So too the disciples were not to allow for Christ’s death to be the end of his message of compassion, love and hope for humankind. They were to now go out and find their own way with the guidance of Christ through the lessons they had learned as students. It was their turn to change the lives of others around them.
When we get caught up in the questions that pop up when life suddenly changes: whether it is graduation, the birth a new baby, the loss of a loved one, the change of employment, retirement or any other changes that will come around we need to know that Christ is just beginning to reveal new life to us in those moments. Our happiness doesn’t end in with those changes as scary as they may be. Christ is just showing us a new way: opening our hearts to another path. Today I leave you with the words of the scriptures, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised.” Our challenge is the same as that of the disciples on that first Easter morn. We are not to allow for fears and insecurities to stop the love and compassion of the risen Savior in this world. We are to live through life’s changes and follow where we are being lead next in our work in this world.
(sermon based on Mark 16: 1-8)