Column: May you find your way to Galilee to meet with ChristPublished 9:22am Friday, May 2, 2014
Across the Pastor’s Desk, by the Rev. Todd Walsh
We are in the second week of the Easter season so forgive me for dwelling on the empty tomb. There are many hooks in the Easter stories on which to craft a message. I am going to share with you about one of them that is particularly important to me because it speaks to me.
The angel at the empty tomb announces the resurrection. Then the women at the tomb get some travel instructions. Matthew 28: 7 records the word of the angel: “Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.”
What is the story here with going to Galilee?
It is the place Jesus was raised and lived. Did he want to go home?
Would you want to hang around Jerusalem if you were the risen Jesus? Right. Hang around the town where you were just crucified? I think I would leave town too. Back to Galilee where it’s safe? I don’t think that’s what’s happening here.
By the time Matthew’s gospel is written Galilee is one of the centers of the early Christian community. Is the writer of Matthew giving credibility to a Galilean Christian community? Quite probably. But then it also makes sense that Galilee is the place a Christian community would settle since that’s the place Jesus lived his life, did his ministry, and appeared after he rose. On the not-so-serious side it also sounds like a good angle for the Galilee Chamber of Commerce.
Forgive me for if I seem a little flippant but I am trying to get your attention.
Galilee is named only seven times in the Old Testament. Most of the references are just in passing. But not Isaiah 9. We hear much more about Galilee. We see why Jesus goes there. We see why he lived there. We see also that Galilee is not just a physical place. It is a mark of the promise and presence of God.
Isaiah 9.1-2: “But there will be no gloom for those who were in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he will make glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness — on them light has shined.”
Notice how Galilee is described here: gloom, anguish, contempt, people walking in darkness, deep darkness. And God gives light to Galilee. This passage is familiar to us as part of the Christmas story. And we understand the light to be Jesus Christ who made his earthly home in Galilee.
Galilee was known as an ordinary place where nothing much happened in the heady days of the Old Testament or even during the lifetime of Jesus himself. It was the breadbasket of the Roman Judea in which Jesus lived. But it was not the political center. It was not the religious center. Even Isaiah 9 hints that it’s a place you just drive through on the way somewhere else, ”the way of the sea.”
But Galilee is the place Jesus chooses to live his life. It is the place he chooses to rally his followers after he is raised from the dead. It is a place that he chooses to reveal himself as raised from the dead. It is the place he chooses to demonstrate that the promise of new life is also a reality.
God chooses to dwell with the ordinary. That means he is among us today. He is among us in our gloom and our darkest hour. The light is among us. So if you are living in a place be it physical, spiritual or emotional that seems like a dark dead end, there is a way out and a way to go. And the way is a person named Jesus.
God chooses to dwell with the ordinary. We can feel the healing power of a caring greeting. We can remember the cleansing power of the waters of baptism. We can taste the forgiveness of God in ordinary bread and wine. We can hear simple spoken words converted into the powerful action of God’s people.
God chooses to dwell with the ordinary. Those are words that cause church people like me to pause to consider.
Do you have to have your act together to be a member of a church? I know church people and I’m one of them. We don’t quite have our act together. We are pretty ordinary despite our best efforts to powder our warts.
Do you have to be rich to be a member of a church? I know many who don’t have much in the way of earthly wealth but are so filled they can’t help but give abundantly in many ways.
Do you have to be in a certain social circle to be a member of a church? Jesus hung around some anyone who crossed his path, even some pretty rough and ragged people. And he made them feel welcome and in fact chosen. There was always room at Jesus’ table and he sets before us church people a challenge to do the same. Frankly, we are still not very good at it. And he sets before those of you who do not have a church home an invitation to enter and join. We need your help to show us how Jesus did it.
May you find your way to Galilee. It’s not just on the other side of the world. Galilee is right here. There you will meet him.