The weeks immediately after Easter can seem anti-climatic and just a little dull. After the drama of Holy Week, the pain of Good Friday and the ecstacy of Easter Sunday, the weeks after Easter in some ways are the most challenging time for our faith. That was true for the disciples and the followers of Jesus as well because it was the time when their belief in a risen Savior was most fragile. Thomas was probably not the only one who questioned whether Jesus had truly risen from the grave. Surely many of the followers were wondering what to do now that their leader was no longer with them.
There are times in our own lives when it feels like the weeks after Easter, when it feels like God is far away and that we've been left to fend for ourselves. There are times when we doubt, when we feel that we've lost our way or when the excitement of our faith seems distant. There are even times when the busy-ness of life takes over and where our faith commitment seems remote.
There have been moments over the past few months when I've felt like that. There has just been so much work to do, so many tasks, so many people's lives changing, so much of the "work" of the church that I have felt a little overwhelmed and insecure. That's when I've tried not to be like those disciples on the road to Emmaus, so busy talking about Jesus that I did not recognize him among us.
And when I looked around me, I found Jesus was with us as UCC President John Thomas and I visited with the people of Vieques, the little island off the coast of Puerto Rico which the U.S. Navy has bombed for 60 years. I found Jesus sitting with me and a colleague's wife in the hospital waiting room as we awaited the outcome of his heart surgery. I found Jesus as I heard the stories of our staff at the UCC's Franklinton Center ministering to the people of Princeville, N.C., whose lives were devastated by the floods of last fall. I found Jesus visiting with our national staff during a time a great anxiety and transition in their lives. I found Jesus in the stories of many women at the Fourth National Women's Meeting.
Sometimes in our local churches, we also are so busy with the "work" of the church that we miss Jesus' presence with us in the ordinary routines as well as the extraordinary times in our congregational lives. We have only to open our eyes to the presence of Jesus during choir rehearsals, church council meetings, food pantry days, the typing of the bulletins and, yes, even the countless committee meetings. Jesus may feel far away, but he is really there right next to us.
So, my pledge to myself over the next few months is to remember that just as Jesus was walking with the disciples along the Emmaus road in those days right after Easter, so, too, he walks with us today. Just as he showed himself to Thomas and to the fishermen, so, too, will he show himself to us. My pledge is to open my eyes to see him and my ears to hear his voice—not just in the weeks after Easter, but throughout the years.
Bernice Powell Jackson is Executive Minister-Elect of Justice and Witness Ministries. The five Collegium officers assume their new duties on July 1, 2000.