Living the Tension of Life and Death

Acts 3: 13-15; 17-19; I John 2: 1-5a; Luke 24: 35-48

As we listen and journey through this Easter Season from Acts and today’s Gospel from Luke, we have to imagine ourselves straddling a threshold, in some sense, because it’s the view and perspective that the disciples give us. We also have to be mindful to read them backwards, understanding that the events of the gospel precede what we hear in Acts. Imagine them, and us for that matter, straddling the threshold of the tomb. The disciples perspective is still within the tomb whereas Acts has them stepping out and so we find them in the readings, where we often find ourselves, somewhere in between.

They experience this power struggle within themselves between life and death. One foot remains in the comfort of the tomb while the other begins to venture out and the desire God has placed within for life begins to flourish, so by the time we hear the events of Peter’s speech in the first reading, that desire for life and living it is already flourishing and growing within and is bringing about life within the community. Peter minces no words in this speech, though, of where they came from and how so often they chose the comfort of the tomb over life, and in particular, the Author of Life. When they were called to face another power struggle, this time with Pilate and the pressures of the call to conform and not denounce the political or religious leaders, the disciples caved and gave into the pressure of the tomb. They chose death over life. They chose slavery over freedom. They chose fear over love. They chose not to straddle that threshold, but allow themselves to be thrown into the arms of death as they they watched, out of ignorance Peter suggests, the crucifixion of the Christ now raised from the dead. When push comes to shove and facing the adversity of the power struggles within ourselves, we’re left with the same choice and the same reality. But now they’ve tasted life. They have something to compare it to! What they thought was life and love, who they thought God and Jesus was, were not from the Author of life rather caught up in the throws of death.

Yet, we find great comfort there. When we find ourselves standing at that threshold of life and death, and accepting that both are a part of us in their fullness, we’re left sometimes startled, troubled, and afraid as the disciples are in the gospel today. They’re not there yet. Heck, they’re not even straddling! But it is comfortable in the tomb. We become used to it. It feels safe and we know it. Yet, if we find ourselves still trying to control our lives or others or our environment, we’re most likely there and for that matter, not experiencing life in the fullness. We find ourselves trapped in Jerusalem with no where to go, wondering, terrified, anxious about many things, questioning where God is in the midst of it all. We’re not there yet. Some may be straddling. Others may be stuck in the tomb. Yet, God and the Crucified Christ is calling us out, just as he did the disciples.

But there’s a price to it all and for the disciples, especially in those days following the death of Jesus, it seems too much to bear. Despite Jesus appearing to them today, breaking bread, eating with them, showing them his hands and feet, they still question and doubt. They’ve seen living proof of the Risen Crucified Christ, but they weren’t there yet. They still questioned the price that it would cost to believe and to follow even to this point. Yet, to accept this tension of life and death within our own lives is to accept that a part of us must die in order for God to free us from slavery, live love over fear, life over death. It is the mystery that remains central to who we are as people and believers, but maybe we’re not there yet.

The message today is to repent and be converted. Be converted…allow it to be done to us, allowed to be called forth from the tomb to an experience of life. Imagine if the disciples simply continued to fall back into the tomb, never experiencing life, never living the life they were given out of fear, enslaved to their own sin, and yet desiring freedom and love. When we pray for the grace to be converted and to change our ways, to let go of what was and no longer living for yesterday and in the past, but rather living life to the fullest today, we no longer have to straddle but rather consciously choose life. It doesn’t mean that we never face death anymore. We will; there is always a life to be let go of and to die in order to grow and deepen into the person God created us to be and to accept that call. The disciples are even told to stay in Jerusalem; stay until you’ve learned what it is death needs to teach. We pray today for that grace to repent, change our ways, to be converted, so that when and if we find ourselves straddling the threshold of our tomb, we too can choose life. It may not be the life we ever thought of. It may not even be the God we imagined. But by the grace of God, we too are called forth from the tomb to live life to the fullest, not just in the life to come, but this very day!

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