What are you looking for?
I enjoy visiting cemeteries, as I find them to be places of peace, as well as of grief. Maybe it is the stillness, maybe it is the greenness with which they are often surrounded, maybe there is something deeper happening. I also enjoy looking at the graves, praying for the bereaved where appropriate, wondering about the stories behind them. especially the older ones. Why did that 15-year-old girl die in 1935? She would have been the same age as my Grandmother. What about that couple, one of whom died in action during the Second World War, the other ‘suddenly’ about three years later? Some graves are old now, untended as those who mourned have also gone; others have flowers, or a variety of objects expressing the family’s grief, or the departed one’s personality. There is grass, trees, spring flowers spreading amongst the graves; one I saw recently had a statue of an angel sitting on the edge of the grave (admittedly now with a wing and an arm missing).
When Mary Magdalene went to Jesus’ burial place on Sunday morning after his death, she saw two angels (presumably neither had an arm missing…). In John’s gospel, they only ask why she is crying, the next person she sees is Jesus himself, who asks ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ You can read the whole story in John Chapter 20 verses 1-18. But take a while to sit with that question: Who are you looking for? There may be an actual person you are seeking, someone who has died, or with whom you are wishing to rebuild relations. If so, you may (or may not) want to spend some time with those thoughts and emotions. But, laying that aside, allow the question to seek deeper into you. Who are you looking for? Mary was looking for Jesus – but the body of Jesus, to anoint or to mourn. She was neither looking for or expecting to find Jesus alive. The Jesus she found was not the Jesus she was looking for.
Who are you truly seeking? Is it possible that the god you follow may be a sanitised version of our God, a safe Jesus? Are you seeking – or avoiding – a god whose characteristics resemble false versions you’ve assumed in the past, or the personality of people you know or have known? Are you looking for our God, or for a safer version, a god who keeps you safe, a god whom you worship but who is not our fully Alive, Loving Trinity – who loves us and calls us on to more, to move deeper into relationship?
Who are you looking for? The one who seeks, finds. We may not be looking for Jesus in his entirety, for our God of total, unconditional love; we may not even be able to get our minds around that. But if we are seeking, even just a little bit, to find that God, we will find, will continue finding – for we are already found. If we realise that we are seeking a false god, a safe god, a god who will enhance our selves at the expense of others, a god who can allow us to go to church, but not allow faith into the rest of our lives, a jesus who will allow us to give our lives to him, but still seek our selves … well, those who seek, find. But having realised that, we can always come before our God in repentance and sorrow; for we will always be forgiven, and God will always be willing to expand our faith, to call us further on. Our seeking, in this life, is always likely to be a mixture of both. To allow our seeking of the true God to deepen and expand is part of our journey of faith.
The Sister in this photograph (of the Convent Chapel, a few decades ago) is praying alone, but she was part of a Community. It is important to seek and follow God ourselves, to develop our own individual relationship with Jesus; it is also important to see that as part of the wider Christian community. We are called to seek God, not just for ourselves, but also with others, whatever that may involve. A small group of friends, perhaps, but beyond that our local church community, its wider denominational network, reaching further to other churches in our area, stretching out to the worldwide Body of Christ. God calls us to grow that ‘we may be one’ as our God is one. (see John 17).
Let us this Easter allow ourselves to focus on seeking our Risen God, to allow the Spirit to come amongst us and expand our horizons, to realise that our God works primarily through us, not through I, and that though we may have to worship apart, we are still the body of Christ.