Summer Intensives – remember those from university? A great way to pack in extra credit in between regular sessions. The best thing is that they are over quickly, sometimes in just five or six weeks. But that’s with four classes a week plus assigned study group, plus all the required reading of a full semester, plus the written work and then that one, all-important final exam. By week two, with a condensed syllabus and a mini library of books and articles staring you down, ruling your life and seriously cutting into beach time, one wonders if survival is even included. (re-checking the course requirements reveals no mention of it.) By week four, sleep deprivation is a given as are extra shots of java, there are two untouched books on the shelf, still waiting to be devoured, there’s that other paper to be written, and the entire list of questions to be answered from the Study Group. Finally, upon exiting the test hall, having turned in your best, and ultimate, effort, first comes the wave of exhaustion, then the glorious sense of relief that it’s over, then, something really strange happens; you suddenly begin thinking that those three extra credits were worth it after all. You might even sign up again next summer!
I see our forty-day post-Resurrection season of ‘Eastertide’ somewhat like a summer intensive. However, Jesus alone knew its end date. The disciples were in denial, likely trying to settle in to a new normal, hoping for healing from the recent trauma, but becoming increasingly aware of how much they had misunderstood about the Kingdom of God in all they had seen and heard during their three-year apprenticeship with Jesus. They had seen unmistakable evidence of jaw-dropping power and authority which encouraged them in their belief that the overthrow of Rome was imminent. They’d heard amazing parables of this incoming Kingdom that often left them perplexed. They had experienced a loving intimacy, true heart-to-heart bonding and friendship, a deep sense of being known and accepted, included and being of great worth. Jesus’ promise that he would never leave them or forsake them had been sorely tested by the derailment of their plans for his big win and seemed to have ended with his cruel trial, crucifixion, death, and burial. Their fear-filled abandonment of him at his most vulnerable moments immersed them in shame and regret and self-recrimination. His Resurrection sent their emotions cartwheeling, the impossible turning up miraculously true! And now, here was this Resurrected Jesus, still accepting, still offering teachings, still urging them to carry on with the work, and giving them instructions to wait for the ‘Gift’, his mysterious, additional promise. As the days wore on, I’m sure some of those guys were wondering how much more they could possibly absorb, and would they really be able to do this work that Jesus was describing as still theirs.
Is that work still ours, too? PD