In this tender and joyous season following Easter, biblical texts about the appearances of the Risen Christ and mighty works done in his name predominate. Images of the good shepherd, the self-giving one who lays down his life, and the one who knows his own mark the lectionary readings for this coming Sunday, the Fourth Sunday of Easter.
Locating our lives within the liturgical rhythms of the Christian year can nourish a more vibrant faith. The first cycle of the year celebrates key seasons: Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, which includes The Great Fifty Days and the Ascension, and Pentecost. The remaining cycle called the Season After Pentecost, or Ordinary time, seeks to live out the implications of the Triune God’s great redemptive work.
It is the Lent-Easter cycle that holds prominence, as resurrection gives meaning to the rest of the liturgical seasons. It is only because Jesus overcame death that his story is remembered and that salvation is proclaimed in his name.
The Gospels differ in their understandings of resurrection appearances. Luke, for example, has a definitive time when the resurrection appearances cease; it is when Jesus ascends. The Fourth Gospel has a different perspective. It is does not lay out the historicized vision of Luke-Acts—forty days of appearances and then an interlude before Pentecost—but a sense that the resurrection appearances do not cease.
I spent the weekend with a group of treasured colleagues, the WiTS, women who lead theological institutions. We gather a couple of times a year for professional development and mutual encouragement and support. In addition to confidential conversations about our particular places of ministry, we worship and pray together.
On Sunday morning we celebrated the Eucharist, and I had the profound perception of the Risen Christ in our midst. Of course, he draws near in the breaking of bread, but sometimes I am too distracted to be cognizant of his presence. Gathered with these beloved sisters, I sensed the form Christ’s body takes in our day. The resurrection of Jesus is never solely his story; we participate in it through our baptism and ongoing practices of resurrection.
Each of my colleagues is leading an institution that has its own unique challenges, mine included. In recent years, economic challenges have rendered all of us more fragile, and the shifting landscape of the church interrogates the patterns of theological education. As women of faith, we find hope in the story of resurrection for our schools. New forms come out of dying to the old, and the promise of life abundant sustains our work.
Hildegarde of Bingen describes the Holy Spirit as “the power of greening.” Because of the supply of the Spirit, we trust our schools will flourish as signs of resurrection power.
Molly T. Marshall
Central prepares women and men for seeking God, shaping church, and serving humanity.