On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” (John 20:19-23).
Earlier this week, on Monday to be exact, meteorologists were alerting us to the presence of a “Pink Supermoon” visible that night from our humble abode in God’s stunning galaxy. This happens when the moon reaches the closest point to earth in its orbit. A supermoon can appear up to 14% larger and 30% brighter than a full moon viewed at its farthest point from earth. However, for reasons I won’t go into here, it doesn’t look pink.
I was on the phone with my Mom on Monday evening. She informed me that the skies over Atlanta and north Georgia were clear and she had just seen the supermoon (she also remarked on the absence of pink). She urged me to step outside and take a look. I said I would.
But I didn’t. I think we were watching the final episodes of WandaVision and I simply didn’t take the time to move my eyes from the screen to the sky. It’s my loss. I missed it entirely.
Here’s my point with this story: The Pink Supermoon was still there. My failure to behold it did absolutely nothing to diminish or negate its presence above the earth. The analogy isn’t perfect, but I want to suggest to you that the truth that Jesus is alive is not too different from my missed opportunity with the Pink Supermoon.
Whether we feel it or not, whether we behold it or not, Jesus is alive.
I guess I’m wondering if part of the reason we live without truly knowing that Jesus is alive is that we don’t make the deliberate effort to live our days in his presence. To see a supermoon you have to step outside and look up. What practices are required for living in the reality of the resurrection?
Some Effort Required
One of the enduring classics of Christian literature is a small volume titled The Practice of the Presence of God. The author was a French monk known to us as Brother Lawrence. A handful of his letters and short writings were collected after his death and published in 1692. The book has been in print since that time.
Brother Lawrence lived his vocation working in the kitchen of the monastery. In his little book he explains that for him there was no difference between the kitchen and the chapel. He was as much in God’s presence washing dishes as he was when singing the Psalms.
I commend this book to you for its content, but my interest today is with the title. Lawrence understood that the presence of God was something to be practiced. There are things that we can do to live in the reality of the resurrection. There are behaviors and practices that allow us to go through our days knowing that Jesus is alive.
Like stepping outdoors to look at the supermoon, these practices are simple. However, they do require time and intentionality. Said another way, knowing that Jesus is alive isn’t hard, but it requires some effort.
The efforts or practices that allow us to live in the reality of the resurrection, confident that Jesus is alive and active in our world, are typically spoken of as “spiritual disciplines.”
The phrase “spiritual disciplines” might sound austere or foreboding to some of you. But what I’m talking about are very basic behaviors that the most ordinary Christians have practiced for centuries. Some of these practices have deeper roots, going back to the worship life of ancient Israel.
You don’t need a craftsman’s workshop behind your house (although that’s a good thing). All you need is the small toolbox that sits in the cabinet above your washing machine. Those basic tools – the basic spiritual disciplines – are more than enough to tackle the job at hand.
Today I’m urging you to make an effort to live in the reality of the resurrection. I want to help you practice the presence of the living Jesus by daily making use of some very basic tools. Helpful books have been written about this, so I’ll keep my coaching brief this morning.
First, begin your day quietly. Resist the TV and social media platforms and email on your phone. Invite God to meet you in these moments.
Second, spend some time reading scripture. Get your elbows on the table and your face over an open Bible. You don’t need to read a lot of material. Begin with one of the gospels (try Mark) and read a chapter each day.
After that, speak back to God about what you’ve read. What thoughts or questions came to your mind? What held your attention?
Finally – and this might not be a daily practice – engage a community of people that are seeking to live in the presence of the resurrected Jesus. Solitude is good, but only if practiced in a rhythm with community. Begin with a gathered congregation on Sunday.
It’s one thing to miss a Pink Supermoon (I hear there will be another one in late May). But don’t miss the life God intends for you as you go through your days in the presence of the living Jesus. You have the tools. Just invest the effort and practice his presence.
Lord Jesus, we thank you for your living presence with us – a reality that doesn’t depend on what we see or feel. You are with us, just as you promised you always would be. Give us the grace we need to practice your presence. We don’t want to miss it for lack of attention or effort. We bring our lives before you now, asking these things in your name. Amen.