Rifts and Reconciliations
May 9, 2014
Q.What is the mission of the Church?
A.The mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.
The Catechism from the Book of Common Prayer, page 854
So [Mary Magdalene] ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” (John 20:2)
There is no fight quite like a church fight. While life in community will always include conflict and moments of discord, conflict in a spiritual community can come with the deeper hurt of soul damage.
Easter is a season when we proclaim the good news that the resurrected Christ has reconciled us to God through the work of the cross and the tomb. Through the Resurrection, all things can now be reconciled.
The power of reconciliation is shown EVEN before Mary Magdalene recognizes Jesus in the Easter garden. After encountering an empty tomb, Mary Magdalene goes to Peter and the disciple whom Jesus loved to tell them the news from her early morning walk. John is considered the disciple whom Jesus loved and he had remained to the end at the cross with the women. Peter, however, had denied knowing Jesus three times as the time of crucifixion approached.
Can you imagine how painful and strained the relations between John and Peter might have been? Would John have felt Peter unworthy to receive Mary Magdalene’s news? Would Peter have felt shame to run alongside John towards the tomb?
We might consider Mary Magdalene’s decision to take Peter and John with her to the empty tomb a preemptive gesture of the reconciliation we are called to proclaim in the Easter season. In Easter, the reconciliation we are offered from Christ also reconciles us to each other. While Peter and John had not stood together on the day of Jesus’ death, now, at the tomb, both were in a place that reconciled them.
We often say the Church was born at Pentecost. However, before Pentecost, the community of Jesus, scattered by the cross, is healed by an empty tomb.
If Peter and John, brought to the tomb because of the witness of Mary Magdalene, can be reconciled, all things truly are possible.
Take an afternoon or evening to explore the many resources and stories gathered by the work of The Center for Reconciliation at Duke Divinity School. In light of your time with The Center’s offerings, consider what places in your life or community have yet to be reconciled.
George E. Hilty
Thank you for the powerful insight into the likely emotional states of Peter and John. Is the pattern of God’s working within us as individuals, communities, and the broader church universal this: reconciliation must precede the granting of power like that promised and conferred at Pentecost? At the individual level, Martin L. Smith, A Season for the Spirit: Readings for the Days of Lent (2004), impressed upon me the reality that there are within me many selves and the love of myself involves shedding God’s love among the “unlovely” parts of me. That is key to an integrated personality. When that integration fails at the individual level, it is all too common for the supposed more “lovely” self to project onto others the “unlovely” parts to which contempt, disapproval and anger are shown. In the everyday communities of those we instinctively”hang out” with, we often encounter those who rub us the wrong way. The natural instinct is to disassociate from then. But Jesus taught us to pray for them, for they are often those who teach us of the “unlovely” parts of ourselves that need His healing.
On the global scale, are not Peter and John symbolic of the church of the West and of the East, whose great schism of 1054 still causes great pain to our Lord? “That they all may be one, as we are one”has resounded in my soul and spirit since my youth when I first encountered Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer. Integrity for the individual, for the community and for the church–that seems to be essential in Jesus’ message to us. I think it more than just coincidental that Peter and John are together in Acts 3 and 4 when they manifest the healing of the crippled man, healing being one of the first signs of God’s kingdom breaking through. That form of power is contrasted so clearly with the forms of earthly power to which the church and we individually and communally have succumbed in the story of St. Damian’s visit to Rome: Peter’s successor remarked that Peter could no longer say “I have no silver or gold”to which Damian replied: “Neither can he say ‘in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk.’” Have our great schisms individually, communally and as a universal church thwarted the manifestation of the truly important power that our Lord manifested and taught us to emulate?