When I was in seminary, I took a class on theologies of atonement with Rev. Dr. Joanne Terrell. She introduced us to the many Christian theologies of how humanity and God are reconciled through Jesus Christ. (I know. I know. This post is getting a little theologically nerdy. Humor me for a moment. I promise it’s going somewhere.) We tossed around $10 words like substitutionary, ransom, even Christus Victor from our class reading.
Dr. Terrell pressed us. We were in a program that placed our small student group in field work at diverse church settings in Chicago neighborhoods. If people are being saved, she emphasized, we have to be saved from something, to something. What are people being saved from, and to what are they being redeemed?
I am not fond of $10 theological words and started getting frustrated with the headiness of the conversation. We all had internships in various roles in the neighborhoods in which we were placed. I was working with The Night Ministry – an outreach to people on the nighttime Chicago streets. I finally piped up in class and said that people I talked to on the city streets wanted to be saved from very real things: drug addiction, poverty, homelessness, joblessness, mental and physical health afflictions.
Even now, many years after that internship and class experience, I think we all want to be saved from something real. We may want to be saved from loneliness, from the threat of an ever-present, unseen virus, the threat of violence and brutality, or from financial struggles. In Jesus’ time, the struggles were similar. People came to Jesus in need of physical healing, food or drink, or liberation from the oppression of their Roman occupiers.
What we are being saved from is the easy part. That’s the part we can physically experience. What we are being saved to is tougher to determine. We only know what we know. If we’ve only known poverty or financial struggle, what would abundance look like? If we only know the oppression of a dominant culture, what would liberation look like? If we are consumed by addiction, what would getting clean look like?
On Easter morning, when the resurrected Jesus gave his closest followers a glimpse of God’s reconciliation and liberation in physical form, most of them did not recognize him. Just like Jesus’ friends, we have a lot more trouble with accepting and understanding the new thing we are being reconciled to.
That’s why the Easter celebration extends for an entire 50-day season. That season gives us the time we need to accept a new reality and adjust how we live in it. Life does, in fact, emerge out of violent, unjust death. And that life is new and abundant in ways we can scarcely imagine.
Take the next 50 days to do things differently. You can just pick small things – change the route you drive to the grocery store; brush your hair or teeth with your non-dominant hand; wash yourself in the shower in a different order. (Watch the #MindfulMonday video below for more suggestions on this practice.)
These are small changes, but they just may make you more adept at experiencing and witnessing to change that liberates. When the big change happens, you’ll be ready for it.
Get ready for the big change with these upcoming events:
- Meditation of the Month practice on Sunday, April 18
- Brown Bag Lunch networking and discussion on Tuesday, April 27, during which Kathryn Toussaint Williams and Nicole will reflect on their own anti-racist journey.
- NEW ON THE SCHEDULE: Remembering and Releasing: Memorial Day Restorative Yoga/Meditation on Monday, May 31.
Or if you’re ready to take a deeper dive into your new life, schedule an initial consultation with Nicole to explore what individual mindful leadership coaching could do for you.