In the earliest accounts of the resurrection the women, who are the first witnesses, are instructed to tell the apostles to go to Galilee where they will meet the risen Lord. Just hearing the word Galilee would have given them comfort and a sense of familiarity. Galilee is where most of their ministry had been carried out. Jesus’ own home of Nazareth was there. Maybe their thoughts would have been drawn back to Cana of Galilee where Jesus’ first miracle had been performed, the changing of water into wine, that early proclamation that the kingdom of God is about joy and new beginnings. Go to Galilee, they are told. Jesus will meet you in the old familiar places. In the midst of the unknown, that which is old and comforting will be experienced. This was the first news of the risen Christ.
We all have familiar places we associate with the comforting sense of home, places where we have been nurtured and identify as holy. Sometimes when things are fast and furious around here, I’ll find a member of the staff kneeling in the nave or at the altar rail. It’s a familiar place for many of us to go when we need to be reminded that God is in charge. The peace and quiet of that place forms a sanctuary for us. We’ve met God there before and we go back knowing we’ll meet him again.
Different people have different places we associate with holiness and comfort. Some go to the beach, some to the mountains, others to the lake or the woods. Some have a little corner in their homes where they do their reading and say their prayers. For some, picking up a journal automatically brings a feeling of calm. Maybe you have a favorite Bible or a Book of Common Prayer that feels just right in your hands. The embrace of a loved one may evoke that longed-for sense of nurture. Receiving the sacramental bread and wine might provide stability when all else seems unruly.
Go to Galilee we are told. Go to the places which have sustained us in the past. Trust that God will make himself known again. Even if it’s been a while since you’ve experienced God’s presence, keep going back to the tradition. It has held up well over the years and will continue.
When the apostles get to Galilee, indeed the risen Christ is there. Christ assures them that the kingdom is alive and well, that hope remains, that the worst thing imaginable has not destroyed God’s eternal grace. Jesus eats a meal with them, touches them, does things very familiar with them.
Then, much like God told Abraham so long ago, Jesus tells the apostles to go from the familiar into the unknown. Go and baptize, go and spread the word, go and claim the authority of the risen Christ, go out into the big world and do the work of God. Christ promises to be with them always, even to the end of the ages, but he tells them to leave the comforts of home and get out there where things are hard.
Knowing the risen Lord is not just about having my quiet times of reflection and peaceful solitude. Knowing the risen Lord involves struggle and discomfort. It may involve conflict and difficult decisions. It may require me to move or change the way I approach things. New wine requires new wineskins. The new life of Christ requires new behavior. Merely taking care of myself or doing just what I’ve grown used to doing is not enough to be a disciple of Christ. I must serve. I must be open to challenge.
Go to Galilee. Go to that which is comforting and nurturing. Be fed and renewed. But know that Christ is risen not just so that your life can be easier. Christ is risen to show us that all of creation is to be made new. We are to move forward, embrace change as an act of God himself. Christ is risen to show us that the world is to be very different, so much better. The best is yet to come.
Go. God is constantly telling us to go. We are put on a sacred journey where we will come to know that only God sustains us. Where is God calling you to go next? What challenge are you invited to embrace? There the risen Lord will meet you.
Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.