by Elizabeth Hunter—
Do you associate sounds, sights or scents with feelings or memories? I know I do. Just a hint of ginger stirs up thoughts of Christmas and my mom’s peppernut cookies. Walking by lilies of the valley awakens memories of Easter and being held in the sweet-smelling arms of an aunt who died long ago. A whiff of oily kerosene calls up the time a relative struggled to make ends meet and could only afford to heat part of the house. Some songs or hymns transport me back to a certain time and place. Is it the same for you?
Both educators and scientists say we learn through our senses—and we learn more effectively when multiple senses are involved. Consider newborn babies, who can’t survive and thrive without touch. From the very beginning, our senses help us to recognize that we are cared for and loved.
Jesus’ ministry also connects with the sensory. We recognize God’s care and love for us in hearing how Jesus talks with Nicodemus about the sound of the wind, drinks water with a Samaritan woman at a well, shares meals with lonely people such as Zacchaeus, takes little children in his arms to bless them, heals with a touch, raises the dead to life, washes people’s dirty feet and cooks fish for his friends.
Jesus gives his life—all of it, not just those interminable hours on the cross—for us. We hear, feel, smell, taste and see the goodness of God (Psalm 34), through Jesus, who calls us by name, meets us where we are and speaks directly to our circumstances.
“In Jesus, God became small and ordinary, too, like us,” Heidi Haverkamp writes (p. 19). Divine love comes through the ordinary moments Jesus spent teaching small and large groups of people; sorting out petty quarrels; speaking for justice for the poor; including and allying himself with children, women and others at the margins of society; taking our place in judgment; rising from the dead—all of it so ordinary human beings might have abundant, eternal life.
There is no better antidote for a world plagued by despair over poverty, hunger, homelessness and war; the disappearance of 10,000 species each year; inequality and discrimination; millions who lack adequate medical coverage or access to treatment; governmental corruption; and more. Yet as Christians, we know tombs become empty. We know doors are flung open. Fears fade. Wounds are real, but alleluias resound.
Even after his resurrection, Jesus continues as he began: meeting people where they are, in tender and tangible ways. When Jesus calls Mary Magdalene by name, she “[grasps] the meaning of the empty tomb,” Bible study author Julie Kanarr (p. 27) writes. When Jesus invites the disciples to eat a meal, they recognize him. When Jesus allows Thomas to touch his wounds, Thomas believes.
Today, when women meet for Bible study, gathering in what Kimberly Knowle-Zeller (p. 9) calls, “strength and vulnerability to share our deepest joys and hurts and listen to those same stories from others,” we find “the power of resurrection—the power to transform lives from small bits of bread, wine, coffee, tea, needle and fabric.”
It’s why we publish this magazine. Because encountering Christ changes everything. Through our shared stories, we recognize the image of God in the other, finding comfort and challenge for our faith journeys.
We can boldly declare with Mary Magdalene, “I have seen the Lord!” We are Easter people, to quote St. Augustine, and alleluia is our song!
Elizabeth Hunter is editor of Gather.
This article is from the April 2019 issue of Gather magazine. To read more like it, subscribe to Gather.