April 19, 2014

Unshakable faith in Palestine and Peru

By Richard Aguirre, co-director of the Peru Study-Service Term and director of communications and marketing (on leave for 2013-2014)
SCRIPTURE: Matthew 28:1-10 (NRSV)

Today’s powerful scripture epitomizes our Lenten Devotion theme of “Encountering God: What Have We Witnessed?” and the Easter Sunday sub-theme of “Go and Tell.” In just 208 words, and without embellishment, the Gospel writer conveys the essence of Christianity – that Jesus Christ died, was buried and rose again and that his life-sustaining gift is available to all who control their fears and believe.

The men in Matthew 28: 1-10 guarding the tomb in Jerusalem did not believe; when the angel of the Lord appeared and there was a great earthquake, the guards “shook and became like dead men.” Living in Peru for the past nine months (and growing up in California), I’ve felt many earthquakes and know they can paralyze people with fear.

The women who were visiting the tomb were frightened by the quake and angel, but the two Marys were courageous believers, so they also felt “great joy” when told that Jesus had risen from the dead. They were rushing to tell the disciples about the resurrection when they saw Jesus. They immediately “took hold of his feet and worshipped him.” Because of their unshakable faith, the women believed and went to “go and tell” what they had witnessed – a physical encounter with God.

Today’s scripture resonates with me because of the many Marys – or Marias – I have met and seen since my spouse, Judy Weaver, and I arrived in Peru to help Goshen College students learn and serve. Like the Marys who knew Jesus, many of Peru’s Marias are the “least of these” – afraid, oppressed and abused, but they also are faithful, brave and often joyful. I have seen many women working long hours as maids, selling goods in chaotic markets or dangerous streets, raising children alone and carrying huge bundles that would stagger strong men. Yet they persevere, serve, and crowd churches to offer prayers of thanksgiving.

Since arriving in Peru, Judy and I have witnessed the good – great hospitality, tasty cuisine, an immense coastal city (Lima), soaring mountains, lush jungles and ancient civilizations. We have witnessed the bad – horrible traffic, pollution, poverty, sickness, neglect, injustice, crime and corruption. Still, what I will remember most about Peru are compassionate people – Jorge, Eduardo, Nestor, Miriam, Townsend, Maria, Benjamin, Livia, Gregoria, Eloy, John, Cindy, Elizabeth, Raquel, Patricia, Henry, Romulo and Gustavo – who are advancing God’s hope, healing and social justice among the poorest of the poor. Their work is rooted in unshakable faith – the Easter spirit of overcoming fear and serving others with joy and love. And that is the gift of the risen Lord. Alleluia!

SCRIPTURE: Matthew 28:1-10 (NRSV)

The Resurrection of Jesus

After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, “He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.” This is my message for you.’ So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said, ‘Greetings!’ And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshipped him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.’



Comments (2)

  1. Thanks, Richard, for sharing so vividly yours and Judy’s Peruvian experiences, paralleled with the Matthew passage. The Marys became “apostle to the apostles”; the challenge remains for us to “Go and Tell”. Wilma

    Wilma Shank April 19, 2014 |
  2. Thank you for this “response to God’s grace” today–and for all of the meaningful Lenten devotions this year! Truly Goshen College has “gone & told!”

    Bonnie Sowers April 19, 2014 |