“Then he opened their minds to understand …”

“Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures”

I’m stuck on this sentence in today’s lectionary readings. It’s referring to the scene when the resurrected Jesus first appears to his male disciples (he’d already spoken to the women!), and they’re understandably shaken up and terrified. They don’t get it. They don’t understand. And their confusion, their shattered expectations, and now this sudden appearance of something shocking and so out of the ordinary — a dead man actually alive again and talking with them — completely disoriented them.

But slowly they get it, and within days, they become bold preachers and teachers: “You are my witnesses of these things.”

A friend and I went to see a famous Christian writer speak at a local church yesterday. I’d first read him as a high schooler in Campus Life magazine decades ago. He was a breath of fresh air in an otherwise stale faith. He’d since written 30 books, including “What’s So Amazing About Grace,” and “The Jesus I Never Knew,” and was internationally renowned. I’d always respected him as a voice of wisdom and fresh insight. And … well, he is a great public speaker but I walked away totally disappointed. Why? He said nothing new. He offered no lively insight into spiritual matters. In fact, all he did was repackage old, traditional, conservative theology into colorful stories that only evaded addressing real issues. He skirted hot topics and danced around burning issues of human hurt and frailty and the seeming absence of God.

His words of wisdom about the current phenomenon of faith deconstruction was that the church should welcome doubters, but doubters, like those drowning in white water rapids, should cling to someone firmly rooted on the ground. Doubters will only survive if they have someone who isn’t doubting the faith holding onto them.


What was missing in this talk by this famous Christian writer, it seemed to me and my friend, was much evidence of spiritual growth or insight. There didn’t seem to be much sign of a “mind opened” by a resurrected Christ “to understand the Scriptures.”

Deconstruction is a spiritual activity as much as it is an intellectual one.

Deconstruction is a spiritual activity as much as it is an intellectual one. I honestly believe it is an act of Spirit. It is instigated — and nurtured — by the Divine Breath. Like the early appearances of the resurrected Jesus whispering words of encouragement, but leaving you astounded, wondering, confused and a bit terrified.

Everything you once held as secure and solid faith, everything you thought you knew, gets overturned and shattered. But the wonderful thing is that a fresh wind blows into you, and you can breathe again. You get a new life, a new sense of reality. You are, to use that most evangelical term, “born again.”

For some, though we’re still thrashing about in the deep water of faith, there is a pull to the next step. Helping others who also find themselves in the deep. Unlike what that famous Christian writer advised, we don’t need people firmly grounded on the banks of “certainty.” Only those who are in the water with you can offer you comfort and help. They can show you some of the rocks they’ve discovered that will anchor you while the water is raging around you.

I’m convinced that only those who have had their “minds opened to understand,” as Jesus said — and with that new understanding, some radical disassembly/deconstruction and reconstruction to new faith, new perspectives and new insight — only those people can truly “be witnesses of these things.” New wine needs new wineskins.

My hope is that you experience this fresh gust of wind of the Spirit and be infused with new life. May all your understandings and beliefs be exploded and disrupted by Spirit, and may your minds “be opened” to new insight into a bigger reality.

Peace be with you.

ref: Luke 24:36b-48
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