A Letter for the Great Feasts To the Beloved in Christ at AshmontDear Friends:What convinced Jesus' followers that he was alive after his death were his appearances to them. It was their experience of his presence amongst them that made his followers realize that Jesus was alive. To cite just two of his "appearances": He came into their midst unrecognized (at first) as they walked despondently on the road to Emmaus, and he was suddenly present with them in their discouragement as they fished all night and caught nothing. The bland mainline churches today often put the cart before the horse; they reduce being Christian to "following the teachings of Jesus." Of course it is a good thing to try to follow Jesus' teaching, but our best shot at following his teachings comes from first knowing and following HIM.Our primary goal must be to know Jesus, to experience him living and present in our lives. Our priority must be to become aware of - to experience -- his presence with us. His followers on the road to Emmaus did not at first recognize that it was Jesus who was with them as they walked along in their discouragement. They did not recognize him until he accepted their invitation to sup with them, and it was only then that "he was known to them in the breaking of the bread." Note that they first invited him into their lives, and only then recognized him when he repeated what he had done at the Last Supper.After the Crucifixion, it was Jesus' presence in their lives that transformed the weak and cowardly disciples into bold and courageous men who changed the world. They had the guts and energy to follow his teachings because they had first experienced his power-filled presence. Jesus' presence transformed the discouraged fishermen who toiled all night and caught nothing: Try something different, Jesus said, and they cast their nets elsewhere and their nets became full of fish.First and foremost, we must seek to know Jesus, to experience him alive and present in our lives. We cannot follow his teachings unless he is first present in our lives. If we do not experience his presence with us, we are like the fishermen who toiled all night in vain until they recognized Jesus and did what he told them to do.Isaiah, perhaps, put it best: "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength." You and I all too rarely "wait upon the Lord." We do not listen for him, we do not expect him, we do not open ourselves to let him in. We must consciously open our lives to him. We must consciously let him in.Here's an arresting statistic for you: on any given Sunday there are more people in church in China - in dedicatedly atheist China! -- than are in church in all the nations of Europe put together. One of the sad things about the western world is that most of us are so wrapped up - so busy -- in our self-importance that we do not "wait upon the Lord."We gather here at Ashmont in these next few weeks to celebrate the Great Feasts. All of them are occasions for us to open ourselves to God and to let him into our lives. All of them are occasions to "wait upon the Lord." I could talk about Easter, the Ascension, or Pentecost - all dramatic events that can be occasions of experiencing the presence of God. But let me conclude by reminding you of the final two Great Feasts. On Trinity Sunday we celebrate that fact that God is our Father (could we want more than that?), that God has entered our world as Jesus, the Son of God, and that his Spirit is always present to guide and strengthen us. And on Corpus Christi, we celebrate God's Real Presence amongst us and the fact that he has given us - as nourishment for our earthly journey - himself, his Body and Blood.Let us in this joyful season of the Great Feasts seek to "wait upon the Lord": to let the Triune God into our lives, and to experience him truly and really Present in the food he has given us. The more we know the Lord and open ourselves to his presence, the more we shall desire to follow his teachings and the more we shall be given the strength to do so. F.W.J.