Easter 6: From WWJD to WWtCD.

Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay

Family members tell stories of sitting beside a loved one nearing death and hearing what sounds like a conversation he or she seems to be having with someone not in the room. We may recognize a name or phrase or rhythm of speech – but the rest, the specifics, the words, are beyond us. Our loved one is in a liminal space: in between, not quite here and not quite there. They are taking their leave of our world and we cannot call them back.  It is a sad and lonely moment.

The readings of the next two weeks evoke that liminal moment. We recognize familiar sounds – the teachings of Jesus and the biblical images of lambs and shepherds and light —  but the specifics are pretty jumbled and confusing.  Not to worry. Remember the Gardener talking to Mary outside the empty tomb: “do not hold on to me.” This is a liminal moment for Jesus and for us. We know that we need to let go.

This coming Thursday is Ascension Thursday. While not to be taken literally, the Ascension is a good way for us to “let go” so that we can get on with what comes next in our lives. If we have been sheep, it is time for us to be shepherds.  If we have been observers, it is time for us to become artists. If we have been disciples, it is time for us to become apostles. It is time for us to become, with the help of the Holy Spirit, the church.

Pentecost will be here in two weeks. In the era before Vatican II, some Protestant churches used to call the six months which began with Pentecost “The Year of the Church.” Today, many Protestant churches follow the Roman nomenclature and simply call the Sundays after Pentecost “Ordinary Time,” making the Sundays after Pentecost sound like a time when nothing special is happening*.

I prefer the old name — “The Year of the Church” — because in fact, with the arrival of Pentecost, something very special should be happening — nothing less than the Church being renewed, inspired, refreshed and redirected.

We are in a liminal space liturgically for the next two weeks – Easter 6 and 7. So we can all be thinking and praying together about what a Pentecostal, spirit-led church would do and be now. Not “What Would Jesus Do”, but now, in our world, “What would, could, should the church do?”

* The term “ordinary” was not originally meant to indicate Sundays which were insignificant or “unspecial.” The term meant that certain Sundays of the church year were identified by “ordinal” numbers.


Easter 5: Stop following me.

Image by Stewart Gunn from Pixabay

When we were in Sarasota, I found a wonderful classical guitar teacher. We met him when he was playing a concert in nearby Bradenton. We loved not only his playing, but how easily he taught those of us in the audience about the music he was playing.

When I started taking lessons from him, I wanted to ask many questions… who taught him, how old was he when he started, what did he practice, how long did it take him to achieve his mastery, along the way, what had challenged him and how had he met the challenges? And then, of course there is the matter of the preferred equipment: guitars, strings, nail files, supports, foot rests.

There were weeks when I hoped that we might spend an entire lesson discussing his life story and equipment preferences – especially on weeks when I feared I would not play the new piece well.

Fortunately, we both knew that the purpose of our lesson time was not for demonstrating his deep knowledge of music history, theory and technique. It was for developing my ability to understand and play music, a process that required me to make mistakes and sometimes to play, well, badly.

When we find a good teacher, we naturally want to linger in the aura of their mastery. But if we do that – only linger in the aura – we are merely auditors, concert-goers, an audience.  We do not become students or disciples until we start trying to make the music ourselves, with our bodies, our minds and our hearts.

We remember Jesus often asking disciples to follow him, but what he says here is “Stop following me.  Become a doer, a disciple. Try to make the music yourself. It may not always sound glorious, but that’s when the learning begins.”