Rev. Scott's Letter May 24
Delivered By
Rev. Tom Scott
Delivered On
May 24, 2020
Description

 

May 24

 

Today is the Seventh Sunday of Easter, sometimes called Ascension Sunday, and it falls during the ten days between Ascension (40 days after Easter) and Pentecost (50 days after Easter). In practice, many congregations “transfer” their observance of Ascension (always on a Thursday) to the following Sunday, today: the Church calendar says this is a principal feast and a fixed observance, like Christmas. Ascension is neither movable nor transferable.

If ever you wanted to get into the details of the calendar, what better time than now during our confinement. The broad description of our calendar begins on page 15 of our prayerbook, and may be found on-line in addition to hardcopy. One could do worse than absorb these details as an aid to insomnia, by the way.

You may recall me saying that a sermon outline I often use is simply: What, so what, now what?

So what about this “in-between Sunday”? Well, on Thursday just past we observed the Ascension and I wrote about what we might take to our comfort that Jesus returned to the right hand of the Father with his human nature, experiences, scars and joys. In so doing, (among other things), I understand him to be undertaking what he spoke of in John’s gospel, “I go to prepare a place for you”.

So if Ascension is “about” Jesus, we might think this seventh Sunday of Easter is about the human community here on earth, then and now. After all, the first thing that happens after Jesus “goes” is that two angels quiz the disciples about why they are gaping at the clouds instead of going back to the city to await the coming of the Spirit Jesus promised.

The disciples—the entire community, not just the 12—start their “biding time work”. We’re told that they kept the community together (no small accomplishment!), they continue to be pious, practicing Jews (indeed, they never cease being observant Jews (with the exception of table fellowship), nor does any later Jewish convert—e.g. Paul), and they wait patiently. This does not mean they waited passively. Patience rather than passivity is, to use a crude mechanical image, the difference between nothing happening and getting energized. But patience means more in this case: patience is time and “spiritual development”.

One of the great insights from psychology is that human beings develop as well as learn. We become people who learn.

If we think about it a bit, we can see that the community of believers is doing what they need to do to prepare themselves; they show forth in their lives what they profess with their lips—and doing this is precisely what must be done by that first community in order to become eople able to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.

Now what? We can do worse than look at our present situation as a community of faith in the same way as that little group viewed their situation long ago. We are in-between our former established, more or less comfortable, way of life as a congregation, and what lies ahead when we reconvene, and when the new priest comes to St. Giles. It doesn’t take a moment to understand that we are doing “biding-time work”.

By the way, I had a conversation with the senior warden, and he reminded me to say that we are still operating under the bishop’s direction not to open our buildings for worship and other purposes until we have clear directions and standards from the diocese that are in compliance with the governor’s office. Those directions and standards are under discussion by the bishop’s task force created for that purpose. What is contemplated is that when the task force has finished its work, each vestry and bishop’s committee will use this document to develop a plan for their situation and will be required to submit it to the diocese. No congregation will be required to open its buildings by any date certain. Because there are still major questions about how to control the principal—but not the only—communication vector of the virus (airborne droplets), there is a lot for us to consider at St. Giles, particularly in the church proper.

In addition, because we rent, and provide space for organizations, groups, and another congregation, we will be required to have every user agree to the procedures we eventually adopt and monitor their compliance.

Perhaps you are a Facebook user. If not, then you may not be aware of the many messages from congregations, bishops, and other leaders directed principally to people who are not members of a congregation. They say in effect, “The Church is open, but we are not gathering in person for worship and work in our buildings just now”. Indeed. We are the church, dear comrades in Christ, we are the fellowship of believers, brothers and sisters in the Spirit. And at the moment, we are doing our “biding time” work.

 
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