I’m in one of those seasons of life right now that I think we all go through from time to time. It’s a season when by all appearances not much seems to be happening. After an intense Fall, a Winter full of endings and beginnings, and an early Spring of relief and rest, I’m now at that point where I’m wondering what comes next. I feel ready for the next phase of my life, relationships, and ministry, but don’t really have any idea what that looks like or how to get there. There’s a restlessness within me that can’t find the right outlet.
I don’t mention this to whine about my life — it’s actually pretty great, all things considered — but because I can’t help but reflect that the liturgical calendar is in a similar place this week. Liturgically, we’re in this strange ten-day period between Ascension and Pentecost. Jesus’ forty days of appearing and teaching after his resurrection have ended, he has ascended into heaven, and now his disciples are sitting and waiting in the upper room for what comes next. Sure, they have some notion of what their ministry might be (“You will be my witnesses…” and what not) but I doubt they had any clue about what on earth that would look like. I can just imagine the disciples (not just the Eleven, but a larger group of male and female disciples together, according to Acts) sitting around the table in the upper room after the shock of the Ascension had worn off, shrugging to each other: ‘Now what?’
Acts describes those ten days in the most mundane of ways: the group is praying and going about the simple but important business of replacing Judas. They’ve come through an intense time: in just six weeks, they’ve seen their master enter into Jerusalem and hailed as a king, betrayed by own of their own, arrested, tried, and convicted on misleading charges and false testimony, publicly mocked, tortured, and executed (in what James Cone famously called a “first-century lynching”), only for him to rise again from the dead, appearing and disappearing from their company many times over the course of five weeks, teaching them and preparing them for something big. Then he ascends to heaven, promising them the Holy Spirit will come to empower them to do what they have been called to do. That’s a lot to take in. A lot to process. And now they wait. They wait for a future — a gift and responsibility — they can’t really even imagine. After such an intense time, the mundane nothingness of the upper room must have been so jarring. ‘Now what?’
I don’t really have too much I want to say about this, other than that, at this time in my life when I’m feeling a bit out of sorts and at loose ends, I’m glad the Church calendar has a place for these types of seasons. I’m glad for the reminder that this season isn’t wrong and I don’t need to fix it. It just is what it is and that’s okay. (In this it’s a further reminder of the lesson of my sacred practice from this past week.)
It’s also been a good reminder that with Pentecost coming up, it’s a perfect opportunity to pray and invoke once again the coming of the Holy Spirit in my life, for wisdom, guidance, counsel, and understanding.
Anyway, just some thoughts on a May afternoon.