Times In Between
Seventh Sunday of Easter
May 8, 2016
The Episcopal Church in Okatie
Today marks a fascinating moment in the story of Jesus. And this fascinating moment relates in interesting ways to the current life of The Episcopal Church in Okatie. In the Gospel today and in the life of this community, now is a time between the times, marking a particular point on the journey … a break between big events … an opportunity to take a deep breath, to reflect, and to consider the future. These are times to cherish, not to dread, even though they can be ones of some discomfort. The Jesus story helps us live into such moments by showing us how to do that, as well as by indicating the importance of those times.
Jesus has been crucified, on Good Friday. He was raised on Easter Day. Since that resurrection, Jesus has appeared to his disciples, again and again, in order to affirm the reality of life after death. Then, on Ascension Day – which we remembered last Thursday – Jesus ascended in order to be with God the Father.
Thus, the disciples find themselves today in this time between times. Jesus has ascended into heaven. The disciples await the gift of the Holy Spirit – the presence of God promised by Jesus before his ascension – the gift which we will celebrate next week, on Pentecost. Today, though, the disciples are in an in between time. Thus, at this time, we prayed with the disciples in today’s collect, “O God, the King of glory, you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven: Do not leave us comfortless, but send us your Holy Spirit to strengthen us, and exalt us to that place where our Savior Christ has gone before…” (BCP, p226).
On this particular occasion, today’s reading from Revelation seems especially appropriate. Jesus says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Rev 22:13). These words, too, point to an in between time – that is, between Alpha and Omega, first and last, beginning and end. In this in between time, Jesus and St. John, the book’s author, focus attention on the importance of hopeful waiting. Jesus says at the outset of today’s reading, “See, I am coming soon; my reward is with me” (Rev 22:12). Then, at the end of the reading – and the conclusion of the book – the words of assurance are repeated. “‘Surely I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen” (Rev 22:20-21).
For most of us, it is not part of our makeup to appreciate the times in between. We are people of action and activity and getting things done. We like to be working on projects and doing things and being productive. Waiting and hoping and praying are not necessarily things that come naturally to us. But this in between time in the Jesus story shows us how important and necessary such times can be.
In a very basic way, Christians are people of hope. The Catechism tells us that “The Christian hope is to live with confidence in newness and fullness of life, and to await the coming of Christ in glory, and the completion of God’s purpose for the world” (BCP, p861). Then, the final statement of the Catechism likewise deals with hope: “Our assurance as Christians is that nothing, not even death, shall separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (BCP, p862). You see, living in hope defines who we are as Christian people.
Related to hope, of course, is the experience of faith. That characteristic, also, is basic to our identity and to our lives as Christian people. The author of The Letter to the Hebrews offers us this familiar definition. “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (11:1). Of course, that understanding describes an essential characteristic for us who follow Jesus as well. Indeed, living in faith also defines who we are as Christian people.
It is my conviction that hope and faith cannot mature without in between times. It seems to me that the experience of this Seventh Sunday of Easter affirms that perspective. Hope and faith – and, indeed, our Christian lives – find nurture and support only as we step back from our hectic lives…and reflect…and focus on what really matters to us. Thus, the times in between major events and important happenings are rich with potential. It is in those times that we may discover our hope deepened and our faith enlightened. Thanks be to God for such times and for those opportunities!
In summary, then, we find ourselves at an in between time in the Jesus story today – and perhaps in the life of The Episcopal Church in Okatie as well. May we pray with renewed fervor, therefore, at this time, “O God, the King of glory, you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven: Do not leave us comfortless, but send us your Holy Spirit to strengthen us, and exalt us to that place where our Savior Christ has gone before…” (BCP, p226). Amen.
The Right Reverend Charles G. vonRosenberg