Saturday, May 27, 2017

Between Ascension and Pentecost

Many of us move through (live in?) religious communities where the discussion turns to the decline of Church in the Western world.  I realize that I'm framing the discussion in very simple terms. We could define the Western world (industrialized nations?  Northern hemisphere?  Europe, which is very different than the U.S.), and we could argue about the definition of Church.

But I don't want to get bogged down in those discussions.  This morning I want to think about the passage from Easter to Ascension to Pentecost.  Today I'm especially interested in the time between Ascension and Pentecost.

We hear a lot about those early believers who changed the world by going out and being in the world.  In small groups, they took their message outward and formed more small groups--those groups formed more groups, and on and on.  Many of us have had that example flung at us as people ask why we stay in our church buildings and expect people to come to us--a good question, but again, not the one that interests me this morning.

This morning, I'm feeling tired, and I'm beginning to wonder when I'll stop feeling tired--but again, not the item that interests me.

For several years, I've been interested in the smaller stories in the New Testament--the times between the big times.  What do the disciples do between Ascension and Pentecost?  I assume that they wait.  They've been told that they will be clothed with power from on high.  But they don't wear those clothes yet.

A few years ago, my church did an extended study of Paul, and again, I was struck by how Paul's story was one of success--followed by times of waiting--and the occasional outright failure.

So if we're in a time of waiting, not dynamic church expansion--or if we're in a time of contraction--let us take heart.  Other disciples have had similar experiences.  Let us trust the One who has the larger vision, the One who has the longer view.

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