Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Word, Spirit, Community, Fruit

“Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.” ~ Ruth

Last night I enjoyed a lovely dinner with friends: food, hospitality, laughter, listening, communion and confession. Somewhere amidst our discussion of the stability of spiritual disciplines versus the chaos of spiritual emotions, I was reminded that this Sunday the Church will celebrate the feast of Pentecost.

Whereas the season of Advent ushers in the celebration of Christmas, and the season of Lent ushers in the celebration of Easter, the celebration of Pentecost leads us into the season of Ordinary Time.

Ordinary Time certainly isn’t the sexiest season in the liturgical calendar. Rather than building up to a great experience (such as the birth or resurrection of Christ), it flows from an experience and permeates our everyday lives. It calls us not to a magical crescendo, but invites us into a deep, daily observance of abiding in Christ and community.

As we shared stories and struggles and relaxed from our meal, I briefly related to my friends that this upcoming liturgical season has grown very important to me over the past several years, and I dare say it has become my favorite.

The Christian observance of Pentecost is intrinsically linked to the Jewish feast of Shavuot, which started last night at sundown. Shavuot commemorates both the first fruits of the wheat harvest, as well as the word of God given to Moses on Mt. Sinai. It is an opportunity to both enjoy and express thankfulness for God’s provision, as well as a celebration of covenant and community, a celebration of God’s presence coming to dwell among us.

For Christians, Pentecost is the fulfillment of God’s indwelling presence. The Word that was and is and is to come had become flesh and dwelled among us, teaching us what love and grace and forgiveness and mercy look like in practice. Jesus taught us that if we abide in him, God’s spirit will abide in us, and we will bear the fruit of that relationship.

After Christ’s resurrection, the disciples came together to celebrate Shavuot, to enjoy the first fruits together in God’s presence. It was during this observance that the Holy Spirit, the counselor and comforter and presence of God, was poured out upon human hearts, and the community that is the Body of Christ was born. This community was to be the presence of God’s kingdom on earth as in heaven, the embodiment of God’s love, grace, forgiveness and mercy that Christ introduced us to.

And it is in the upcoming season of Ordinary time that we get to focus not on waiting for God to break into time, or on waiting for Christ to redeem the world, but on celebrating the fact that God has come, God has redeemed and is redeeming, and God is present in and through the Body as we dwell in the Spirit and open ourselves to the fruit and the gifts that emerge.

It is in Ordinary time that we get to put into practice what we have learned from the Lord, that we enter into that deep abiding through which our lives bear fruit that blesses others, that we enter into the process of cultivating the soil of our neighbors and communities, of removing the obstacles that keep their lives from being receptive to God’s love.

It is in Ordinary time that we learn to rest in the fact that we are loved.

It is in Ordinary time that we dig our heels into the life of community.

It is in Ordinary time that we learn to practice love.

It is in Ordinary time that we certainly mess up.

It is in Ordinary time that we forgive.

It is in Ordinary time that we live.

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