Easter 7 - Year A
"You Galileans! (United Methodists?!) - why do you just stand here looking up at an empty sky? This very Jesus who was taken up from among you to heaven will come as certainly--and mysteriously--as he left." [The Message]
After a couple of days of fever I have a different sense of staring at an empty sky. A fever that saps energy is not only difficult to live through, but its aftermath takes awhile to rebound from.
A part of the mystery is where we are denominationally and ecumenically with the fever of fundamentalism and creedalism heating the system in a most unproductive manner - leaving us staring at an empty sky.
Are we still in the delusional stage of this fever thinking that if only we can get things understood and said the right way all will be right? Are we beginning to come out of this bout of illness but sapped of energy and uncertain which way to turn to give evidence of Mark and Luke's remembrance where ascension led to going everywhere preaching or returning to Jerusalem bursting with joy? Whether still in the throes or the aftermath of religious fever, let us pray for one another for support which brings us to the joy of praising G*D for healing our connexion.
May we know the joy of preaching Jesus' prayer that we display his advocacy of living with G*D, not repeating time-bound conventions.
"[The named "apostles"] agreed they were in this for good, completely together in prayer, the women included. Also Jesus' mother...." [The Message]
Tomorrow is the cultural icon of Mother's Day.
How easy would it have been to have Queen Mary, full of grace, and lots of other words of authority, take over the Jesus story? We could read back into this opportunity all the wonder of immaculate conception and the other goddess images stuck onto Mother Mary. (Note: this is not a complaint about goddess stuff.) There is some evidence that Brother James tried a take-over - why not Mary?
But here Mother Mary is not front and center but an "also." The key is being together in prayer, not separated as apostles or women or family.
How might we be together in prayer when our very prayer styles get so competitive? I know I tend to mock those prayers that my sensibilities say go overboard in repetition of phrases like, "Lord... I just...." Issues of diversity in prayer and every other community ritual can both bind us too tightly and drive us apart over one little word in a creed.
Since we are not at a place where we naturally pray together without anxiously waiting our opportunity to pray the right prayer to show we are in closer contact with the Holy than other lesser pray-ers - it is still appropriate for us to do the preliminary work of praying that we might soon be able to stand the prayers of others so that someday prayer will be less divisive than it currently is. For that prayer to come to pass we may need to listen to the humble word "also" and see ourselves in that category.
Pray for me, also, in whatever style you can and I trust G*D will translate it into that which is better than the best we can pray.
There is a sense in which we get very literal about this ascension scene. If Jesus is going to G*D to intercede for protection, will we not see Jesus, again and again, whenever we see protection offered and received? Might protection be the way Jesus will come as well as go?
Protection for whom? Is this a universal protection for all of creation, including the rascals?
So, why are we just standing around when there is so much protection to be participating in? so much revealing of the presence of the interceding Christ to be about? Who and what is in the news this week that needs your presence, not your, "Tsk, tsk, tsk."
In due time exultation. (1 Peter 5:6)
"Is this the time?" (Acts 1:6)
"Glorify me, now!" (John 17:4)
Sing to God. (Psalm 68:32)
Prooftexting is fun. We are always doing it, so it's good that it's fun.
Peter suggests humility now, to later receive exultation. Who wouldn't want to be exulted? So, some humility now may well be worth trying. In fact, if we do it well enough, we may even hurry the exultation.
Of course there is a tension between humility and constantly looking around to see if this is the time of exultation. Now? Now? Now? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?
Indeed, it is time for exultation. We have glorified G*D, time to get our reward in kind. Have we done enough humility and glorification, yet, G*D? Surely so.
I guess not. Let's sing another round.
x x x
On the other hand, exultation is always on its way. This also suggests it is always here as well.
Is this the time? When else, pray tell.
Didn't you know you were already glorified.
So let's sing a new song
- - -
sometimes we get the feeling
time is running out on us
it has been almost 40 days
or is that years
almost twice what we need
to begin a new habit
or break an old one
almost midlife crisis
something ought to be happening
'round here somewhere
what do you think?
has it happened
and we missed it again?
about to happen?
well, let's hang in a bit longer
we haven't hit bottom quite yet
let's try praying once more
perhaps another refrain
what's our discipline say
when lion-sized doubts arise?
protect one another
Not knowing the time is endemic to life and yet we spend so much time trying to figure it out, to get a leg up, a foot in the door ahead of everyone else. So it is we find ourselves doing a lot of standing around trying to peer into the future when the future is being birthed by our actions in the present – and the future doesn't look so good when it is based on anticipation instead of intentionality.
Somehow we have become distracted and do our future-casting rather than attend to the matters at hand. Part of this may be fear, but a good bit of it may simply be the laziness engendered by privilege.
At General Conference today there was a bit of a sea change. The religious-right was not able to hold their usual stranglehold on elections. While some of this is in the nature of a rhythm of change, it must be noted the years of faithful witness many progressives have made to reveal how a drive for power by the religious-right had supplanted their stated desire for renewal.
Several other votes signaled a new dynamic that may lead to better working together- as the diversity that was the disciples lived together in a single room. Of course we will have to see what tomorrow brings (nothing is beyond the attempt of folks who have felt power and now see it slipping from their grasp even as they pull all the old tricks out of every bag they know). But, for now, it is time to get on with life and stop standing around.
PS – on another time-related note, we cannot continue meeting from 8 am to after 11 pm with only meal breaks and expect that good decisions will be made. The opposite of standing and looking is having a nose to the grindstone. Neither serve well the health of a single body or a body of the whole.
“When will you restore the kingdom?”
“When will I experience power?
“When will we feel protected?”
This you don’t know, won’t know.
All that is available is to be a witness of a better way. In simply following where this leads we will stumble, again and again, into protected space, with renewed time, revealing expansive resources.
Here the methodology contained “prayer” and focusing on the “all” of a community, not a privileged portion thereof. Enjoy your methodology to cast a vision beyond our current horizon and to enact some portion of such largess.
Here we reprise the Ascension scene once more and see how there is an outcome labeled “prayer”.
It is clear that prayer with the lips following the promptings of the head doesn’t do much beyond manufacture a few endorphins. More and more head-prayer is needed to make the same amount which is why prayer can be an addiction.
It is likewise clear that prayer with the hands following the promptings of the heart does engage the realities of people’s lives and eventuate in the turning needed to repent and forgive and bless (related, but not parallel terms).
The prayer here led to naming a new disciple (and still a needed act) and being open to respond to a Spirit that would lead them into people’s lives, even those lives that didn’t speak from the same experience base.
A prayer form that focuses on itself or gets wrapped up in praise, is not able to transform the world. It will only receive the feedback needed to keep doing what it is doing. Prayer that transforms does so in light of what is currently happening, not recapitulating what used to happen.