As I headed off to church this morning, several conversations were swirling around in my head. On twitter, I was briefly part of a discussion on how we might understand the experience of those left looking to at the sky as Christ ascended. That feeling of loss – loss upon loss, really- as it came not so long after their rabbi had been buried, thought lost to death. Even with the reality of his resurrection and breaking bread among them, facing his departure again must have been shattering. Or at the very least, disorienting. If sounds and smells are enough to trigger post-traumatic stress responses, I can only imagine how shaken they would have been.
One of my tweeps imagined a disciple – probably Peter – grabbing onto Jesus’ feet. Another could see the Sons of Zebedee calling out “Take me with you!” I was imaging those quieter folk, the ones who rarely are mentioned by name, but were among that group who were family for one another, watching in dumbfounded amazement and desperately trying to remember all that he had taught them. Thinking yet again, “Wait! I don’t think I really understand this yet. I don’t think we’re ready to go it alone…”
Maybe because that’s pretty much the way I’m feeling these days. I’m entering into the last full year of a seminary education that has been rich and deep. It has offered relationships with incredible scholars, faithful preachers, pastoral mentors and a cohort of 12 that has become my family. It has offered exposure to great Christian thinkers from the first and latest centuries. It has and continues to provide opportunities to test drive the skills and tools I will call upon in ordained ministry. And yet, I can feel that cry rising up within me… “Wait! I don’t know enough… I can’t possibly be ready to go it alone…”
And there it is. The answer to that plaintive cry is in the fallacy of the cry itself. I am not alone. Thanks to the work of Christ here on earth and his return to heaven, the Holy Spirit has been set free to blow and breathe life into the faithful who are open to receive her. The indwelling love of Christ and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit allows us to draw on all that God offers to those who answer the commands to love and the call to go. I am never alone; the psalmist reminds me that I cannot flee from God’s presence, God’s unfailing love.
And if I am living out the dual nature of God’s commands to love, I am never without family. My neighbor becomes my sister or brother. I am never a toe without a foot or leg. Even if I should seek out solitude, as long as I am seeking to build the Kingdom of God through prayer or service, I am part of the great cloud of witnesses to God’s love across time and space.
It was with these thoughts rolling about- not fully formed, just rumbling- that I arrived at church this morning. After a long day and late night, I had considered sleeping in. But I wanted to see how the church I’ve been visiting lately celebrates communion. At some churches, the ritual takes center stage. At others, the tone is communal, but the community is not authentic. It is lovely when the people who come together to celebrate are coming together to celebrate. What a gift to be a visitor and feel welcomed to be part of that joyous feast.
As I left, I thought about the family of people waiting together, living and wondering together what it meant that they would receive power and become witnesses… to the ends of the earth. Was the community all they needed this time to sustain them? Did they mourn all over again? Was it a time of storytelling, remembering the promises and the miracles? Did they remember Christ’s way of blessing and breaking bread every time they gathered to share a meal? There was just no way they could have imagined what was coming.
I wonder if we truly believe that God still sends those sort of powerful, unimaginable experiences today. My prayer this week will be for a heart of expectant joy, living fully into what God has done and looking forward to God doing more than I can imagine and in ways I could never expect.