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Beyond Pentecost and Trinity, What?

Pentecost Sunday is June 5. Sometimes it is called the "birthday of the church." The disciples have been in hiding since the trauma of Good Friday and the wonder of Easter Morning, but now they receive the power of the Holy Spirit, and things start happening. What was a movement of a bunch of Jesus' friends and fans is now legitimized and they are the church. The first thing they do is preach to all the world, or at least to representatives from all over the world, so that each heard the message in their own language. Soon after, the new-born church gets persecuted in Jerusalem and is driven away from Jerusalem. This feels like the story of the Holy Spirit spreading the message by literally spreading the people all over the world (all the way to Oklahoma, eventually).

After we receive the Spirit on Pentecost, the next Sunday in the liturgical year is Trinity Sunday. It kinda makes sense that we would talk about the Trinity just after Pentecost. We've been talking about Jesus, the Son, since Christmas, and we touched on the Father, who sent him on Maundy Thursday. Now that we've received the Holy Spirit as Jesus promised we would, the Trinity is complete, and we can celebrate it on its own Sunday.

It is interesting to me that the liturgical calendar thinks differently than our broader culture when it comes to Easter and Pentecost. The popular way of thinking about Easter is as a single day: Easter is the Sunday when the Easter Bunny comes. Pentecost, for those outside the church who know it, might be considered the whole season when nothing else is happening. In fact, the liturgical calendar thinks of Easter as a season--all the Sundays from Easter to Pentecost--not just a day, and Pentecost, in fact, is the last Sunday of the Easter Season, not a season unto itself.

The fact that Pentecost is the culmination of Easter is profound. Jesus was born and lived on this earth with us, then died on Good Friday and rose on Easter Sunday. Was everything accomplished at that point? Well, Thomas doubted and didn't really come around until the next week. In the Gospel of John, the disciples made their way back to Galilee and went fishing; even after Thomas' demand for empirical proof, they were on the cusp of giving up and going back to their old job. Not until 50 days later, when they received the Holy Spirit was the work of Easter starting to take hold in the lives of the disciples.

That brings me to the next question: After the Season of Easter and the Sunday of Pentecost (aside from celebrating the Trinity), what's next? Liturgically, it's called (unimaginatively), "the season after Pentecost," or "Ordinary time," (which means Sundays just keep coming in order, NOT that these Sundays are less than extraordinary).

There's a word that's been sneaking into my consciousness for a while now: discipleship. This may turn out like those Sundays when I write the sermon title before I write the sermon and then hope that they somehow align, but I'm kinda thinking that a focus (for this Summer, anyway) will be discipleship. Now that we've believed, been baptized, received the Holy Spirit (in whatever order), NOW what do we do as Christians to follow Jesus? How do we keep learning from our teacher? How do we live our lives as disciples? The lectionary will help this theme, since the Summer will follow stories from the middle section of Luke, called, "the travel narrative." Following Jesus implies following Jesus as Jesus is moving, and in Luke, that is what the setting of approximately Chapters 9 to 19 are all about. Jesus is always moving, traveling, and the disciples are following, traveling along with Jesus. I kinda think that's the theme of the summer: "being disciples: following and learning from Jesus."

Here's one last thought on this. The disciples don't know where they are going. I have read the story, and (spoiler alert) it leads to the cross. Still, I don't know where it will lead us this summer, and if it leads to the cross, I don't know what that will look like for us, what our particular cross will be. I suspect that one of the first lessons of discipleship is exactly this: not knowing where we are going and following Jesus anyway.

Don't take much with you; "carry no purse, no bag, no sandals," (Luke 10:4). Leave your baggage behind, and follow Jesus with me this summer, and let's see where it takes us.

--Chas