The Seventh Sunday of Easter
May 24, 2020
Morning Prayer – 8:00 AM
Holy Eucharist – 10:00 AM
Evening Prayer – 5:00 PM
Please join us in an Act of Spiritual Communion
It may have been a southern thing – the reserving of certain rooms of the house for special occasions. I’m recalling for our benefit the occasions when friends of our parents came over. I grew up acknowledging how certain rooms had certain functions, and these functions dictated a particular home liturgy. Like Principal Feasts of the Church Calendar, these occasions were rare to be certain, but looked forward to with great expectation.
When the living room and dining room were opened and “freshened” it meant that people of great significance were to arrive shortly. The children had to be home from wandering the neighborhood, bathe early, be in our pajamas, and secluded upstairs with games and a kind of fast food picnic. My father would spread a large blanket on the floor of their bedroom and feed us from a menu that was never allowed in the house at any other time. Their room was off limits as well, unless guests were expected to arrive downstairs. That’s because it was the only other room in the house that had a television.
We could hear the laughter, the Hi-Fi playing albums softly, and the clinking of small plates, small glasses, and small forks. We knew them all, but not like they were when our parents “entertained.” Usually, it was just my mother’s perfume that filled the house. But now the blend of fragrances that found its way upstairs was so strong, it was potent. Most of the moms related to us at the level of our running through their house in wet bathing suits. The dads were teachers of what many of us considered to be the science of what would put an eye out of our heads (“stop playing the fool” for short). However, on these nights of special significance, there was a civility present that was almost foreign to those who could walk into any of their houses unannounced as long as it was after 8:30 in the morning and before 6:00 in the evening. The 1970s GPS worked really well. We simply left our bikes in the front yard as indication to where it was we could be found.
The next time Jim Kerr’s mother would chastise me for standing on a chaise lounge chair in order to do a back-flip into the pool, I would just recall her standing in our living room in a black dress, pearls, makeup, and her hair done like we never ever get to see it at any other time. Suffice it to say, children know a great deal about upper rooms, rooms with special significance attached to them, and wandering the landscape (or at least they once did). Not every square inch of our homes were open to casual inspection or use.
Today is a day of special significance. Not because it is Ascension Day, that was Thursday, but because it is the Seventh Sunday of Easter and we are found to be in the upper room. Consider the appropriateness of that theological statement – being in the upper room with those who complete us awaiting the next chapter of the story – the descent of the Holy Spirit. We, too, are existing between Easter and the receiving of power from on high. We, too, are found existing between Ascension Day and the Day of Pentecost which is intentionally sanctified time. That, I believe, is what makes this day and this time so special, not only in the life of the Church, but in the ongoing story of Salvation History. In May of 2020, while living under quarantine as well as social distancing expectations, we no longer have the luxury of glossing over these ten days or what the Church calls Ascensiontide. Ascension day is forty days after Easter. This is the forty-third day after Easter and we, too, are found to be in the upper room awaiting power from on high.
I suggest that as a parish we celebrate being in the upper room by discussing openly and with great expectation what it is each of our families will do with such power and authority from on high. Let this passage from the Acts of the Apostles be our collective Bible study this week. Yes, the Holy Spirit descends upon the Church. However, the Church is constituted by the accumulation of our consecrated lives around word and sacraments. Or to put it another way, considering how it is we are seated on a blanket with wet hair in our Father’s room, what are we going to do when the Christ of God unleashes us within the world He came to redeem? Living in the upper room may be uncomfortable and growing a bit stale, but it is easy and it is safe theologically speaking. Are we preparing ourselves spiritually for being the church without walls? Are we exercising our evangelical voice and muscle? We stand on pretty solid scriptural evidence that once the doors were opened, the apostles went forth, to be Christ’s witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth (The Acts of the Apostles 1:8). That day is nigh for us, the doors are soon to open, in more ways that we could have previously imagined.
We need Ascension Day. We need to know and realize that our Father is King, and that He is seated on His throne of glory. But we also need the Seventh Sunday of Easter to articulate far beyond walls of public health quarantine orders how it is the Church below serves as His footstool in the world.
Thank you for putting your bike in the front yard of your house, and thank you for recognizing how it that not all rooms hold the same importance on the same day or in the same way. Taken together, you are theologically wiser than all our years combined individually – which is probably the point and necessity of our gathering. Our Father is King over all, the sacramental life of the church is how he comes to check on us. By the grace of God, we are not comfortless.