We had technical problems on April 7th and were unable to live-stream the service. The scripture reading and sermon is available on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/seeyouonsunday/videos/803566871637154

Have you ever gotten to the end of something, some accomplishment, a party, a project, and, instead of the elation you might experience, you are just left wondering, “is that was it?” Not that it was a letdown, just sort of ended.

I felt a little like that this week. So much had gone into getting ready for Holy Week and Easter that when Monday arrived, then Tuesday, I felt, maybe like the disciples, looking around and wondering what I was supposed to do now. It’s not over forever but for the moment it is.

I can’t imagine that this is what the disciples thought would happen when Jesus met them in Galilee, or in the Upper Room, or in the Garden, or somewhere over the course of the last 40 days. I don’t think they really thought that Jesus would just take off again, ride a cloud to the heavens.

I imagine them standing there, waiting and wondering, feeling left behind in all their failure and fear, in their uncertainty and hope and hopelessness.

But even as he was leaving, Jesus promised he wasn’t leaving them on their own. Jesus had promised them that he was sending a Spirit, a comforter, a teacher, a move-ment, and that the spirit was necessary for them to do the next thing–to be the witness first locally and then to the whole world.

I imagine that standing there, staring, and each of them asking silently “what do we do now…?”

The disciples were in the liminal space, between the resurrection and the coming of the Spirit. The world had changed but it was not yet what it would be. Sure they were promised something amazing, but it’s a scary place to stand.

Liminal space, thresholds, the space between. So much ink has been put down helping us navigate this time, these moments. These times in-between. How to go into them, how to leave, but more importantly: how to spend time there.

The liminal space is hard, the space between what was and what will be fills us with uncertainty. It’s the house being clean and the meal is cooked, but the guests haven’t arrived. There are no more rehearsals but the curtain hasn’t gone up for the first time. The nursery is ready, the baby has grown, but hasn’t decided to make their grand entry into the world. You wait, you look around, you wonder what to do.

And so the disciples returned to an upper room, and spent the next ten days before Pentecost, before the Spirit blew through, it was a time of preparing, of regrouping, of getting ready for what was to come when the Spirit gave them the courage, the energy, the direction, the wisdom, the encouragement, the comfort, the gifts to go out into the world.

And maybe it wasn’t the Spirit that gave them their plan or their immediate next steps, but it was their prayer and discernment, their listening and conversations, that helped them plan and the Spirit that set that plan to motion in ways they could have never imagined. When we plan worship, the plan is to create an experience, for the words and the music and the community to come together and be meaningful. But we plan. And then we pray that the Spirit will come, will stir hearts, will connect words and ideas, will bring the gifts to the surface and that they might be a gift to all.

We plan so that the Spirit might set our worship in motion, might set it on fire.

The church universal is always sitting in liminal space and time–we are in the in-between the resurrection and the return of Christ, between the empires of this world and the empire of God, between the world as it is and the world as it ought and and someday will be. Many have stared at the sky waiting for the not yet, for the return, for the next thing; looking for signs and wonders, meteors and eclipses, to miss the Spirit being right here.

But I also wonder, if even we here haven’t spent some time staring at the sky, waiting for the return of the world we used to know, the church we used to know, the community we used to know. Sometimes, we stand there waiting for the return of the way things used to be, believing that it has to return, Because that is the world that we know, the world we understood. The world and the church that made sense to us, the one of our childhood, our children’s growing up years.

But standing at the Mount of Olives didn’t hasten the return of Jesus, or the coming of the Spirit, it didn’t change their reality. And our waiting for the world to go back, or the church to be what it was, or folks to have more time, or more energy isn’t going to change the reality of this moment.

We are living and being church in a liminal time. We are changed by post-modernity and COVID and 100 other things. We are not who were once were and we are not yet who we will be. But we cannot stand on a hill, staring at the sky, waiting for someone to come and make it better, to take us back, to tell us what to do.

No one is coming to tell us what to do.

But the disciples gave us a way to live liminal space: We gather the community. We dedicate ourselves to prayer, to listening to God, to listening to each other. We make space for the Spirit of God, the Lord and Giver of Life, the Comforter and Lady Wisdom, the Breath of God and Our Guide. So our imaginations, our plans, our ideas, become more, because we are gathered together, because we are sharing and learning together, because the whole is greater than the parts, because the Spirit moves through each of us, and between us, and around us, and what we become is more than we could have ever imagined.

Liminal space is not wasted time, it is not doing nothing, it is not stagnation. This liminal space is waiting on the Spirit in prayer and community is the work of discernment–the weighing and considering,  reflecting and preparing to move forward.

We gather and prepare. When we gather, when we connect, our ideas and our parts are greater when we are together. That we can pray together, learn together, listen, discern, invest, even plan together and trust that promise, that the Spirit is coming, that we can wait on the Spirit, for the amazing things and the abundant future and the plans alight with fire and motion.  Because we believe God is still speaking, through the Spirit, through each one of us, and that God has yet more light yet to break forth.

So we gather, we pray, we reflect, we listen, we prepare. We even plan with space for the unexpected, the Spirit.

  • When have you been in a liminal space? What was it like? What did you do?
  • Would you describe the church universal or Emmanuel as being in a liminal space/time?
  • What do we need to pray today to prepare us for what comes next?
  • What is the most outlandish idea you can come up with that the church could do?
  • What do you hope is the description others give of this church community?
  • How can we connect with each other and listen to each other well?