Almighty God, whose blessed Son our Savior Jesus Christ ascended far above all heavens that he might fill all things: Mercifully give us faith to perceive that, according to his promise, he abides with his Church on earth, even to the end of the ages; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
—Collect for the Feast of the Ascension
Tomorrow is the Feast of the Ascension. It is that moment in Easter Season when Christ departs to create space for the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is a deep truth that, in a season of new life and resurrection, we are often asked to part with what is easy in order to receive a greater gift. The disciples have had some time to experience the presence of the Risen Christ, and just when perhaps they are starting to get comfortable, the rules change again. In that moment of changing landscape, we are not left orphaned, but instead given a chance to continue our preparations for the calling of a new season.
For me, being given the opportunity for an extended sabbatical last year was that kind of space. I love my work as a priest and in some ways cannot imagine my days being ordered apart from that rhythm. But during my sabbatical time, I found I wasn’t missing my work. This was surprising. I was tired, of course, after reconstruction, pandemic, etc. But I take so much joy in my daily routines as a priest I really expected to miss it more. (Please don’t take this personally—I did miss you all!) The gift of the time, though, was space to remember who I am aside from these daily routines and responsibilities.
I had the time and space to reconnect with the rhythms of my prayer life, to renew friendships that had been neglected, and to travel to some unexpected places. I encountered my limits in those activities, and it was a gift just to receive those limits in a space of curiosity and observation. There was no pressure to write immediately about them, preach about them, or even share them.
As we enter into the summer schedule this Sunday and a different pace of community life, I wonder if we can inhabit a similar space as community. Maybe we can worship with one another in our combined service with joy and curiosity. Perhaps we can linger at coffee hour for a few moments to meet someone new. In our personal lives, are there things we need to let go of so we can create space to attend to the Holy Spirit? If you had the opportunity to cease many of your normal patterns of occupying time, what do you think might emerge for you?
This space between Ascension and Pentecost is not about relinquishing things in the same ways we often approach Lenten discipline. Instead, it is joyful release of that which is not serving us so we can fully inhabit the abundant life God desires for each one of us.