7th Sunday of Easter-A by mifei

VIEWS: 19 PAGES: 6

									7th Sunday of Easter-A May 4, 2008
The Rev. Claire Keene Once a month, the bishop sends a newsletter to all us clergy in the diocese. On the front page he writes a short letter to us, as I usually do for our parish newsletter. Sometimes he muses about spiritual issues. Sometimes he gives advice and encouragement. It’s always interesting to see what’s on his mind, though I don’t always remember later exactly what the focus was. (Don’t tell him I said so.) There was one column that I do particularly remember, though. He wrote it a couple of years ago, in the midst of all the church’s controversy over the consecration of Gene Robinson. Bishop Charlie, whom I usually find both discerning and gracious to folks on both sides of that argument, said that as he was driving home from a particularly contentious meeting of bishops, words from a popular song kept running through his head: Clowns to the left of me, Jokers to the right, here I am, Stuck in the middle with you. (It’s hard for me to picture Charlie with rock music running through his head, but don’t tell him I said that, either.) I wonder if the apostles, Mary, the women who witnessed the resurrection, and the others who gathered in that upper room in Jerusalem after Jesus ascended to heaven felt the same way: Clowns to the left of me, Jokers to the right, here I am, Stuck in the middle with you.
Claire Keene 11/9/2009 1

Yes, I'm stuck in the middle with you, And I'm wondering what it is I should do, It's so hard to keep this smile from my face. Losing control, yeah, I'm all over the place, Clowns to the left of me, Jokers to the right, here I am, Stuck in the middle with you. This astonished, and surely stunned, remnant of the faithful is once again together in that upper room where Jesus bequeathed to them and to us his body and blood as well as his mission. And now, after 40 days of instruction about life under God’s empire, not Rome’s, it’s once more time for the apostles to wait once more, and to pray. It’s time to wonder how in the world they will fulfill the commission Jesus gave them to witness from Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria and to the uttermost parts of the earth. It’s time to wonder about that and to pray. It’s time to ponder what it looks like for them to become Christ’s body on earth, and to pray. It’s time for the disciples to puzzle over how they are stuck in the middle, in the very heart of the Holy City, surrounded by Jews, Samarians, and ultimately Gentiles whose lives the disciples are charged to change. Time to puzzle, and to pray, and to wait for the Holy Spirit to take them by storm. One of my dear friends and I have seen each other through a lot of waiting, wondering, pondering, puzzling times. She watched me try to figure out what it might mean to go to seminary, and then to figure out what I would do if I didn’t. I watched her ponder over whether to have children, and then watched her agonize when pregnancy didn’t happen, watcher her worry when the baby delivered way too early. She watched me ponder about marrying again at age 40. I waited with her as she waited for the stacks of

Claire Keene

11/9/2009

2

paperwork on the adoption of her Chinese daughter to be approved. The list goes on. For years we’ve traded positions— one waiting and wondering, sometimes agonizing, over the unknown and the other trying to stand by steadfast and supportive. It’s a challenge to be on either side of that commitment. Over the years, she has said to me many times, “I know that whatever happens it will be okay. It’s just the meantime that’s hard.” We usually do experience those “meantimes” as mean times. And we often do feel stuck in the middle between what was and what will be, as those disciples in that upper room surely must have. We may even feel stuck in the middle between clowns to the right of us and jokers to the left of us. Or we may really be stuck, as Bishop Charlie found himself, between people we care about who are rushing toward extreme positions in opposite directions. And it seems to me that Jesus’ advice for the between times still holds for us. It is not for us to know the times and periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But we will receive power, we trust, when the Holy Spirit has comes upon us; and we will be witnesses to God’s purpose, starting right here. The ripples of our witness, driven forward by the Holy Spirit, will reach to the ends of the earth, the way a wildfire scatters through dry brush. In the meantime, in the between times, our charge is always to wait for the Holy Spirit and to pray. We do not go forward in our discipleship toward goals we set but, with any grace, we go to fulfill the task Jesus has set us for witnessing in his stead to the freedom-giving, life-bringing, home-calling love of the Father.

Claire Keene

11/9/2009

3

Yesterday’s workday here at the church was wonderful. At least 34 of us were here—working, talking and laughing in the rain. Having a ball, actually. Some were weeding and trimming. A wonderful crew were repairing and replacing parts of our play structure. Others were moving mulch and topsoil to where they needed to be. (David Twiggs and Jim Scott discovered that, yes, left-leaning Democrats and right-leaning Republicans really can work together or a common purpose, “mulchraking” together.) Other folks washed windows, constructed shelving, cooked a tasty lunch, and planted flowers. We shared the kind of fellowship that you had as a child when you and a friend splashed through mud-puddles together. There’s no doubt the Holy Spirit had pulled us together into this common purpose, with much more energy and hope than any of us would have had on his own. We have a lot of grace to be thankful for. Getting to those energized times of hard work and celebration leads us through a lot of “meantimes” along the way, sometimes day after day of feeling stuck in an upper room and wondering about the people to the right and to the left of us and our future together. And in the meantimes we often feel stuck in the middle because we haven’t yet felt or seen the Holy Spirit working among us. But the Holy Spirit does come in power as it always has, when we wait, worry, ponder, puzzle and pray together about what God is leading us into. Now that Lent is over, and we’ll celebrate Easter’s grand finale next week at Pentecost, I find myself re-focusing on the study and prayer of my Shalem Institute program on Contemplative Leadership for Clergy. A small group of parishioners have kept me company on this journey of prayer and listening for the Holy Spirit’s whisperings. And now that I’m your rector, I
Claire Keene 11/9/2009 4

find myself like those early apostles, Mary, and others, feeling the rhythm of life shift into another pattern I can’t quite yet detect, wondering and praying about what our long-term mission together will be like. In transitions like these, it’s easy to sing those rock and roll lyrics, “I’m wondering what it is I should do . . . . Losing control, yeah, I'm all over the place.” When I first came, this congregation was hungry for fellowship, for hope, for freedom from anxiety. So I started sort-of “flipping pancakes,” trying to offer lots of quick, filling food for a hungry crowd, serving up one stack of griddle-cakes after another till the hunger eased off. Now we’re starting to lean back with satisfaction. We’re thinking together about what happens next. I feel myself and the vestry preparing to plant a garden, trying to sort out what we’ll need to feed each other and the world healthily as time passes and one season gives way to another. I sense us trying to figure out how we’ll mulch to avoid weeds, when we’ll need to harvest what. In some ways this is one of those in-between times, and I feel called to wonder, to ponder, to puzzle, and to pray in this meantime. No, I don’t see jokers to the right of me and crazies to the left of me. No, I don’t feel stuck in the middle with you. But I do ask you to join me in that upper room, to wonder, to ponder, to puzzle, and especially to pray with me about being Christ’s empowered people here and in Loudon County, Roane County, and Monroe County, in East Tennessee, and to whatever parts of the earth the Spirit scatters us. I do ask you to join me in wondering with hope, pondering God’s dream, puzzling about how to grow our roots deep and our branches

Claire Keene

11/9/2009

5

wide, and praying with me about how we can be Christ’s body for the longterm. Through the Holy Spirit, we can be the temple of Christ’s presence for eternity. Through the Holy Spirit, we join the saints past, present, and future under the dominion of the freedom-giving, life-bringing, home-calling love of the Father. Thanks be to God for yesterday, and for you. Thanks be to God for today, and for you. Thanks be to God for a future which we have not yet seen but for which we pray in hope and wonder, an eternity in which Jesus promises to be among us forever.

Claire Keene

11/9/2009

6


								
To top