How are we this morning?
Here we are again, gathered together in the time of COVID:
Eight weeks of school closures (nine if you count spring break—but who’s counting!).
Seven Sunday services livestreamed.
One million Zoom meetings.
And, importantly, the sixth Sunday of Easter.
The great 50 days of Easter ends next week on Ascension Sunday, which is followed by Pentecost.
Then begins the long, green growing season of the church: Ordinary time.
A time when we typically expect to exhale more fully. To plan for rest and recreation. Family time and summer shenanigans. Ordinary time.
Only, this year will be a very unordinary Ordinary time.
Even under ordinary circumstances, this time of year is a season of profound transition.
These last two weeks were intended for graduation ceremonies, end-of-year rituals, and other kinds of celebrations and traditions that help us mark the endings and beginnings of this season.
A time I lovingly refer to as “Trazpeze Swinging Season.” Let me explain.
When Matt and I were first married, we moved from Arizona to Washington, DC. I was in a new city. With a new job. In a new marriage.
And because I had recently finished a year of volunteer service with the Franciscans in Chicago, I was invited to a retreat for returning volunteers.
The theme of the retreat was “Transition”—and it completely rocked my world. I was so upside down and inside out at the time I didn’t even know I was in transition, let alone there might be stages of transition.
It was on this retreat that I was introduced to the “Parable of the Trapeze,” by Danaan Parry.
“The Parable of the Trapeze” continues to shape my understanding, not just of the cycle of life transitions, but of the Christian narrative and the call of Christian discipleship as well.
In Today’s Gospel, on the sixth Sunday of Easter, our lesson tells of Jesus preparing His disciples for His crucifixion. For His departure from them. And for the arrival of an Advocate who will protect them and be with them always. Jesus seems to say we’ll be together/apart in this new way with this Advocate.
A bit later in the Gospel of John, the disciples say to one another, “We have no idea what he is talking about.”
Their world is about to turn upside down, and Jesus is trying to prepare them. But really, there is no way for the disciples to be able to perceive or understand the breadth and depth of the transition Jesus is preparing them for.
It’s a little bit as if Jesus is preparing His disciples to become trapeze artists: to let go of what they know, and believe, and expect, so that they might catch Him in a new way.
What a terrifying place to be—summoned to the edge of one place and called to the edge of a new and unknown reality.
Yet Jesus encourages them: "You can do this,” He seems to say. “Let go—fly—and catch me when I return to you in a new way.”
This place of flying through mid-air between what we know and what we don’t yet see or understand is a place of transition to be sure. But it is also the place of spiritual transformation.
It is the place between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. The holy dwelling space of possibility— between death and new life. Between Crucifixion and Resurrection.
It feels to me like COVID-19 has swiftly—and without our consent—turned our world upside down.
Six months ago, we had expectations for our spring. For our graduations. For our summers. We had plans. We knew things.
And now, we have been summoned—like the disciples in John’s Gospel—to the edge of one very familiar place and called to the edge of a new and unknown reality.
So, here we are: Perched on a trapeze bar, hanging on for dear life. Called to let go and fly, to catch Jesus in a new way. To risk transformation in that in between space.
Have you ever been on a trapeze bar? I have. Once. It was truly terrifying. I literally could not let go of the bar and drop to the net, let alone gather enough momentum to swing, let go of the bar, and fly through the air.
I have sweaty palms just thinking about it.
And I wonder if anyone else feels like this time in our collective lives is also terrifying.
Is anyone else just white-knuckle-gripping the trapeze bar that they know so well?
“Courage, Dear Hearts,” C.S. Lewis might counsel us. It would be wise counsel.
This extraordinary season of profound transition demands of us courage.
Chronicles of Narnia Courage.
David of David and Goliath Courage.
Jesus promised his first disciples an advocate: the Holy Spirit.
And that same Advocate is here with us, too. The very breath of God moving in and through all of God’s creation. Through you and me.
God is fetching us for a new way of being--
Fetching us to be like trapeze artists: hands open, arms outstretched flying from one trapeze bar to the next--
Twirling and dancing through the air in that transformative space betwixt and between what we know and what can’t yet see or even imagine.
Is it terrifying? Probably.
Is it Good? Most certainly.
Is it Necessary? Yes.
The world needs free, dancing, hopeful, creative, courageous people.
The world needs transformed people who can transform our world. Ever more shaping how we live and move and have our being in the image of a loving, generous, and good Creator.
It’s a strange time, friends.
Let us pray for courage:
That we might risk transformation in that betwixt and between space of what we thought we knew and expected and what we can’t yet see; trusting that Jesus is always reaching towards us to catch us in new and unexpected ways.
Maybe, even, especially now.
Easter 6, Year A
Notes: The Parable of the Trapeze, Danaan Parry
St. Vincent Pallotti Center, Washington, DC
My Sermons (and other thoughts)
a sampling of sermons preached in the Episcopal Diocese of Arizona and a sprinkling of other reflections