“And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.” Acts 2:2-4
Greetings St. John UCC and St. Philip’s UCC!
I think it’s fitting that the longest season of the Church year is what we commonly refer to as “ordinary time,” but is also called “the season after Pentecost.” On Pentecost, we celebrate the birthday of the Church, the coming of the Holy Spirit to empower the disciples to spread the Good News of God’s love and grace through Jesus Christ far and wide. And then, for several months, we linger in the season after Pentecost.
I vividly remember the day I brought my son home from the hospital after he was born, getting all the stuff in from the car and settling in the house, and then looking at this sleeping newborn infant and thinking, “Now what?!?” The birthing process is eventful, and experienced doctors and nurses guide new parents through those first couple of days of caring for a tiny new human. But then, after the birth and all the commotion has settled down, you look down at the new life in your arms and ask, “Now what?!?”
The Pentecost moment was exciting and memorable for the disciples to say the least. But then, once the Holy Spirit had blown through with a violent wind and tongues of flame, gifting the disciples and birthing the Church through them and their proclamation of the Good News, we can imagine them looking around and asking, “Now what?!?”
The season after Pentecost answers that question. The “Now what?!?” is the disciples figuring out how to build and grow the Church from the ground up. And that’s what we continue to do today, two thousand years later. We’re still trying to figure out how to be and grow the Church! For several months, all through the summer and all the way until we hit Advent in December, we marinate in the season after Pentecost, the season of ordinary time.
And the really extraordinary thing about the season of ordinary time this year is that we’re living into the very heart of a post-Pentecost season in the life of the Church! We’re learning how to be the Church together as two congregations, divided by geography, but united by technology. We’re learning how to mutually support one another, care for one another, pray for one another, and participate in ministry together. Really, I think our post-Pentecost moment began last fall when the Holy Spirit blew through our congregations and lit a fire in our hearts to try something new. On December 1, we hit the ground running and maybe you had the same thought I did: “Now what?!?”
We’re now six months into this holy experiment. Has our “Now what?!?” begun evolving into a “What’s next?” The disciples started spreading the Good News, gathering communities of faith, baptizing them, and guiding them to become faithful followers of Jesus’ way of love and grace. I’m not sure how long it took for their “Now what?!?” to become a “What’s next?,” but they, and the Church, eventually got there. The communities of faith grew, and as they did, they had to keep adjusting and changing to meet the next challenge that came their way—and there was always a new challenge to address!
“What’s next?”—that’s the spirit of the season after Pentecost, the season of ordinary time. If the Church is growing, it’s changing, it’s adapting to the next challenge it meets along the way. The immediate moments after Pentecost may have felt desperate: “Now what?!?” But then, as their lives adjusted to the care and nurture of the new life, the new Church, they were entrusted to grow, they began to ever more confidently and boldly ask: “What’s next?” with excitement and passion.
May this season after Pentecost, this season of ordinary time, indeed, be a season of growth as we boldly tackle the challenges that lie ahead for the Church together, confidently asking “What’s next?” as we strengthen our mission and ministry to build God’s kingdom of love and grace here and now.
Pentecost blessings, friends! What’s next?