Here you will find my monthly reflections.
In church, the summer begins with Pentecost. That means that the summer can start anytime from May 10th through June 13th. This is because Pentecost follows the moveable date for Easter by occurring 50 days later, just as the original feast of Pentecost follows Passover. Even the name Pentecost, is simply a way of rendering “fiftieth” in Greek. But when it happens is not nearly as important as why we remember it, and what it can mean for today. It’s usually reckoned that the Christian church was born on Pentecost Day, because it is the first experience of the young band of disciples acting on their faith without Jesus present in a physical way. It demonstrates the presence and power of the Spirit, and it is that experience we look to today. So, becoming a disciple simply means becoming a follower of Jesus, and acting on that decision is the way of Pentecost.
More than half the church year is accounted in terms of being simply “after Pentecost” except in some older traditions that counted this time as Kingdomtide, or Ordinary Time. Kingdomtide refers to the characteristic of living with God’s Rule “on earth as it is in heaven,” the prayer of all disciples; and Ordinary Time refers to living in the Ordinus, or Rule of God, meaning exactly the same thing. Ordinary, in the church sense, means to live profoundly governed lives, under God’s guidance, and actually represents anything but “ordinary” in our usual sense. In the Northern Hemisphere, all this works out nicely with the natural calendar, because the blooming and ripening of the church in preparation for the future harvest happens at exactly the same time as it does in nature. We begin as “firstfruits” in Late Spring, and through the deepening and maturing process of God’s Spirit, we become fully grown in our discipleship.
Disciples, that’s what God us asking us to become. This word is much more central to the Christian understanding of our call than words like servant or member, or even friend. All those words are used in Scripture, but Disciple is the label we are invited to embrace. It is really a simple word, and although we encounter it in its Latin form, inviting us to connect with all its word-cousins, like discipline, it actually is a Greek word, mathetais, that gives us mathematics or systematic. The implication is of student, structured learner, diligent follower. We are called to learn, to pay attention to, and to acquire skills for later use. This idea is matched with the metaphor of the seasons, inviting us to apply our knowledge and growth in fruitfulness and maturity. So what kind of learning are we to do? Well, it appears that we are to learn how to treat one another the way Jesus treated his disciples. We are to offer and receive the same grace-filled behavior that was cultivated among those who lived with him in Galilee. We are to treat strangers to the same abiding welcome; to offer whatever service God might require. We are to listen for the words and whisper of God’s Spirit, so that we can be known as a people deeply attuned to God. In other words, we are to find the grace that helps us to dedicate ourselves once again to the call of God in this world. That the idea of being like Math students is given as our label, we are to do this wholeheartedly, and systematically. This is what Pentecost offers to us. From the moment of the Spirit’s reception that day, we have been called to open ourselves again to God. This is not just a history lesson, not jut a theoretical label. We are called to live into the good news of God; the God who lives with and in US! Having taught Medieval History, I learned that this process of systematic discipleship became the norm for all of skilled life, particularly in the centuries before modern universities. Those who wanted to acquire a skill would commit themselves to a Master in that craft, becoming an apprentice. After years of watching and learning, they would be given the opportunity to mirror the artist’s craft. This was under the watchful eye of the artist, at first, and gave rise to the term journeyman, or to be inclusive, journeyer. We who find and use the metaphor of journey for our spiritual progress find ourselves easily in this story. Then, after time was spent performing all the work that such an artist would be expected to accomplish, an occasion would be created to permit a journeying worker to create something on their own, without their Master’s intervention or oversight. Successful completion of the task named them Artist in their own right, and they could begin to work with apprentices. This is the way of our journey in faith. We begin in dedicating ourselves to learning deeply. We grow through companionship and guidance to be disciples, journeying toward God’s realm. Then, we begin to learn enough so that we can help others along the way, keeping the path of Discipleship open and perpetual in its operation. Pentecost is the time to remember and to embrace that path again. It is a beautiful time of growth and maturing. It is also summer!
In shared discipleship,
The Rev. Paul Cullity