Here we are on the 6th of the 7 Sundays in Eastertide. Thursday is Ascension Day. Soon comes Pentecost.
In the Gospel today, Jesus is preparing his disciples for his departure. We are looking back to the time after the Last Supper and before the arrest in the Garden. Jesus is saying goodbye.
And he says it this way: Soon I am going, but don’t be afraid. You won’t be alone. I’m sending someone to be with you, to be your companion when I am gone, to help you remember the things I taught you.
That companion is the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, the Comforter, who will walk with the disciples when Jesus walks with them no longer, to bind them together in community, and give them the power to continue Jesus’ work in the world.
That’s where we are in the story of Jesus and that’s where we are in the story of the church year. And this is our story, too. We too are preparing to receive again at Pentecost the Holy Spirit, who will walk with us and bind us together and empower us to do God’s work in the world.
So, what are we doing to prepare for the Spirit to be our companion going forward?
Most of us have busy lives. We have lists of things to do. We have family to raise or elders to look after. We have our work. We need to shop and cook and exercise. We have instruments to practice and books to read and photographs to take and games to play. We have places to go and chores to do.
And that’s just my own partial list. Like many of us, I sometimes get so caught up in “busy” that I relegate my spiritual development to something I might get around to after I’ve done all the other things. How about you? Oh, we love God and we want to be good, but since God is infinite, maybe tending to our spiritual lives doesn’t have to be on the front burner right now....
And yet. What could be more important than tending to our spiritual lives? Our spiritual selves aren’t an add-on to our regular selves. Our spiritual self is the very core of our whole self as a beloved child of God.
Our Bible begins in Genesis with a couple living in a beautiful garden, and it ends with this image in Revelation: a heavenly city come to earth as a community in a garden, gathered around God, from whom flows life-giving water, featuring a tree of life whose leaves are God’s medicine for healing. We are invited to live in this garden and be healed and reconciled. That is God’s beautiful vision for us. We are nourished by this living water and this healing tree of life. This is who we are created to be, citizens of this garden. This is the home of our spiritual self.
Tending to the spiritual self means partaking of that living water and allowing God’s medicine to heal our wounds and fractures as we go about our daily business.
These last days, we’ve been holding discernment meetings where many of us have come together to talk about hopes and desires for the future of Bruton Parish. Some women of the parish gathered last weekend to talk about women’s ministries here as well.
And all through these discussions, I’ve been hearing a longing for connection. Connection with God and connection with others. For some it’s connection with one another here - women connecting to women, parents to other parents, younger folks to older folks. For others, the longing is for connection with the community around us - people in the parish connecting with people in the community who need companionship and help and healing.
Some have voiced a desire for deeper connection with God through worship, through new engagement with the Scriptures, through exploring spiritual themes in literature.
St Augustine described the work of the Spirit as connecting. He described the Spirit as the love that moves between Father and Son, between God and us, connecting us to God and to one another. Connecting us to our story as the people of God. Connecting us to our true selves.
There’s an intentionality to spiritual development, and that intentionality is often a casualty of our busy lives. We think we will get around to it. But that’s not tending to it.
If we tend to it, the Spirit nourishes us with living water from God’s own heart, and gives us the strength, and fosters the love needed, to connect with one another and to connect with the community so that we are in fact able to continue God’s work in the world as Jesus has asked us to do.
Jesus is reminding us today of our need to intentionally prepare for the Spirit to be among us, to strengthen us, to work through us to connect us to God and to one another and to our true selves. This isn’t ‘when I get around to it’ work but something our very souls and the soul of this community depends upon.