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The Sundays after Pentecost

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The first Sunday after Pentecost is called Trinity Sunday, but until Advent begins, every subsequent Sunday is numbered as “The [Nth] Sunday after Pentecost.” This season is sometimes even called “Ordinary Time.” Its feasts are few; the Transfiguration and All Saints’ Day are the only major holy days of the season. Consequently, the Sundays after Pentecost can feel “emptied.” Some saints, including several apostles, are remembered during these months, but Jesus Christ is the prism of Christian self-understanding. What should we meditate upon when the tangibility of Jesus’ own life seems so far removed?

The Christian life is lived between two realities. This is clearly heard in Jesus’ words to Pontius Pilate: “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). A kingdom is a vivid image, but Jesus’ kingdom cannot be described with the political metaphors of our world. In speaking of a kingdom, Jesus speaks of something that is; in speaking of a kingdom “not of this world,” Jesus speaks of something that will be but is not yet. Jesus’ words fuse presence and absence together because they intimate something which we do not fully apprehend.

The Sundays after Pentecost do the same. During his ministry, Jesus said, “You will not always have me” (John 12:8) — and yet he also promised his disciples, “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matt. 28:20). The Sundays after Pentecost are defined by a seeming absence in which the teachings and deeds of Jesus are firmly rooted in the past — and yet we are present here and now, living in the presence of a promise. This season is not empty. Every moment may be set apart and consecrated to God through acts of Christian service and devotion. What else is the Christian life but this? In and as the Church, we are always suspended between what was and what is to come — and thus the Sundays after Pentecost are also the Sundays before Advent.

This meditation was originally written for Trinity Episcopal Church in Lawrence, Kansas.

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