Faith Works 4-11-15
Energies at work in the world
The week after Easter can be a cruel season for parsons, choir directors, church staff of all sorts.
After the great long slow-footed race of Lent, through the weeks until the sprint of Palm Sunday to Easter morn, there's a sense of crossing a finish line, passing through a barrier, and a readiness to just stop and lie down.
Many in church life, including preachers, do just that. So do many church members: the Sunday after what's often the largest attendance of the year is frequently the lowest. Some even call it "Low Sunday" as if it were part of the liturgical calendar.
Vacations, trips, departures of various sorts, and yet Sunday morning the faithful gather, whether a remnant or a bit more. We worship and pray and indeed someone is going to offer up a message, a sermon for the day to start the week.
I try to make sure that when I'm planning out sermons and series' out ahead that I never stop with Easter's text and title, but go on out a bit. Call it follow-thru, call it a stretch past the obvious, call it a trick to not find yourself in a state of near-collapse while trying to think of what to say this week, but if my themes and dreams and prayers arc onwards into May, there's going to be a point to pause and catch my breath before summertime.
Mother's Day is coming soon, banquets and breakfasts and special devotionals in church and the world; deadlines for camp registration (and for my own denomination, planning for our once every two years wider gathering that's in Columbus this July); starting the lists of graduates for the end of May… you start to find the inertia sliding away and fresh momentum picking up, even if at a slower pace than from Ash Wednesday through last week.
One transmission gear that starts to turn as others wind down is the power of spring itself. "All nature sings, and 'round me rings the music of the spheres," as the old hymn reminds us. Daffodils and hyacinth, grass and weeds, forsythia and maple leaflets all start to show forth energy long hidden, growth that is nearly visible in real time.
Overhead, the level steady grey ceiling of Ohio winter clouds starts to break apart and erupt into thunderheads and towers of white shot through with purple. Lightning in the corner of your eye makes your head turn just as the rumble of thunder drums right through your chest. The world is full of antic energies, new life or the renewal of old life, and your winter weariness retreats in the face of asking yourself "is this the year I will cut back that viburnum near the chimney?" The mower must be serviced, and the mulch spread.
Post-Easter preaching is, for me, of a piece with that. I may be needing to catch my breath, but there are lower and slower tasks of maintenance, of the people and the parish, that need mulching and trimming and servicing. The outlines of the faith, practices which can endure through the year, warm months or cold, the body life of the gathered community and how our structures reflect our values.
Not the high drama of resurrection, but part of what Peter and James and John, Mary Magdalene and Dorcas, Paul and Barnabas all had to spend some time on as well. It's not all glory and poetry, not all the time. Sometimes it's hands and knees work, down in the soil and tilth.
It can be a stewardship sermon, a series on prayer, a few calls out of the ordinary round. Mulching and weeding the seedbed of faith and life.
Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; tell him about your spiritual maintenance practices at email@example.com, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.