Saint Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral, Minneapolis
The Very Rev. Paul J. Lebens-Englund, Dean
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.
- The Book of Acts, Chapter Two
Dear Saint Markans,
The Eastertide narrative should feel eerily familiar to us, not just because we rehearse the story each year, but because we remember it – participating, again and again, in the archetypal pattern it reveals: life – death – resurrection – release – uncertainty – renewal – new life.
This pattern exists in our personal lives and in our life together at Saint Mark’s.
The new liturgical year begins at Advent with the promise of ‘Life,’ born among us in Jesus at Christmas. That ‘Life,’ which is the ‘light of the world,’ suffers and dies during Holy Week, yet defeats ‘Death’ through the Easter Resurrection, rising victorious from the grave and moving among us in new, often unrecognizable ways, providing contact, comfort, confidence, and encouragement. Anticipating the disruption His leave-taking will create, Jesus offers this parting gift: ‘Peace I leave with you; my own peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.’ The Risen One then departs after forty days, Ascending into the heavens. We have no choice but to Release Him, which creates Uncertainty in his absence. Despite the gift of Peace and the promise of an ‘Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send,’ we can’t help but tremble a bit during these days of waiting and watching, when the veil between our ‘hope for the best’ and ‘fear of the worst’ is most fragile.
This Sunday is the Feast of Pentecost, the Fiftieth Day, on which the promised and much-anticipated Holy Spirit arrives, in some minds, to ‘comfort the comfortless,’ only to create a marvelous spectacle of further disruption to an already-anxious community. The Spirit’s arrival is the source of immediate conflict, the predictable tension between ‘chaos’ and ‘order,’ both of which we’re to understand are gifts from God, signs of the Spirit’s creating and re-creating power. Renewal is hard work, not for the faint of heart. Yet, as the archetypal pattern assures us, there is no New Life without it. So we lean into the necessity of change, knowing full well the pattern of Life we’re presently living will Die and that we’ll be reborn into a ‘second naivete’ (Ricoeur), a ‘second childhood,’ which will also demand a second set of growing pains.
At Saint Mark’s, we have largely lived in the Resurrection phase these past eight years together, but the pandemic, which has exacerbated many of the pre-pandemic challenges, has really pushed us – and the whole Church with us, of course – into a phase that will be increasingly marked by Release, by Uncertainty, and by the predictable challenges of Renewal. We are not exceptional in this, nor should we assume that we are (nor even desire that we be) immune from these natural forces, which God set in motion long ago: chaos – order – chaos – re-order, ad infinitum. Our work, as people of faith, is to find our present place in the pattern – to see the signs in the sun and the moon and the stars – and then to discern how best to participate in what God is already doing. Resistance is an option, but it is futile and deeply frustrating. Faithfulness now looks more and more like trust, like hard work, like courageous creativity, like risk, like a high pain threshold.
Jesus invites us to follow.
The Way is often unclear and uncertain and it’s guaranteed to be marked by suffering and death.
Yet our faith assures us this is the Way to New Life – leaning into the winds of change, not running from them, not hiding.
With God’s peace within us and among us, let our hearts not be troubled, let us not be afraid. For God is now, as ever, making all things new – bringing all things to their perfection.
Grace & Peace,
This Sunday @ 8am – Eucharist w/ Renewal of Baptismal Vows
This Sunday @ 10:30am – Eucharist w/ Baptism, Good-byes, and Blessings