This past weekend was my graduation weekend from seminary and I am winding down from the joyful Friday evening baccalaureate worship service and exhortation to live the vita mixta—a life that contains both action for justice and time for spiritual reflection, both mystery and play, both rest and Sabbath; a life where you pay attention.
I am savoring the moments of intimate prayer together with classmates before we processed—on Friday in a random order with friends, dancing our way into the sanctuary with drums, and on Saturday in the alphabetical order required for proper matching of diplomas with the person, but in both cases prayer that wrapped us round for these last steps of this part of the journey.
Certainly I am recovering from the commencement ceremony, its length, the beautiful articulation of the story and struggle to understand God's call from our classmate, the surprise award/honor that I received, the blessing given as I was draped with my hood, the line of handshakes from trustees and the handshakes and hugs from faculty.
Following the weekend's party, I am delighting in the re-connections with friends who've supported me and their thoughtful gifts, some bought more than a year ago to honor this time, others with the idea of some gardening respite for me.
What I have not yet done is taken the time to grieve for the endings that this commencement marks. In every beginning is an ending that entails some losses, and I will miss many things about being a seminarian.
But in fact, I seem to have been thrown right into the next thing as I got a call to do pulpit supply for this Sunday. I'm preaching on Acts 1: 15-26, titling my sermon: "Replacing Judas."
Here are my ponderings:
This story is slotted between the story of the Ascension and of Pentecost and that makes me think that it was in some way quite important to the life of the early church. Certainly there's the symbolism of the twelve, but I can't think that's all.
I think this story raises a question of how we choose leaders, what are the qualifications that we seek, and what do we really need? For example, why pick between these two unknown men, rather than pick someone who really had been there through it all, like Mary of Magdala, or Joanna, or one of the other women who stayed through the crucifixion and who were the first at the tomb?
Or what does this story tell us about call, comparing Judas' call/role as a disciple vs. Matthias' call to replace him by winning the lottery.
And what does it mean that we never hear about Matthias again after this?
For the congregation where I'm preaching the question may be: how do people move on after betrayal? They have recently lost a pastor and a few comments that I heard make me think that some of this small congregation of people may be glad about that departure. Nonetheless, any time a pastoral relationship doesn't work out there is a betrayal of trust or of relationship. So, what can this story bring to a congregation who has been a part of a betrayal? I make no judgment about who betrayed whom, because I have no information, but think I can be sure that betrayal is part of the mix.
Is it a coincidence that I'm considering blessings and betrayal in the same week? Betrayal doesn't happen unless you care and are connected, yes?
I welcome your thoughts, preferably before Sunday morning.
And from poet Lisa Colt, this Prayer (from Claiming the Spirit Within, edited by Marilyn Sewell):
May we reveal our abundance without shame.
May we peel back our sleeping wintery layers
like snakeskins, like the silk chrysalis,
like clothing cast off during love.
May we unravel with abandon like lover's knots
before knitting ourselves back to the heart.
May we settle into our own rhythms as tides do--
within the borders of the moon's calling.
May the music of our souls
be accompanied by grand gestures
and the persistent clapping of hummingbird's wings.
May the milky fingers of the moon
reach down nightly to cherish and unveil us.
May we turn our bodies generously in its light
like tranquil fish glinting underwater,
like precious stones.
When we open our mouths to sing
may the seasons pause in their long journey
to listen and applaud.