Dear People of God,
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
These weeks at the end of the year, the Church’s year, are always a peculiar time. They are a liminal space, a bit like standing in a doorway between two rooms where one is in both and neither all at once. This time from All Saints Day through to the beginning of Advent is a time of remembering and of looking forward all at the same time. It is a small season of “remembering our future”.
This liminal time makes me think of the ten bridesmaids in today’s gospel passage. Before the bridegroom comes, before they are divided into groups of wisdom and foolishness, even before they all fall asleep, these ten bridesmaids are in a similar space and time to us, here. They have been to, or at least heard about, wedding parties before. Indeed, the anticipation for this wedding party builds, in part, because they have some idea of what to expect. This will be a fun and joyous celebration, like those in the past. Remembering their future.
For us, this season begins with All Saints Day. We remember all the saints of the Church. Some famous, some known only to family and friends, others still known to God alone. Regardless of their level of fame, each of these saints shines, not only as an example of a Christian life well-lived, but of the tremendous possibility for transformation that comes from surrendering one’s life to Christ. These people are remembered because of the ways in which the power of Christ’s triumph over death and the joy of the wedding feast of the Lamb were made known through them in the world. We remember these people, but we also look forward when we think of them. We look to ways in which we might submit to God’s will and reflect Christ in our own lives, but also to the day, the Last Day, on which the entire Communion of Saints will be gathered together, each in their appointed place, around the throne of God for all of eternity. We remember our future.
Today our parish observes Remembrance Sunday. We commemorate those faithful departed who died in war for the sake of our rights, freedoms, and privileges, and we remember together all of those who have and continue to serve in the armed forces. In our commemoration and remembrance we look back to what has happened and still happens; we reflect on the circumstances that create war and armed conflict; we grieve those lost, injured, or otherwise harmed, and we pray and are concerned for those willing to serve today. But we also look forward, considering how we might best use those rights, freedoms, and privileges so hard-won to move toward a world where armed conflict becomes a rarity—even an historical artefact—rather than a daily news story. We remember our future.
Next Sunday would, in a year without plague threatening us, be the week we celebrate the anniversary of the parish. We would gather for worship, share in the Word and the heavenly feast of the Eucharist, reflect on 152 years of witness to the glory of God in this parish, share stories, and celebrate with vigour. But we are also in the midst of a very important conversation as a parish. Our church building is in need of significant repair, which leads us to look ahead to how we might show the glory of God and be a faithful Christian witness to our community for the next 150 years. We must make good, prayerful plans for how to employ our abundance of blessing to repair and create space for worship and mission and community which will serve future generations as well as the plans of our ancestors in this parish have served us. We must remember our future.
Finally, on 22 November will be the Last Sunday after Pentecost: The Reign of Christ. On this day we wrap up the year of telling and reflecting on the Gospel, the εὐαγγέλιον (evangelion), the story of Jesus Christ and the Good News that it is for us and for the world by speaking of Christ as reigning over all Creation. This is the leader and ruler who embodies justice, peace, humility, compassion, mercy, and love. This is the king who values each subject more than the throne or the glory and seeks to raise each of us to a share in those estates. We read and re-read scripture and hear Jesus speaking to the disciples and to us about the nearness of the Kingdom of God, only to realize in our relationships, our prayers, and in the movement of the Spirit in our lives just how near it is. Uncomfortably so, at times. We also close this short season by finishing where we began and looking to our future, thinking of All Saints Day, and the coming Last Day when we will all join Christ the King in the fullness of the Kingdom of God. We remember what we have seen of this king’s glory thus far and we look ahead to the world without end when we will know that glory, not in a mirror, dimly, but face to face. Once again, we remember our future.
This strange season of living as the ten bridesmaids, remembering and anticipating the wedding feast all at the same time, has been amplified this year by the circumstances in which we find ourselves. The pandemic all around us which creates ever-changing advice and restrictions on movement and socialization gives us a feeling of being neither here nor there. The great anxiety about the American presidential election was nearly a week of an entire country feeling neither here nor there. (Along with many of us in one of its neighbouring countries.)
In so many ways, we find ourselves standing in that doorway—a portal between one place and another—but not fully standing in either one. We stand neither here, nor there, but in between. This season of recollection and planning ahead, of remembering our future, can be an unsettling one. Some of our recollection is sombre, some is joyful, some leaves us feeling mixed. But at the centre of it all, even in our deepest unsettlement, is the figure of Christ. It is around Christ that the saints all circle, it is in Christ that we know the perfect freedom of Godly service, it is to show forth the light of Christ in the world that we gather as a parish community, and it is at the seat of Christ the King that we will all gather for eternity.
Amongst all of the uncertainty and the feelings of neither here, nor there, the constant figure and the still point on which we may hang all of our joys, our sorrows, our dreams, and our hopes, is Christ. Our faithful, loving, sure and certain hope; our ever-present God who never leaves us and who has walked with us through all that came before, who waits for us in what is to come, and who stands with us in the doorway, the sign of the future that we remember.
May this in-between time be one filled with dreams, inspired memories, possibilities, visions, and blessings for each of you.
Yours in Christ,
The Rev. Andrew Rampton +
This letter was written for the Parish of Holy Trinity, Winnipeg, for the Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 32), 8 November 2020.