The Church of England, with its customary penchant for a catchy title, calls the season we’re currently in “after Ascension Day until the Day of Pentecost”. Well, it’s nothing if not literal. I wonder if it would work in a hashtag?
But as I pondered a sermon for last Sunday, I was struck by the importance of this curious little gap between seasons. Sometimes we need gaps to make sense of a story.
I’m told this is how writing used to look. ‘Scripta continua’, trying to represent the human voice speaking, running words into each other. But scribes found that readers needed pauses, needed breaths, needed space to see the words clearly.
Signwriters are still finding this today.
JesusdiedroseascendedtheSpiritcamethechurchwasborn, yes, but there were spaces in this history.
There was Good Friday, and then, before Easter came, there was a Saturday which no-one dared call good. Jesus rose, and then, for forty days, met with friends and with crowds, apparently eating quite a lot of fish.
He ascended, and the clouds hid him from his friends, and then – this. This week, in which he is hidden. This week, in which the only way his friends could think to respond was to wait and to pray. This gap.
If we read without the gaps, when we come across times in our lives or in our world, where Jesus is hidden in the clouds, we might think we’ve got something wrong. Have we not done enough, or done too much? Do we have this story wrong, if Jesus seems hidden?
But if we read with the gaps, when the clouds hide the full goodness of God, when we are waiting for the full picture, then we know that this is part of the story. After the gap, there will be a new word, a new season, a new hope. It’s coming. We are left with the promise of Jesus ringing in our ears. It’s coming. But it’s not here yet. And if, in the meantime, we don’t know how to do anything but wait, and pray, and be together, let’s do that.
Last Monday, clouds gathered in Manchester. We hear of the clouds in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria. Our hearts break again. We ask, again, God, where have you gone? Why are you hidden?
We weep with those who weep. We wait with those who wait.
We look for the new word, the new season - but in the meantime, we will wait, we will pray, we will be together, in the gap.