As we walk through the Easter season in the lectionary we come into another time of emptiness and waiting. The first followed the crucifixion, when Jesus was in the tomb and nobody could get to the body for anointing. It was a time of aching loss and overwhelming confusion. The second such time is the ten days after the risen Jesus, “carried up into heaven,” leaves his disciples, and they must wait for the Holy Spirit to arrive, which doesn’t happen until Pentecost. Their confusion during this time is probably just as overwhelming and the loss just as strong. Their Master is gone. They don’t know what to do next.
Today is in the middle of that ten-day stretch of barrenness. The risen Jesus has taken wing, as it were, leaving a void. From staring blankly at an empty sky, the disciples have turned and found their way back to Jerusalem, where they are trying to figure the resurrection out. What did Jesus mean by saying the Holy Spirit would come? Why did he just disappear without ending the Roman occupation and returning Israel to self rule? What was he – man or spirit? – something human or something of God? What does it all mean?
How long does it take to understand the resurrection? Is such a thing even possible? I mean, to understand, beyond the doctrinal pat answers, how a human is the second person of the Holy Trinity – God incarnate – and what he is going to do – and what he wants us to do – do we ever really understand?
I have still been looking for a Christ who will overthrow empires. I think we all keep expecting God to intervene in human stupidity and save us from the mess we have made of the world. We keep asking, as the disciples did as Jesus was about to leave them on Ascension Day, to paraphrase, “Is this the moment when you will get rid of the awful dictators, the pain and the injustice, correct our terrible mistakes, and liberate us?”
The time between the Ascension and Pentecost is an empty room we inhabit with one another. We are waiting for something we don’t understand, and we are bereft and unmoored.
A couple of days ago my spiritual director asked me how I would like the Holy Spirit to inform me when she comes. The usual things popped into my mind. I’d like in-sight, clarity as to my next steps, wisdom in dealing with those I love, and the strength to say ‘no’ when I need to. But after I’d run through these things in my mind I felt a great stillness settle into my heart. And I said, “I don’t know. I truly don’t know.”
I am waiting for the revelation that will transform this time of pain, loss and anger. I am waiting for the wind of the spirit to sit on my head like tongues of flame – so that I can understand, really understand, the language of the hearts of those who are not like me. I am waiting not just for insight, not just to be informed. This year I am waiting for a transformation – at once personal and also collective – a new understanding of Christ – a renewed understanding of the resurrection.
Yes, here I am in the empty room, with you and Christ’s other disciples. I am really hoping that this year the door will be blown off. Come, Holy Spirit, come.