The time between the Ascension and Pentecost finds the disciples on a rollercoaster. They had already thought Jesus was going to bring in the kingdom there and then, been confronted by the Cross, met the Risen Lord – and now he is off again. To a wonderful reign of glory, but from heaven. With the Spirit to strengthen them, but not yet: first they must go back to the threatening city and pray.
That’s some gap to mind. And one we still face now, as the news from Manchester, Libya, Syria, Egypt confronts us with a kingdom still not fully come, not to mention our own continuing sickness and mortality.
All communities of faith are perhaps especially there to mind the gap, to help us face our liminal times, to help us negotiate our times of both tragedy and joy.
The gift to us in our own community of faith is that we can do this with a remarkable reality of hope, because despite the gap, the seeming delay, we are bold to say that Christ is Risen, death is conquered, the kingdom for which we pray will come.
Taking bold hold of this reality can of course be quite a challenge for us
. But our lives and the lives of our communities are transformed when we do.
We are for instance able with the help of the promised Holy Spirit to respond to tragedy in a way that breaks the cycle of violence and recrimination
Take for instance this report on the TV coverage in Egypt of the bombing of the Coptic Cathedral in Alexandria a few weeks ago
Twelve seconds of silence is an awkward eternity on television. Amr Adeeb, perhaps the most prominent talk show host in Egypt, leaned forward as he searched for a response.
“The Copts of Egypt … are made of … steel!” he finally uttered.
Moments earlier, Adeeb was watching a colleague in a simple home in Alexandria speak with the widow of Naseem Faheem, the guard at St. Mark’s Cathedral in the seaside Mediterranean city.
On Palm Sunday, the guard had redirected a suicide bomber through the perimeter metal detector, where the terrorist detonated. Likely the first to die in the blast, Faheem saved the lives of dozens inside the church.
“I’m not angry at the one who did this,” said his wife, children by her side. “I’m telling him, ‘May God forgive you, and we also forgive you. Believe me, we forgive you.’
“‘You put my husband in a place I couldn’t have dreamed of.’”
Stunned, Adeeb stammered about Copts bearing atrocities over hundreds of years, but couldn’t escape the central scandal.
“How great is this forgiveness you have!” his voice cracked. “If it were my father, I could never say this. But this is their faith and religious conviction.”
And millions marveled with him across the airwaves of Egypt.
And that is why we are here as a church today, and what we are to do. To mind the gap. To build a community marked by the character of Christ that can bring hope to a world still scarred by violence and sin.
When that happens, the Lord’s Prayer comes true. God’s kingdom comes, God’s will is done, here on earth as it is in heaven.
Right in the middle now of nine days of prayer leading up to Penetcost for that kingdom to come more and more in our own time, in a world that still has a massive gap to mind between how instinctively it knows things should be and how they actually are.
So get to work now, as you wait in the city, praying as the apostles did before you for the fiery presence of the Spirit which alone can empower us to the mind the gap, for ourselves and for the communities of our world.