Seasons (Holy Trinity Sunday)

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Just as our secular calendar has four seasons, so too, the church year has different seasons.  They’re seasons like Advent, Epiphany, Christmas and Easter.

And yet, usually when I speak of “seasons” in the church year, I use less liturgically precise terminology.  And so I tell people that I’ll get around to that “after Christmas”!  Or, that we’ll plan the next thing for “after Easter”!  And in the same vein, even though it’s not technically a “season” of the church year, I also think and speak of the season “after Yard Sale”!

And really, it often feels like a new season “after Yard Sale.”  Many of us have spent a lot of time, energy and thought getting ready for Yard Sale over the last couple of months.  And now it feels like we’ll have time and bandwidth to focus on the next things coming up this summer.  And indeed, there are a lot of exciting things coming up, including the Honduras Mission Trip, the Juneteenth celebration we’ll be hosting here in a few weeks, and Vacation Bible School.  It’ll be a new and different season, not just because the calendar is changing to summer.

And today, on this Holy Trinity Sunday, we actually do transition to one of those different “seasons” of the church year – we move into what we often colloquially call the “long green season” when we begin the green “Sundays after Pentecost”, which seem to go on forever.  This is not always the most exciting season, unless you’re on the Altar Guild, because it means you don’t have to change paraments for another 20 weeks!

And so it’s appropriate that today’s Gospel reading is also about a change of season.  Today’s Gospel is the final 5 verses of Matthew’s Gospel, and it’s the moment when the disciples went to this “mountain that Jesus directed them to” prior to his crucifixion.  There, they see the Risen Jesus, and they get their marching orders for the next “season” of their life as disciples of Jesus: “Go … make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit… teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.” And often, we focus on these things that the disciples are supposed to “do.”

And yet, there’s one more line.  And they’re the final words Jesus speaks in Matthew’s Gospel: “Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” And that promise, more than any command that Jesus gives, is what’s most important in this new “season” of their lives that the disciples are about to enter.

There is, in Matthew’s Gospel, no account of the “ascension of Jesus.”  And this scene is the one and only time the Risen Jesus appears bodily to the whole group of disciples.  And so without that final line, it would be easy to read the commands of Jesus to go to all nations in way that sounds like, “Off you go!  Good luck!  Try not to mess things up too badly, and I’ll see you someday when I come back, or perhaps when you die and go to heaven!”

But that’s not the message.  Jesus sends them out into a new season of their lives, but promises that somehow, perhaps in ways they don’t fully appreciate, Jesus is still going to be with them.  And this won’t be just for a while as they adapt, but until “the end of the age” – that is, for as long as the world exists.  Jesus will be with them for the long haul, no matter what “season” of their lives they’re going through.

“Remember, I am with you always.”  That means that wherever they go, they’re never alone.  Jesus will always be with them.  That means that no matter what new situation they face, they don’t have to figure it out for themselves.  Jesus will always be guiding them.  That means that no matter what they do, they don’t have to rely on their own strength.  Finally, Jesus will be the one acting through them to teach and baptize and make disciples, and the mission will finally depend on Jesus and not on them.  (This is same idea that Paul writes to the Corinthians when he says that we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be clear that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us.)

Jesus will be with them always, no matter what season of their lives they may be entering or living through.  And that’s true for us as well.  Whether together we’re entering this new “after Yard Sale” season, or whether we’re embarking on a new “season” in our personal lives, Jesus’ promise to be with us is still the key thing to remember.

And that’s because no matter what “season” we enter, it will always come with new and unexpected challenges, opportunities and possibilities.  And often, like those first disciples, it can be that we’re entering a new season as we’re still living through the last season.

But Jesus promises to be with us also, to the end of the age – which means no matter what “season” we may be in or transitioning into.  And for us, also, that means that we’re never alone.  Jesus will always be walking with us, revealing his presence to us in sometimes subtle ways – through the words of a friend, the stirrings of the Spirit in our hearts or the bread and wine of communion.

Jesus will be with us to the end of the age – which means that no matter what “season” we may be in or transitioning into, Jesus will always be guiding us and helping us to figure out the next steps so that we don’t have to be stuck where we are until we have everything figured out.

Jesus will be with us to the end of the age – which means that no matter what “season” we may be in or transitioning into, Jesus will always be working through us to help us live faithfully into the future.  The message to the first disciples is also the message to us – Jesus isn’t a reward for being strong enough to do all that he calls us to do.  Instead, Jesus promises to work in and through us to empower us to do things which bring hope and help and meaning to others as well as to ourselves.

So as we transition into “the long green season”, and “the season after Yard Sale”, and whatever season of your life you may be living into right now, these final words of Jesus are for you and for all of us, “Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”