by The Reverend Craig Lemming, Associate Rector

In the name of Jesus whose love conquers everything in this world. Amen.

On this seventh Sunday of Easter, like generations of Christians before us, we find ourselves tarrying between the Feast of the Ascension, which we celebrated on Thursday, and the Feast of Pentecost, which we will celebrate next Sunday. Those first disciples of Jesus, heard his promise of the Holy Spirit’s coming, then witnessed his ascension into heaven. They were probably filled with a complex mixture of nostalgia and expectation. In these in-between moments of transition, we wait, watch, hope, and pray. In a word, we tarry. What does the verb to “tarry” mean?

In her book, Tarry Awhile: Wisdom from Black Spirituality for People of Faith, African Caribbean Theologian Dr. Selina Stone explains that Tarrying “is a collective time of waiting on God… It is a time of surrender to God, in the hope of personal and communal transformation. It is also a moment for intercession, for bringing our spiritual needs to God as well as our loving concern for our neighbors and the world.”[1] I think we can agree that to face this world’s overwhelming destruction of human lives and of creation, tarrying together as a spiritual practice in community is an absolute necessity.

On the eve of the Feast of Ascension this past Wednesday, I decided to tarry awhile with God as I walked around Lake Como. If you managed to spend any time outside on Wednesday when the sun finally came out, you will recall how exquisitely beautiful that afternoon was. God was really showing off! There were a few moments, as I was tarrying with God around the lake, that were particularly divine. First, the flowering trees. Crimsons, creams, and magentas bursting out of all the new shades of green. Like the honey bees, I was intoxicated with the exuberant colors and sweet fragrances of those blossoms. Then the frogs! These frogs cannot stop, won’t stop croaking and crooning their wild love songs. Only the songbirds could match them with their own loudest and most virtuosic mating arias, as they build their nests. Then, under a shower of swirling red petals, two teenagers lounging in a hammock were reading to each other, laughing, and gazing deeply into each other’s adorable faces. On the bench nearby, two women, full of years, sat shoulder to shoulder, leaning on each other as they admired the lake. Lastly, further away on a carpet of dazzling yellow dandelions, a disheveled old man sitting under a tree, whose belongings were in a shopping cart parked beside him, was gleefully and exuberantly reciting Psalms from a tattered King James Version of the Bible. All of these Lake Como encounters as I tarried with God pointed me back to today’s appointed Psalm. Psalm 1, Verse 2, reads:

Their delight is in the law of the LORD,
and they meditate on his law day and night.

Jesus Christ taught us that the law of the Lord is love. Love of God and love of our neighbor as ourself. Indeed, upon these two love commandments hang all the law and the prophets. Tarrying with God at Lake Como revealed again that love is the most powerful force in the universe. The love affair between the flowering trees and the pollinators. The love-drunk songs of frogs and birds. The lovesick teenagers and old couples. And the sheer delight of a solitary soul delighting in an encounter with God’s love in the Holy Scriptures. All of these revelations at Lake Como are precisely how we can resist the destructive evil that is also on full display in this world. Do you delight in God’s law of love? Fellow Episcopalians, the Psalmist does not say “appreciate God’s law on a philosophical level.” No, the Psalmist says delight in God’s law of love. Mirriam Webster defines “delight” as a high degree of gratification or pleasure, joy, and extreme satisfaction! When we delight in and meditate on God’s law of love, Verse 3 says:

They are like trees planted by streams of water, bearing fruit in due season, with leaves that do not wither; everything they do shall prosper.

To be clear, the Psalmist is not singing of the cheap prosperity of greedy, violent, right-wing, capitalistic, racist fundamentalists. No, the Psalmist is singing of the spiritual fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. When we tarry with God’s love, meditate on, and delight in God’s Word, that’s when we come to truly believe that the most powerful force in the universe became flesh and dwelt among us – God’s Word Incarnate: Jesus Christ. Through Christ, all things are made. Christ’s love conquers evil in this world and bursts forth freely and uncontrollably in blossoms, pollinators, frogs, birds, teenagers, old couples, madmen, and the aurora borealis, all drunk with God’s creative love. Saint John the Evangelist in today’s Epistle says it this way,

Those who believe in the Son of God have this testimony in their hearts… And this is the testimony: God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son… I write these things… so that you may know that you have eternal life.

How would our lives look if we believed that every person, every creature, everything that is, seen and unseen, has eternal life? I think we might actually believe what Jesus says in his prayer to God in today’s Gospel: “All mine are yours; and yours are mine…protect them in the name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.” What would this world be like if we actually listened to and believe the words that are coming out of Jesus’s mouth? What would Ukraine, Gaza, Congo, Sudan, and Haiti look like if we believed that we are one? What would the upcoming election in this country look like if we believed that we are one? RuPaul Charles often says, “There is only one of us here.” We are a multiplicity of manifestations of one divine source who is love. And yet, we must still face the overwhelming truth of the dystopia of being in this world. Like the first disciples, we can tarry with God, in-between melancholy and joy; nostalgia and expectation; the already but not yet. Lies and deceptions distract us from recognizing the truths about evil in this world. We must face these truths and also refuse to be overwhelmed with despair. Jesus says, “I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves.” How do we hold the tragic realities of this world together with the complete joy of Jesus Christ? The majority peoples of this world, who have survived the destructive evil of racist coloniality for centuries and remain defiantly joyful know the disciples’ wisdom of tarrying. The spiritual practice of tarrying with God, strengthens our spiritual resilience and gives us the courage to will and to persevere for the sake of God’s liberating truth. Jesus prays, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth… so that they also may be sanctified in truth.” As we tarry together in God’s Word, Prayer, Sacraments, and Service, like the first Apostles we can face the soul-crushing truths about the evil being done in this world, and remain defiantly joyful in resisting that evil. As we tarry together in Holy Scripture, Reason, Tradition, and Experience, we can delight in and meditate on the most powerful force in the universe: God’s love which conquers death. We can have the complete joy of Jesus Christ, when we believe that we are one and we love one another as God loves everyone and everything that is, seen and unseen. Amen.

[1] Selina Stone, Tarry Awhile: Wisdom from Black Spirituality for People of Faith (London, UK: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2023), 4.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Copyright © 2020 St. John the Evangelist Episcopal Church

St. John the Evangelist Episcopal Church
[email protected]
60 Kent St N, St. Paul, MN 55102-2232
Map & Directions

Skip to content