Fourth Sunday of Easter
It’s April 25th, 2010, and we’re roughly half-way through the Season of Easter in the church-year.
In the church year, there are seven Sundays of Easter – a week of Sundays! Numbers have symbolic importance in the Bible and in Christian tradition (as they sometimes do in culture – often stemming from some earlier religious meaning). The number seven is symbolic of completion – a full cycle has been made, a duration of time has fully passed. The colour we hang on the walls of the chapel-space, and the colour of the stole I wear over my alb (liturgical robe worn by worship leader) for this season is white – symbolic of the spirit and purity; and we light the Paschal Candle (a large candle situated by the baptismal font) symbolizing the resurrected presence of Jesus Christ. And, I wouldn’t debate those who point to ancient pagan tradition, and changing of the seasons, as also influencing these symbols. Without a doubt, the number seven is the number of days in a week, a rhythm which even early peoples’ could figure out; and the white colour is a bright one, which is like light that is now breaking through in Spring where what was once Winter darkness.
Another symbol held up on this Fourth Sunday of Easter is that of Jesus as “The Good Shepherd.” Part of what Jesus says in the gospel text for this Sunday (John 10:22-30) is that the sheep know the shepherd’s voice and the sheep trust the shepherd. When he speaks of his followers as sheep, Jesus also says that he gives his sheep eternal life. Jesus is saying that people follow him because he offers a vision that goes beyond any one person’s lifetime. Jesus’ followers are to be mindful of future generations.
We started the morning, here at All Saints, with some technical difficulties. The streaming program we use wouldn’t open, and we weren’t able to web-cast our service. Being someone who likes to have everything as close to perfect as possible (though I am rarely even close to it…), this did not start the day off well for me.
But the morning ended well. While we were singing the post-Communion canticle, I looked over at the two children in the service – each sitting in a different place, and neither of them with their parents. They weren’t looking in hymn-books, or necessarily even paying attention to the part of the service we were at, but they were mouthing the words – singing along, even! – to the liturgical music the congregation was singing.
This was the story of the Good Shepherd, and a living out of the tradition, for me, today. This three-year-old, and six-year-old singing along without hymn-books. They probably weren’t even aware of the words they were singing (“Praise to you O God of mercy, thanks be to you forever”), and one of them was colouring in a colouring-book as they sang along and the other climbing up and sitting on a stool they found, but they trusted the group with whom they were singing, they were comfortable and in tune with the assembled congregation. And, in the community which also includes octogenarians, these young people were joining with all the saints and, in so doing, singing with the generations before them.
This week of weeks that we’re in is a reminder of how we are all on a journey. Each of our lives is a journey, and each of our lives also point to new life which will come after us. Our young people are a way in which we can remember our own youthful days, as well as see a glimpse of where the world will go after we’re gone. What a joy life is!