The Season of the Spirit: Lectionary Preview for June 2023, Matthew 28, Year A
May 16, 2023 by Rev. Cindy Kohlmann
Having just celebrated Pentecost, one of my favorite Sundays of the year, we return to what we often refer to as “ordinary time” or, in slightly more interesting language, the “season after Pentecost.”
I prefer to think of this season, especially these summer months, as the season of the Spirit. I convinced the session of the last congregation I served to keep the red paraments up until September to remind us that the coming of the Holy Spirit isn’t a one-time event, but a daily reoccurrence in the life of those who follow Jesus Christ. After all, it is the Spirit in all their glory who counsels us and guides us, prays for us and intercedes for us. The Spirit helps us live, day by day, into the fullness of who we are as new creations in Christ. But that’s a sermon for another day.
Per tradition, the Sunday following Pentecost is Trinity Sunday, when we focus on the amazing, mind-stretching, Three-In-One relationship that shows us the very fullness of God. Accordingly, the scripture passages for this Sunday include the story of creation as told in the first chapter of Genesis and what we call The Great Commission at the end of the Gospel of Matthew.
These passages frame well the following weeks, reminding us that from the beginning, God created the world to be one of balance as well as abundance, brimming with life and possibility while also existing within a particular divine framework. The story of creation is one of explosive potential gathered into defined parameters. Day and night. Sky and Earth. Land and water. Sun and moon. Fruitfulness and stewardship.
It may seem at first glance that the command to “be fruitful and multiply” is at odds, or at least in tension with, the command to exercise stewardship in the midst of the abundance of creation. With deeper consideration, though, we begin to understand that this reflects God’s desire and even will for all of creation.
Scripture is full of the tension between being blessed and the call to balanced living. Again and again we are reminded that all people are precious, and that the most vulnerable are meant to receive greater care and concern. If you are richly blessed, you are meant to share those blessings with joy. If you are one with power and privilege, you are meant to pursue justice for all the earth with hope. Fruitfulness is balanced with stewardship so that all may have abundant life, all may know God’s blessings, all may thrive through all the days of life.
When Jesus meets the disciples on the mountain in Galilee between his resurrection and ascension, he charges them to go into all nations with some particular work to do. We often focus on the command to baptize in the Triune name, but I think his description of the core of our work is actually more important. We are told to make disciples by teaching them to obey everything Jesus has commanded us. That is the heart of the Great Commission, and it is meant to immediately bring us to the exhortation to love God with all of who we are and to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Even in this, there is balance. Even as we pour all of ourselves into love of God, we are meant to balance love of ourselves with our love of our neighbors. What does that look like? The lectionary gives us a gift by following Trinity Sunday with a series of passages from the Gospel of Matthew that show us Jesus teaching the disciples what it means to love God, self, and neighbor.
This is our daily call, to live into a balance that embraces God’s abundance and strive for the day when that abundance will be known by all. This is what the Spirit empowers us to do, for the sake of Christ who sends us out.
Rev. Cindy Kohlmann has served two churches as a solo pastor, in Ohio and Massachusetts, and the Presbyteries of Northern New England and Boston as Resource Presbyter. She was elected in June 2018 as Co-Moderator of the 223rd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA). In January of 2021, she began service as the Connectional Presbyter and Stated Clerk for New Castle Presbytery (Delaware and the Eastern Shore of Maryland). She is married to the Rev. Eric Markman, interim pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Newark, DE, and has two adult step-daughters.