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  • Writer's pictureRyan Heckman

Liminal Spaces

Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Ever since Easter Sunday, our Biblical texts have kept us in what seems to be a liminal space – an in-between space- where we know that Jesus has risen from the dead and we know he’s been walking amongst the disciples – something for which we have been shouting “Alleluias”, but we have not yet celebrated Christ’s Ascension – which is coming next week, our last week of the Easter season!

Spending time in the liminal, inbetween spaces can be spent doing many things. When you are inbetween something like a job, you are often moving a bit slower and with maybe a bit more deliberation as you think about what comes next. The celebratory first moments after a wedding might feel liminal for the couple – they are wed, but might not yet really know how those vows impact them… The new graduate might find herself longing for the familiar rhythms of the classroom while spending the first several weeks at her new firm. These are all “in-between” times… when something you know has finished and you are beginning a new thing. They are times marked with joy, but also with hesitation, unknowing and great expectation. They are times when something new is being learned and figured out.

Our Revised Common Lectionary – what our church uses to help determine our scripture readings for each Sunday - has had us exploring two themes throughout this current season of liminality – this season where we celebrate Christ’s resurrection, but aren’t quite sure what comes next or what that means.

First, We’ve been exploring what it means that Christ has risen from the dead and how we can actually believe in that miracle. The story about Thomas is one example of that theme.

The second theme we’ve been exploring is what our call as Followers of Christ, as disciples, might look like in a post-resurrection world.

For example, last week, Pastor Brian preached on the passage that immediately preceding today’s passage from the Gospel of John where Jesus says that he is the vine and we are the branches. Like a tree trunk with all its branches and twigs, leaves and berries. We are like those branches and twigs and leaves and berries that when we are connected to Christ – our tree’s trunk - we are nourished, we are alive, and we will bear good fruit. This story tells us that our discipleship of Jesus has entered a new kind of relationship status after the resurrection, one that is a bit more indelible – kinda like how the branches on a tree are indelibly connected to the trunk.

And in this week’s Gospel, we complete this metaphor that Jesus started and we hear exactly what this new kind of indelible relationship with Jesus does to us.

And all this talk about ‘relationships’ strikes me today because this congregation has been discerning together what a new relationship might look like right here. Over the last few months, the council and all of you, the congregation, have been considering what it might mean to take a leap of faith, hold onto the Holy Spirit’s coat tails, and see how God might be at work with all of you and a new relationship with an Associate Pastor – ME.

And in this liminal space, Jesus comes to us today in our Gospel text and reminds us what our collective call is as The Church and what this new indelible relationship with Christ means: It means we are called to “love one another as Jesus has loved you.”

Jesus comes into this liminal space and centers his one new commandment.

And in my six months that I have had the privilege to serve here as the Director of Christian Education, I have seen you all serving our neighbors through outreach ministries like Hands on Hartford, Friday Meals at Grace Lutheran and partnership with Mosaic. I have seen you caring for one another through prayer shawl making, visitation and centering prayer. I have seen you tenderly care for the children of this congregation through consistent prayer, your generosity of giving, having a Sunday School and Confirmation education program and making sure that kids are welcomed into weekly worship. And I have seen you welcome many visitors to this place of worship with open arms, a helpful guide through worship and a warm cup of coffee after.

In short: you have already been doing the things Christ has asked us to do together in our Gospel passage today: This congregation at St. Matthew has been loving each other and you’ve been opening your arms to people in our community showing that you are ready and able to love them too. You are doing the act of “Abiding in Christ’s love” and you have kept Christ’s greatest commandment central.

It feels like we are grabbing onto the Holy Spirit’s coat tails together, rooted to our indelible connection that we have with Jesus Christ and we are, dare I say it… recklessly carrying Christ’s ministry into the world!

We are bearing fruit to the people who surround us and we are working hard to take Christ’s command to love one another as Christ loved us seriously in this place!

This is what our connection to Christ, who is the vine, is doing to us. This is what it means to bear good fruit and this is exactly why the Holy Spirit has called all of us together into this place.

We are all called – not just some of us, not just those with the pastor title – to the office of loving and serving our neighbors as Jesus loved us by coming together to become the Body of Christ in the world.

I pray that we can be bold with our ministry here at St. Matthew as we continue to be called together in Christ’s Name, connected to Christ who is our nourishing vine so that we can continue to go out and recklessly share the fruit that God’s love is bearing with the whole world. The world needs this kind of abandonment to love!

For, as Christ says, it is all so that Christ’s joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.


Pastor Ryan Heckman | Sixth Sunday of Easter | May 5, 2024

Sermon Download - Liminal Spaces
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