It seems impossible that we are one calendar page turn away from Labor Day and only a few turns more to pumpkins and corn mazes. Twelve lightning fast weeks have passed since we ushered in the summer season with backyard barbecues and pool opening parties. During Memorial Day weekend, we kicked off our countdown to the last school bell, marked our calendars with family beach vacations and camping trips, stocked up on sunscreen; and, because of this year’s church calendar, we remembered and celebrated the gift of the Holy Spirit with our observation of Pentecost Sunday. The Children’s message that Sunday reminded us of the nature of the Holy Spirit – our friend, advocate, and counselor. More importantly, we were reminded that God’s spirit is with us wherever we go and in all the moments of our lives – the everyday and the exceptional.
As part of our Pentecost Sunday worship, our children were given a laminated card bearing an image of the Greystone sanctuary window and the words, “The Holy Spirit is always with me.” They were asked to take the card along with them on their summer adventures and to capture photographs that, when collected together at the end of the summer, would remind us of the Holy Spirit’s presence with us in all places, times and circumstances. The very next day marked the beginning of a period of the church year known as Ordinary Time – a period of time that will extend up to the first Sunday of the Advent season.
These sweltering summer days may have taken on a slower, easier pace, but they have been far from ordinary. Whether we remembered to bring our laminated cards along with us on our adventures or only thought of it as we set up for the perfect photo opportunity, we moved through these long-lingering days with a heightened sense of God’s presence. We heard God’s quiet, gentle voice in the whisper of lake shore breezes. It was God’s image we glimpsed in the faces of strangers and friends who we came alongside in work and in play. As we gathered with beloved family and friends around tables filled with the bounty of summer garden harvests, stories of generations gone before reassured us of God’s sometimes mysterious but always sufficient provision. Even when boredom crept in on the slow, unscheduled days, we recognized stillness and rest as a gift of the Spirit.
During these past twelve weeks, we felt God’s power in the roar of the ocean at high tide, and we wondered at the intricacy of his creation as fireflies appeared over dusk-darkened lawns. God’s spirit has been our friend, our advocate and our counselor in our fear on the first days of a new summer camp, in our loneliness when we’ve travelled far from home, in the dull ache that pulls on our heart upon arrival at a favorite vacation spot teeming with cherished but bittersweet memories. We felt the gentle but insistent nudge of the Spirit as we set out to discover new places and ideas and people that stretched us beyond our comfort zones, as we made friends out of unfamiliar faces and returned home with stories to share with kindred spirits, and as we worked with our hearts and hands to share God’s love with the world.
For our family, summer has been a season of surprising beauty, restless wandering and wondering, and fragments of stillness caught onto and savored in the midst of life’s commotion. In all of these things, a simple card with simple words urged us to recognize the presence of a living, moving Holy Spirit. And now the dark closes in a little earlier each day, and the fireflies have disappeared from the lawn that needs mowing a little less frequently. We have traded our suitcases for backpacks and our swimsuits and flip flops for team uniforms and ballet shoes. Soon we will settle into homework routines and Saturday morning sports schedules. In our busyness, it will be easy to forget to stop and listen for the quiet nudges of the Spirit in our day to day lives. We may forget to savor the still, quiet moments or lose sight of the wonder that comes when we recognize the Spirit’s presence. But there may come a time when we find that laminated card in a stack of school papers or in a suitcase pocket. Perhaps we will look back at a photograph from this time, and we will remember what we’ve experienced and learned during this season. We will remember that the Holy Spirit has been and surely continues to be with us in all of our journeying. We will continue to mark ordinary time on the calendar, but we have learned that life with the Spirit is nothing less than extraordinary.