I talked to my friend on the phone about Easter with the LCSB at Cefn Lea. I tell her what a rich and tumultuous time it was, filling me with a sense of the world made new, of the Resurrection, of life restored and renewed – new chances and new beginnings. She talks about Holy Saturday and how it brings a sense of the liminal.
Later, I look up what liminal means – it is when you ‘occupy a position at, or on both sides of, a boundary or threshold’. I think about how these weeks between the experience of Easter and with Pentecost still to come are liminal too. We have been through that great spinner that is Good Friday and Easter Sunday – but we are still baffled and discombobulated by what we have experienced. The surety that Pentecost brings is just up ahead.
This sense of the eternal, a sense of something beyond the temporal, something cyclic, is prompted again as I walk in the hills and woods this early May. There has been an explosion of new life in the last two weeks. The beech woods are suddenly green again, glittering with the light through the new leaves, and below them a cloud of bluebells. The beauty of the bluebells is hard to comprehend. I remember when the children in my SE London school ran back to me, terrified because they had never seen bluebells before – “Miss, Miss, the woods is full of blue stuff!” they screamed as they helter-skeltered back to the coach when we were on a school trip to Kent. It is already hard to imagine what it was like before Easter – when I tramped through mud, my boots clogged and heavy, and when I always needed a hat to stop the icy chill piercing my ears.
When we lived in Nigeria, a Nigerian friend laughed long and loud when she saw the padded all-in-one suit that I had put on our baby when we had gone to Heathrow that morning to get the plane back to Lagos. She simply couldn’t believe that such an outlandish piece of clothing could be necessary. It is the same sense of disbelief I have now. How could the world have been so different such a short time ago? Where are the paths that were just too wet and soggy to take? Was there really a time when it was already dark when I went to get myself a cup of tea at the end of the school day? I look for paths I used to take that are already overgrown with ferns and brambles.
I know there is more up ahead; that there will be a time when I look back on my walks in the bluebells and among the new-leaved trees with disbelief too.
This helps me in my thoughts about the resurrection. Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus (dear, close friends plodding along together in their muddle and grief), it is really hard for us to imagine and piece together what actually happened at Easter all those years ago. We struggle to remember and make sense of the winter when summer is here; when we lose someone we love, we look for them everywhere (and quite often think we see them even though we know they are gone) and I can barely conceive what it was like when the rain hammered on the black empty branches in the woods around us. Our imagination fails us.
This time between celebrating the resurrection and Pentecost is ‘liminal’. In this strange, happy, uncertain time, we must hold fast to God’s promise that we do not need to be afraid. He has destroyed death and made all things new, and will continue to do that and to carry us in his love. Pentecost – just in sight – will help us to be convinced of that.