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Gone, but Still Present

Today (Thursday, May 25th) is Ascension Day, one of only seven "Principal Feast" days. (Principal feasts are the big ones, the others being Easter Day, The Day of PentecostTrinity Sunday, All Saints Day, Christmas Day, and The Epiphany). 
With Memorial Day being Monday, this weekend is usually recognized as Memorial Day weekend. 

That means this Sunday can pose a bit of a challenge for churches, and preachers.
  • Officially, it's the seventh Sunday of Easter, and is still Easter season/the resurrected Jesus is still with us. 
  • Unofficially, it's the Sunday after Ascension Day, and we hear, in our lessons, about Jesus' ascension into/back into heaven, and the disciples' being promised that they'll soon receive the Holy Spirit -- but that doesn't come/is not celebrated until next Sunday, June 4th, Pentecost Sunday. 
  • Culturally, it's a major national holiday weekend, a time to not only remember, but to honor and give thanks for those who died while serving in the country's armed forcesHow best to recognize all three of these events this Sunday? 

There's no perfect approach, but the one we'll be taking at The Falls Church is to try to strike a balance: 
  • The overall spirit of the day -- reinforced by our hymns (Alleluia!, Sing to Jesus; Celtic Alleluia, and All Who Hunger Gather Gladly, for example) and other liturgy choices -- remind us we are still in an Easter (joyful, resurrection) spirit and season. 
  • The lessons (and therefore sermon) will focus on transition time -- is there a common theme of "gone, but still present" in both the lessons and in our Memorial Day remembrances?  
  • In recognition of Memorial Day, at the end of the Prayers of the People, we'll invite you to join in saying the Book of Common Prayer's "For Heroic Service" prayer. Our post-communion prayer will be God of Our Fathers,  and our closing hymn will be the unapologetically patriotic (but also theologically powerful) "America the Beautiful/O Beautiful for Spacious Skies. (Just ponder, for example, verse two: "O beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife, who more than self their country loved, and mercy more than lifeAmerica, America, God mend thine every flaw, confirm thy soul in self control, thy liberty in law.")

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