Eastertide concludes in May with the celebration of Pentecost, making Easter a season focused on the emergence of the church. This is why the lectionary texts include readings from Acts instead of the traditional Hebrew Testament.
In Sacred Journeys, Jan Richardson describes the Easter season as a time for reflecting on community. "Each community has a different rhythm," she writes. "We know that the rhythms of community can be both life-giving and stifling, liberating and oppressive." What images and metaphors does the Bible offer us that can convey this truism about life in church communities?
The earthen vessel is one. Some theologians describe the church as a treasure given to us by God and placed in earthen vessels—human beings with foibles, prone to bad judgment. Even so, earthen vessels hold the water Jesus turns to wine and, in his parable, the oil the young women conserve for their lamps. These vessels represent our fragility and our capacity; we can fall apart, but we can also hold miracles.
Christian community is like a lamp fashioned from Earth's clay and lit by the Spirit's tongue of flame. Kept trimmed and burning, it is a light that gives illumination to all who draw near its flame. Sometimes the flame burns us. Other times it dies. But, as the hymnist reminds us in "God Whose Purpose is to Kindle," the Spirit is always ready to ignite us with her fire.
Malinda Elizabeth Berry is a dissertation fellow at Goshen College in Goshen, Indiana.
Acts 11:1-18; Psalm 148; Revelation 21:1-6; John 13:31-35