As I write, it is the coldest day of Fall so far, the wind is blowing, flurries are falling but mercifully melting on the ground. After hanging on for longer than usual, the leaves are finally turning those beautiful shades of yellow and red for fall.
Here we are at Thanksgiving weekend already and it feels like Fall snuck up on us. Weren’t we just sitting at the beach on a hot sunny summer afternoon just yesterday or something?
The change of weather reminds us of the passage of time. These days my relationship with time feels forever altered; maybe you feel the same. Days of the week and months of the year all feel a little more fuzzy than they did just a few years ago. The wet weather this Spring and Summer certainly changed the way time passed in the natural world with a delayed Spring, delayed Summer and now a delayed Fall.
Time feels “off” from the pace and routines that we used to follow. There used to be structure and order to the way we experienced time.
When I was younger I used to measure the days by orchestra and football practice, youth group events and the freedom of weekends. In university and seminary, time passed as semesters, reading weeks, exam dates and essay deadlines.
Then it all changed 13 years ago. Once I was ordained and in the parish, my life became governed by Sundays. Every seven days another Sunday arrived. And in between I needed to prepare for worship, write a sermon, collaborate with all those involved in various roles of making music, reading scripture, making and distributing bulletins, choosing hymns, setting up communion, etc. In some ways it is like putting on a small-scale musical theatre production every week, but different in that all the people attending participate in some way.
We all have rhythms to our weekly cycle, but in the church during all the other days, and considering whatever other responsibilities, activities and stuff we have to do, Sunday is always in the background. All the other days point to Sunday. Most pastors take Monday off because it is the furthest from the next Sunday, and the urgency to prepare is lower. My colleagues who do work on Mondays often cite a desire to get a head start on that Sunday urgency. Others have other tricks, like I start memorizing the dates of the Sundays about two months out from wherever I am – it feels helpful to know what is coming.
Along with the rhythm of Sundays, there are the seasons and festivals that orient us to “when” we are in time. The liturgical calendar has governed my months and years in a way I could understand since I started serving in ministry. It is the same for teachers and the school calendar, for accountants and the fiscal/tax year, for business owners and the schedule of holidays and sales times, etc.
And so here we are being governed by calendars and schedules that have been knocked off their axis by the pandemic. Thanksgiving arrives and it doesn’t feel like Thanksgiving as we once knew it. Re-orientation to the structure of time as we once knew it isn’t an easy thing.
And yet, through all that we have been through these past years, the grounding of God’s story in time has remained the same. Even as we did not work, play, serve or worship as we were used to these past years, we still found ways to tell the story of God. Of God’s death and resurrection each week. Of the coming of Messiah in Advent, of the birth of Christ at Christmas, of the revelation of Jesus at Epiphany. We still walked in the wilderness of Lent following our Teacher and Master, and we still bore witness to the drama of Holy Week, and rejoiced on the Day of the Resurrection at Easter.
In the midst of “fuzzy” time and holidays that don’t feel like the versions that we used to know, God’s story still holds us, and, indeed, holds us close. The story of God’s promise to carry God’s people through this life with mercy, grace and new life is clear and true.