My constant refrain in these days is to bellow “what is time?”
I think I might intend it as a joke when it shows up as a blue bubble reply in a text message chain, but I’m not really sure. Time feels elusive. I decorated my house with tons of fake pumpkins (real ones rot fast in Texas and it is gross) in order to create some sense of time. Or was it that I wanted to feel festive? Or that I hoped that my children would remember these strange days with delight even while we were stuck in the house?
Psalm 90 made me laugh out loud after reading that fourth verse and so I find myself drawn there to meditate on the mystery of time in the pandemic. I’m thinking particularly about the way that time is unfolding in our congregations. My sweet Texas church is building a time capsule for future generations to muse over how we spent these days. At the same time, they are in the middle of an interim season asking all of the big questions about what it means to be a church now and into the future. As US churches are considering the harvest, the gifts of stewardship and Thanksgiving, it feels important to keep God’s vision on these pandemic days — and I don’t mean like all the white men who have already published books and articles about what churches have learned from the pandemic.
We do not know yet. We are not gods.
Call to Worship Inspired by Matthew 22:34-46 We hang between question and answer. We hang in the tension between what is known and unknown. We hang on every word of hope and possibility. We hang our whole lives on the law and the prophets trying so very hard to love God with all our hearts with all our souls and with all our mind. And so, we come to hang out by internet wires and wi-fi devices to find answers to questions we haven't yet thought to ask. Call to Worship Inspired by Psalm 90:1-6 Dwell with us here, O God. Dwell in our screens and in our hearts as you have from generation to generation. Dwell with us in this time of worship enough that we can feel the ground begin to shift and new horizons emerge. Dwell with us in all our pandemic confusion and worry to find new dreams and wonders for ourselves for our church and for the world. Dwell in our worship, O God. Prayer of Confession Inspired by Psalm 90:1-6 For a thousand years in your sight, Holy One, are like yesterday when it is past. That is fine for you but we cannot remember yesterday. It feels indistinct from any of the yesterdays before it. We want to feel reassured by your measure of time, Holy One, but it does not feel like this pandemic season will just sweep away. We want to watch the night and the day with your vision to see this world and our dreams renewed each morning but our hope has faded and our patience has withered into nothing. Forgive us for what we cannot see and expand our vision with your boundless love. Amen.
Writing these prayers made me remember this lovely essay on roads and pandemic wandering by Emily Scott from several months ago. An excerpt might be lovely as a meditation before the selected scripture for preaching or it might fit as an excellent illustration somewhere in that beautiful sermon you are writing, dear pastor. As it helps, this would be the section I’d feel called to highlight:
Start looking, and you’ll see roads all over the Bible. These solitary travelers journeyed in situations of great uncertainty, much like our own. Their destinations may have been clear, but their futures were less so. Somewhere along the way, however, they always encountered something unexpected: the astonishing presence of the sacred.
Jacob, for instance, ended up in a wrestling match with God as he journeyed. A court official of the Ethiopian queen is baptized by the side of a thoroughfare. Two disciples trudging along a dusty byway, having heard the news of Jesus’ death, find that he was walking with them all along. And Paul hears God’s voice and ends up blind on the way to Damascus.
A road is an unlikely metaphor for a pandemic that has us stuck at home. But what happens when we see ourselves as purposefully scattered — sent out on an unexpected journey, traveling solo? In the bible, the road is often a place of desolation and isolation, but also of encounter. A road has direction; it carries us from an old life to a new one.Emily Soctt
I would also be inclined to find an opportunity for this hymn to be sung in some way.
Finally, I shared a Prayer for the Church on the RevGalBlogPals’ weekly Worship Words that could also fit with this slight bend toward harvest and thanksgiving. Though it picks up on the epistle from last week, it could also be used along with this theme. You can find it here.
That’s all I’ve got for you this week.
I am always praying for you, dear pastors, liturgists and musicians.