Monday, May 23, 2011

Time has only the wings we give it

"These people are under continual disquietudes, never enjoying a minutes' peace of mind..."
-Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift, Part 3, chapter 2.

I think we humans are afraid of time. Maybe not afraid of time itself, but afraid of running out of it. Or afraid it will pass too quickly. Time flies, after all. Time flies when you're having fun too.

But does it really? The past few days have given me a new perspective, and I'm beginning to doubt this cliche we often accept as truth, or better yet a "fact of life." Three of the past four nights, I've spent at least thirty minutes watching the sunset. Honestly, my inability to watch it that one night was a bit bothersome. Most of the nights, I've spent closer to an hour watching the colors in the sky change. I really cannot recall the last time I truly stopped to watch the sunset. If I ever knew how long the whole process takes, I'd forgotten it due to lack of memory refreshment. But I think an hour is about a sufficient time to really take it all in. In the three days I've watched the sunset, that hour has seemed to move more slowly. The end result is that the day has seemed longer.

I don't think time flies. I think our preoccupation with other things makes us unaware of the ample time in a given day. I read two books by Dorothy Bass and Fred Edie that offered this kind of cultural critique, but it took me experiencing it to realize how right they were. When time flies, I find that I'm living my life giving the most attention to day books, calendars, wrist watches, and the rush to get to the next thing. As Edie observes in his Book, Bath, Table, and Time: we've gone from measuring time with a sundial (something connected to the natural movement of a day as we define it) to having our own wrist watches that are capable of dividing up our day into hours, minutes, and seconds. Without going into much detail (as this deserves), Edie argues that in learning to measure time so precisely and individually, humanity has removed itself from the rhythm of creation. Most of us no longer look at the position of the sun to tell the time- that's what the watch (or if you're like me, cell phone) is for.

When I pack my day full of things to do, places to be, people to see, I find myself out of rhythm with the (natural) day. I seldom notice the movement of the sun through the sky, and then wonder how it's already setting. Time doesn't fly. I'm just out of sync with the rhythm of the day. The narrator in Gulliver's Travels is describing a strange people he encounters that live much of their lives in their heads as they try to solve problems, but I think that the critique transfers easily to my life and those who subscribe to the myth that time flies because our days are too busy attending to problems/appointments/assignments. This week, I hope that you rouse yourself from a disquieted moment in order to allow yourself that moment (much longer than 60 seconds) of peace.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Fullness Part 3: The Peace

This is the third post in a series on worshiping more fully. I wish that I could give credit where credit is due, but I don't have notes so I'll have to be vague. What follows is a poor retelling and summary of what I can remember. My inability to give credit to the author/speaker is bothersome. If anyone can remember who it was, please comment.

Last year I heard a sermon on the liturgical practice of Passing the Peace. It changed the way I view this part of a worship service, and the way I think about what it means to gather together weekly in worship.

"Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to set us free from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen." Galatians 1:3-5

In the sermon, the speaker argued for the tremendous importance of this time in the life of a worshiping community. As with other parts of a worship service, it is a kind of practice. A fundamental part of being a Christian is seeking peace. First, we seek to be reconciled and forgiven of our sins as we confess and receive absolution. Then, after asking and receiving forgiveness, we turn to our neighbors to give and receive forgiveness in accordance with Jesus command to love God and each other.

The speaker went on to critique the tendency to keep this practice brief, so as to only allow for pleasantries to be exchanged with those immediately surrounding you. Time must be given so that those that really need to forgive and be forgiven may have a chance to do so. This is practice. This is rehearsal. This is fundamentals. This is preparation.

We Christians practice, prepare, and rehearse this fundamental feature so that we, as Christians, might be prepared to live out this command in the world. Simply saying hello is not the kind of practice that I need. Simply shaking hands is not the kind of practice that leads to the ability to forgiveness in the rest of life. Seeking out the individual who you have hurt, who has wronged you, and exchanging words of peace and reconciliation within the confines of the congregation can assist in being able to forgive the things in life that really hurt.

The "turn the other cheek" passage, although perfectly applicable, seemed a little cliche and I think it would fall on deaf ears in what I'm about to say. I chose the Galatians passage because I've been in a course on it all semester, and I see Paul's actions in writing a letter to be in line with his teaching in Gal. 6:1.

In closing, the death of Osama Bin Laden has kept me up tonight. I jumped into conversations on twitter and facebook and got a little "riled up." If you'd like to view those, you can follow me on twitter (@russbo) or friend me on facebook.

What I have to say about the death and the reaction of Christians is this: perhaps if churches did a better job of teaching, congregations did a better job of learning, and individuals did a better job of practicing the Passing of the Peace, then we would not be debating whether it is Christian or not to rejoice in Osama's death. It wouldn't be necessary because it would have been easy to forgive because churches had been practicing forgiveness in such a way that it just happens because "that's what we do." We could learn a lot from those who have recently embodied this grace and forgiveness: the Amish community of Nickel Mines. My coaches used to tell me that I would play how I practiced. I need to practice better. Forgiveness is more difficult than revenge.