Saturday, October 18, 2014

Different ideas of time. . .

The family member of one of the confirmands was a most polite and kind guest.  He was definitely a Christian, this I knew, but what kind of Christian I did not know.  It was a festival service and the confirmation of fifteen youth had extended the normal 75 minutes to nearly 2 hours.  I was extremely self-conscious of the length of the service and wondered if I did not owe the congregation an apology -- or at least an explanation.  Especially the many visitors!

When the majority had left the nave and we waited for the inevitable photo session to follow the confirmation rite, our visitor came over and took the opportunity to speak to me.  I was ready to apologize for the untimely length of the service when the man interjected, "Such a short liturgy!"  I was stunned into silence.  I had nothing to say in response.  It caught me completely off guard.  He was not being sarcastic at all.  "Is is always this brief?"  What had seemed to me interminably long was to him, shockingly brief!

The man was Orthodox and he had never been to a Lutheran service before.  He was most kind as a guest and praised the character of the liturgy, the preaching, and the music.  He was not used to the organ leading all the singing but he though it was done well.  He complimented me and the parish but it was clear that we operated with a completely different sense of time.  In fact, it was more than a different sense of time, I operated within a sense of time but he did not -- at least not within the Lord's House.  I had a watch but he watched no clock -- not while he was in the House of the Lord, anyway.

Our people were not shy about complaining of the length of the service.  Even though they understood, some of them complained that it would have been much shorter if we had skipped Holy Communion that day.  Others were not shy about what might have been omitted to shorten the length of the service.  But this only made the visitor stand out even more in comparison to the perspectives of most of the rest of us.  He was correct and we were wrong.  He was focused upon what was going on and we were focused on how long it was taking.

We live within the constraints of time and none of us are able to deny it.  Yet we have a choice about whether this time will define us or whether or not we will live outside the moment.  Sunday morning is one of those occasions when time should not dominate our thinking.  Yet this is a hard habit to shake.  We live in a world that has grown very impatient.  We do not like to wait.  We do not appreciate being left unentertained in our waiting.  You can lie to us, you can fool us, but you dare not bore us.  That is the heavy burden of our mortality which we find hard to shake even for the Lord, for His Word, and for His Table.

A clock does not belong in the House of the Lord.  Neither does the watch.  I have abandoned my own watch -- at least for Sunday morning.  It is not that I am free a schedule but that I choose not to be a slave to the minutes ticking by or to the idea that God must be captive to our schedules and our timetables.  Our time is in His hands and not the other way around.  Only faith can see this.  Every faith must learn this -- not just once but over and over and over again.  Our time is in His hands.  Not the other way around.

Would that we could free ourselves from the dominion of time long enough to exclaim at the end of the services, "Is it over already?"


Anonymous said...

Yes, our people wouldn't be able to survive Holy Week in the Orthodox church. Nor the 3 hour service for the Great and Holy Pascha (which begins at 11pm on Saturday evening). And you would never tell the priest to not have the Eucharist.

(All without screens and praise bands too. Their churches are packed with lots of children attending also.)


David Looke said...

We are at church to rejoice in Christ's victory, to celebrate in the Lord, to worship and adore Him -- do the born again want this to end? No, we want to continue, here now, and in His presence forever. Hallelujah.

Anonymous said...

Welcome to my world! BrotherBoris