Sunday, November 26, 2017

How long is a week?

I was recently reminded of Harold Wilson, sometime Prime Minister of England in the 1970s who said "A week is a long time in politics."  It was a grand statement then but an understatement today.  In our 24 hour news cycle, a week is a lifetime.  We flit from story to story, disaster to disaster, tragedy to tragedy, event to event -- until we are dizzy from it all.  We barely got going raising funds for the victims of Harvey when Irma, Jose, and Maria showed up.  We are just getting a handle on this shooting or that when somebody else decides to unload a weapon on a crowd.  We are not even quieted from the last terrorist violence before another one comes along to steal the spotlight.  It is no wonder we have ADD. 

The Church follows two calendars.  Sure we must deal with the ordinary calendar followed by the world when this is the last Sunday in November.  But we also see this as the last Sunday in the Church Year, before we will begin anew the cycle of remembrance of the events in our Lord's life (by which we were saved) and then focus on His teaching (by which we are sanctified).  For us the primary calendar is the one most folks forget or do not understand.  It is a journey not simply through the chronos of time that ticks away like a second hand but kairos which unfolds with the grace of God and moves to ripen the moment until the right time or consummate day.  So the Church Year too often lives on the edge of our daily lives but we come to worship on Sunday morning to be refocused from simply the moment to the day of salvation.

Sadly, too many churches and even those with liturgical roots are giving up the Church Year entirely.  Sermon series derail the pericopes as the heartbeat of this God defined way of counting time.  Colors and liturgical details are often absent -- formally dismissed by some as optional extras and forgotten by others who hearken to the next and newest way of doing "church".  Yet the Church Year calls to a people so tempted by today to look to God's mighty acts of deliverance in the past that foreshadowed and prepared the way for His Son.  And it reminds us that our time is lived out in His hand, no matter how full of ourselves we can be.

A week is a long time in politics, even a day for news is long.  But unlike the things that capture our attention for a moment and then are displaced by other things, the Word of the Lord endures forever and His time moves toward His own appointed goal, for us and for our salvation.

So today we bid farewell to one year of grace and begin another, each one moving us further from Bethelehem and His coming to the Virgin by the Spirit and closer to the day and hour none of us knows when He will come to bring all things to their perfect consummation and completion.  Listen to the collects for the end of the Church Year and the beginning of another.  They call us to pray even as they remind us why we are praying:

We thank Thee, Lord God, heavenly Father, that in the past church year Thou hast preserved Thy Word among us in purity and by it effectively quickened our souls; and we beseech Thee, Thou wouldst graciously forgive us all our neglect, unbelief, and disobedience with respect to Thy Word, and continue unto us this precious treasure with Thy blessing forevermore; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end.  Amen.

Almighty Lord God, who hast by Thy grace this day permitted us to enter a new church year, we beseech Thee, grant unto Thy Church Thy Holy Spirit and the wisdom which cometh down from above, that Thy Word, as becometh it, may not be bound, but have free course and be preached to the joy and edifying of Christ's holy people, that in steadfast faith we may serve Thee, and in the confession of Thy name abide unto the end; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end.  Amen.

The Lutheran Liturgy, Agenda, pages 181 and 49. 

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