The older I get and the more time I spend going round the cycle that is the church calendar, the more aware I become of its influence on me. As it turns out, the weekly readings of the church have an impact on my psyche. To tell the truth, the themes of the texts didn’t usually mean a whole lot to me. I never really gave it a lot of thought. I liked the movement and was happy that it wasn’t up to me to set the theme and lay out the readings each and every week. Whatever the saints had done before us was good enough for me, and so I just focused on crafting a sermon with the material given. I was happy to have it.
So perhaps it is the turmoil of this year, the mess of Covid-19 and the conversations regarding whether church is essential or not, that has opened me up to being a bit more sensitive to the realities presented to us in the church’s calendar. After all, this past month has been a series of texts focusing on the promised return of Christ as he comes to judge between the sheep and the goats, the ushering in of the new Heavens and new Earth, and the call to be ready for that day. What is felt throughout these readings and the accompanying collects is the urgency of the message. The readers are called to take heed, to be watchful, to be ready for the great Day of the Lord.
This overarching theme stands out more this year, at least to me, not due to the realities of a pandemic or government overreach, but because they work as a foil against what I find happening. For it seems as if the behavior of the church couldn’t be more disjointed from the calendar it uses. The message and cry of urgency for the coming Day of the Lord seems to be lost on us in these latter days. We’ve seemed, instead, to bet it all on His delay. Let’s focus on the temporal, on careful planning and negotiating to protect assets and build for the future, as if we had all the time in the world. But do we?
Pastors stand in pulpits and read verses about the need to be ready even as their own flock avoids the gathering of the faithful. They confess the call for urgency while they have members wanting to commune at home through some sort of virtual perversion of the gifts of our Lord. Comfort, safety, and convenience is replacing our dwindling sense of urgency when it comes to our faith. Perhaps it has always been this way, and it is only this year that it stands out to me.
I think we are missing the moment. Perhaps it is time to sounds the bells and call the sacred assembly. It’s time to get back to church, to gather again around the gifts of Christ, to risk our health if need be to rest in His presence. Time is short. What are we waiting for?