Scripture: Ecclesiastes 3
This is one of those classic scriptures, right? We all know it even if we have never read the Bible. It’s made its way into our cultural consciousness – at least through music. “To everything, turn, turn, turn, there is a season, turn turn turn. A time for every purpose, under heaven.”
But what does it mean? Especially today? One of the many challenging parts of pandemic living for me as been the way it can be hard to know what time it is. Sometimes that has been on the most literal level of chronological time. Without the usual patterns of life outside our households, its super easy to lose track of what day it is. What time is it? On the level of feelings, it feels like it is ALWAYs a time to mourn something, some extra complexity added to daily life that makes getting through the day harder or some new horrifying news of loss. What time is it? People who are not in the season of life we associate with death, people who had been young and vibrant until this mysterious disease hit, are dying and sick more and more with Delta. What time is it? What about the season of fallowness, of rest? We are all haunted with vigilance, but our healthcare workers, chaplains and first responders are stuck at a pace that is impossible to sustain. What time is it? When will it be a time for embracing again? We keep thinking we will be able to resume embracing like the “before times” and then a new variant knocks all our most careful plans out of orbit.
What time is it? What season is it? Our usual markers of time and seasons of life are gone or changed or prolonged or shortened or just plain different on so many levels these days. We have experienced a collective crisis – and we are continuing to experience a collective crisis. And yet there is also opportunity here. This is what I like to call a “crisi-tunity.” We can embrace this time as what poet, theologian and philosopher John O’Donohue called a “threshold.” He asked us to “cross our thresholds worthily.” That is the opportunity.
Priya Parker, conflict resolution facilitator and author of the book The Art of Gathering, recently wrote a piece about returning to in-person gatherings for the New York Times. She was writing about returning to the workplace specifically, but her questions are equally relevant to us who are returning to other forms of gathering, like worship:
“What did you long for when we couldn’t physically meet? What did you not miss and are ready to discard? What forms of meeting did you invent during the pandemic out of necessity that, surprisingly, worked? What might we experiment with now?”
I love these questions so much. They apply to all of us personally and collectively. What did you and are YOU longing for in these weird times? What did you realize you can discard? What emerged that is GOOD that you didn’t know what was possible before.
Let’s marinate in those questions as they apply to our own lives for a few minutes alone together now. Find a writing set up if that helps you.
We are also thinking about these questions as they apply to our church life. What did you long for at Lyndale that you couldn’t have during this time of pandemic or that you still can’t have? My answer is hugs and singing together. How about you? What was kind of not working anyway and we should have the courage to formally end? My answer is some of our arbitrary operational and budget timelines and some other in-person meetings that could have been emails. How about you? What worked that we never could have imagined before? What should we try next? We’ll be talking about this in some form throughout the rest of the year and in our Town Hall meeting after worship today.
We come from a people who have experienced plagues. “That which is, already has been,” as the less familiar part of our scripture reads. And like our ancient ancestors whose lives were transformed by tremendous grief but also an opportunity to become a new version of God’s people, we too can be transformed by this season because, as our scripture says “That which is, already has been.” For those of you who are Harry Potter fans, Harry knows he can conjure the potronus because he already has! For the rest of you, don’t worry about that reference. Just know that we are made to be threshold people for exactly this time, exactly this bizarre season. Let us have the courage and the faith to cross that threshold worthily.