Rhythms by Fr. Steve

So, I’m a little over two months into my move up here, and I have to say I have been amazed at all the hospitality I’ve been shown by y’all. It has made being a stranger in a strange land such an easier feat that I thought possible.

I’ve been driving around a bunch, exploring all the side roads and nooks and crannies (I figure I need to do that before it snows and I can’t get down them). Yesterday, I was somewhere or other and I noticed something – a tree changing colors. Already! Now this may not be a big deal to you, but to me – wow! Where I’m from, trees begin to change colors at the very end of October and last about a week before the rainy season knocks all the leaves down.

These seasons you have here are very special. I wonder if you know that? Sometimes it takes an outsider to point out what’s there in front of us.

A while back, I was talking with a new minister friend who is a Baptist, and he mentioned something to me. He said that the hardest part of his job was thinking about what scripture passages to preach on each week. You see, he didn’t use the lectionary. Instead he had to almost randomly pick some-thing each week. He told me that I was lucky to have it all laid out in yearly cycles like we Episcopalians do.

He’s right. And he’s wrong. He’s right in that I don’t have to wonder what I’m going to preach about. I can tell you what lessons I’ll be preaching on the 40th Sunday twenty years from now. But he’s wrong in that sometimes the readings I’m given make me have to wrestle with them: maybe they don’t speak to me that Sunday, or maybe they speak to me all too clearly. Either way, that’s hard in its own way.

But we liturgical folk have it lucky more often than not with our liturgical calendar. We have a spiritual rhythm in our lives that adds beauty and depth. As the days grow short and dark, we will begin to focus on a growing pin-point of blessed light that is our Advent season. Then as we struggle with the depths of winter we will struggle with the winter of our souls in Lent as things begin to grow dark and dangerous in our yearly walk through Jesus’ life. But then salvation bursts forth like new growth in the Easter Spring. And we spend our summers growing in our relationship with God and each other as we settle down for the green growing season of Ordinary Time.

These seasonal rhythms, they allow us to experience a full range of emotions of our walk with Christ, just like the disciples must certainly have experienced during those three years with Jesus. Joy, sadness, fear, pain, redemption, forgiveness. They each have their season, and our liturgies and lessons mirror that. That’s why some prayers we don’t say during the ordinary summer but will say during Advent and Lent because the prayers are more contemplative just as the season is more inward looking. And we save our Alleluias at the dismissal for Easter because it’s an especially joyous occasion, and saying them all the time takes away from that seasonal specialness.

So, we are lucky, we liturgical folk, with our old faith-ful church seasons, just like we New Yorkers (can I call myself that, yet?) are lucky even when it’s dumping snow in frosty, fro-zen February. Whenever we get used to one season, another one comes around the corner. And that’s the kind of God I like – always keeping us on our toes!!

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