Pastor’s Pause March 2020
Driving between a clergy meeting and visitation to a homebound member this past week, I noticed a few houses that still had Christmas decorations adorning their doorways and one even had a fully decorated Christmas tree in the front window. I’m writing this article in late February and we’ve not yet reached Ash Wednesday. We are deep in Epiphany, have celebrated the Baptism of our Lord, and Transfiguration. Christmas decorations? Still? In truth, when I saw the tree in the window of that single house, I thought that maybe I should stop and see if the residents were well, or even alive. Thankfully, I saw movement and a person walking into the home. The moment made me appreciate that much more what the seasons of the Church mean to us, how the ebb and flow of time in the Church is marked by events that really are not impacted by the workday calendar or the trappings of our busy daily lives. Indeed, I’m sure someone is wondering why pastor is not writing about St. Patrick’s Day and, well, there never was a Valentine’s Day message, either. Doesn’t he know what time of year it is?! Heehee. Part of being so deeply engaged in the life of the Church and the flow of the Church year means expressing and sharing traditions that have deeper spiritual meaning than the practices in secular life that symbolize or draw upon those Church traditions. All those thoughts came through because of the gift of a couple minutes at a traffic light, a tree out of place in Church time, and a life lived in the Church. When folks ask, “What does it matter?” in reference to preaching and teaching in the Lutheran lens of Christianity, or in reference to the order of lighting of candles in the nave, or possibly even to the changing of altar and chancel paraments, these “Christmas tree in February” moments might help us to answer. It matters because the practices, traditions, rituals, and calendar of the Church are set apart from secular life. This is a different realm of life in which to experience the Holy. It is a spiritual realm in which human awareness and interpretation over centuries has yielded, in relationship with God in Christ, that which can deepen our spiritual experience in the relationship. Is it just changing from green to white? Ask a member of the Altar Caregivers after years of changing paraments if it’s just a color change. They know that those paraments, the colors, the change, signify a movement of emotional and spiritual change in Church time, and those pieces of cloth help enhance that experience of ebb and flow, just as the music chosen for any given Sunday enhances the worship experience. With all the loud distractions in our world, I appreciate this respite offered by Church for any and all who would enter. May we always remember this is God’s gift of respite and peace, not ours to hold exclusive, but for all people in any way to experience. Peace and respite be unto you in this time of Lenten journey.