Article by Peter Koeppel, member of Trinity Memorial Church in Binghamton and the diocesan Stewardship Resources team.
Time: it’s a hard thing to grasp—we wrestle with it daily. Albert Einstein gave us insights into time (and space) which revolutionized our understanding of God’s creation on a cosmic scale. Physicists including Max Born, Werner Heisenberg, and Wolfgang Pauli started a consistent formulation of Quantum Mechanics, which tells us that our experience of space and time are just not applicable on a sub-microscopic scale either.
The opening words of the Gospel according to John remind us of yet another aspect of time: the Trinity’s Son, whose worldly incarnation we know as the (Son of) Man Jesus, was always present. His being didn’t start some 2000 years ago, nor did it end some 40 years later. Christmas, which we just observed, and Easter, which we will observe soon, bookend his physical presence among us on earth—but outside our earthly existence, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost have “been” since the beginning, are now, and shall be forever.
In the end, our own limited capabilities in experiencing time and space constrain our ability to understand God and all of God’s creation on both a cosmic and a sub-microscopic scale.
Returning to the human scale on which we comprehend time: for me personally, right now and without the steady rhythm of weekly life, it’s often “Blursday.” Sundays are a most welcome reprieve from Blursday, as we get together for our—presently virtual—services.
On the time scale of these, our human lives, we find ourselves between Christmastide and Lent. Christmas celebrations were different for all of us—we didn’t meet family and friends as we are accustomed to doing, and in the USA almost 350,000 seats at the Christmas table were empty, never to be occupied again, on account of COVID-19. How many will be empty next Christmas? Having given up so much of what we love already, we may wonder what’s left to give up, as many of us traditionally do, for Lent.
I have some ideas for you to consider: during these past eleven months, you’ve probably driven your car a lot less; you may have canceled travel plans; you may have worked from home; your children may have had to attend class from home or their student residence hall room; you may have forgone eating out, going to the movies… Not all of these are things we may wish to extend into permanent changes in how we—or our children—live, work, learn, enjoy each others’ company, and enjoy God’s creation.
But, if you follow the news, you will also have seen that many parts of God’s creation are better off for the changes in our daily lives forced upon us by the pandemic. So, let me offer you a challenge: what if we were to break with yet another tradition, and not reflexively forsake sweets, or chocolate, or whatever, as our Lenten discipline? What if we were to contemplate how we can build on our experience of the last eleven months and see what we can change permanently about the way we live our lives, and in so doing give the gift of health to our environment, to the tiny blue marble in God’s creation which we call home? Would that be a Lenten discipline worth observing?