October 27, 2022 by Rev. Phil Beck
Soon we will “fall back” an hour.
The first weekend in November, we return to standard time having been in daylight savings time since March. Like many, I grumble and complain about the change. There really isn’t an hour more of sleep. It will be dark earlier and many of us will be off to work when it is dark and return home in the dark. It is the nature of the days in this season.
The writer of Ecclesiastes remarks on these seasons and the change when they write, “For everything there is a season, a time for every matter under heaven.”
There is a saying my kids and younger friends have said to me, “times have changed.” There is of course truth to “times have changed.” Those of us who are older remember our math teachers saying, “You need to learn how to do your percentages. You aren’t going to have a calculator with you.”
Well today, we do have a calculator, and a phone, and a camera and email, and social media and more all on one device. Restaurants have made it easier, I don’t even have to do the math with my phone. There is a convenient 20% box I can check off or it gives me the amount that I can add to the bill.
Times have changed.
Yet there is something about the ritual and the movement of worship and the church that is timeless. To be clear, I am grateful for changes we have made as a congregation. Covid-19 pushed us forward. Our worship is now live-streamed online. We can have hybrid meetings. Many folks in our congregation choose to give generously via electronic means. Change is important and needed.
To address systemic issues around race, gender, income, and health, all require significant change. To be clear, change is important for the church. If we don’t change, if we don’t reach out beyond our doors, if we aren’t present in the community, our congregations will shrivel and disappear.
Not everything needs to change though. Some of the rituals, ancient rituals around worship, baptism, communion, prayer and song connect us to our God and to each other. There is still a place for all of these acts and practices.
Some years ago, I visited my grandmother in a care facility. She was in a memory care unit. She had lost much of her memory and truth be told, I am not sure she recognized me as I came through the door. We sat for a long time in silence. I would hold her hand and she would hold mine. I would share about her great grandchildren and what was going on in our lives. She listened, did not say a word, and slept some. It was okay just being with her.
At the end of my visit, I asked if I could pray and so we held hands and we did. At the end of the prayer, I began to recite the Lord’s Prayer. To my surprise, she began to repeat the prayer with me. There was something deep within her that drew the prayer out of her mind and gave it breath. There are these timeless acts and practices.
“Love you grandma.”
“Love you too,” she replied. She was back, if only for a moment.
The singer and songwriter Leonard Cohen wrote, “Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”
There are these timeless acts and practices.
That’s how the light gets in.
Rev. Philip Beck is the pastor at First United Presbyterian Church of Tarentum, north of Pittsburgh, having served there since May of 2001. Phil and his wife Christa have three children and an exchange daughter. All of the children are out of the household, so he and his wife are enjoying the “empty nest” for the first time. In their spare time Phil and Christa now travel to where their children live. Phil also helps run and coordinate a local community garden.