In God’s Time

We have come to the end of ordinary time. This is the feast of the reign of Christ, the last Sunday after Pentecost. Our ancestors knew something about time. They knew about the difficulty of November’s shorter days. As the night grows longer, they knew it helps to start lighting candles, to burn a little incense, to prepare our hearts.

We live in difficult times, unsure times. Prices rising, politicos prognosticating, public health experts cautioning, these days are tough. We come to church, in part, to remind us that time is bigger than the news cycle. We come to church to remember that we function on a deeper time. The turn of the calendar in the church is marked with hymns, and colors on the altar, with candles and prayers.

But our measuring of time is just that. All the pageantry. All the colored silk, all the music, the candle-wax and the collects, all of it is just a measure. These are but the markings of something deeper.

We are a people on the time of a story.

Because we Christians mark our time with a story. Each year we tell the story of the Advent, the coming of Christ. We tell the story of Jesus, across these sacred seasons, a story that leads from his heralded birth, through ministry to 40 days in desert, past the mount of olives with waving palms and to the mournful cross of calvary. When we shout the hallelujahs of Easter at his resurrection and wonder and the strange rush of wind, the holy languages of Pentecost. We tell a story which has a certain power.

We have the audacity to say, this is the story on which we place our hopes. This is the story toward which we sink our foundations. This story of a beloved child, a healer and prophet who disclosed to us good news. Our world may seem to be ruled by cruel men. Violence may appear to dominate, but dig a little deeper. At the heart, our world is about love, about kindness, about working for equity and justice.

In 2022, after three years of pandemic, in 2022 facing all the supposed technological conveniences and all the political complications of life, you might wonder, “why bother with church?” Isn’t this all a bit silly?

Well, the answer is yes. Church is a bit silly. It can feel like a waste of time to wake up early, get dressed and out the door. In a church like this one, the clergy dress up in odd outfits. The room might be a little too warm or a little too cold, depending on whether you’re nearer a radiator or an open window. What we do here can feel a bit silly.

But the silly has a purpose. Gathering together with folks you might never choose to befriend in the workplace, or on the street, gathering to remember this story matters. Gathering to break bread and share in the story of God’s self-giving love matters. This is the place where we put our deepest story, God’s story, in dialogue with our world today.

What I believe, in part because of the people in this room, is that the world needs our story. We live in a world that tells cruel tales. We live in a world that rewards through ruthless and inspires the hateful. We live in a world that plays into political opportunism. I believe the world needs places like this one, places which point to a deeper story, a more lasting story, a story that has the capacity to remake our world by remaking us.

Telling the story with trans leaders in El Salvador

Earlier this year I had a chance to return to visit our partners in El Salvador, at Cristosal. Today we mark the end of the church year, and we also mark Trans day of remembrance. It is a day I wish we didn’t have to mark. I just learned of the mass shooting in an LGBTQ+ night club in my home state of Colorado. I wish we didn’t have to remember leaders who died before their time. In El Salvador I had a chance to meet this incredible team of trans leaders employed by a trans intern program. Our partners at Cristosal made a bet, that if they invested in a group of leaders their society ignored, at best, that asking these young people to lead would pay dividends. Too often our world erases trans voices. Cristosal chooses to amplify them. These young people are making real change for their community, building access to healthcare and demandning rights. Cristosal was founded by the Salvadoran Episcopal bishop. He wanted an organization that could take our sacred story and remake the world in response.

God’s story lasts. Lesser stories fade away.

This story tells us Jesus lived a life that began by bringing good news to the poor, proclaiming release to the captives. We tell the story that God chose the excluded and persecuted. Christ died alongside criminals, assuring one of them, “today you will be with me in paradise.” So if someone has told you that the story Christians tell is about power and control, if someone has told you that you you don’t belong, or that someone you care about is excluded from God’s love, if someone told you Jesus is about hate then those so-called Christians must be reading a different story.

We come back to this church year in and year out, Sunday after Sunday, to return to the story of God’s relentless love. We come here to remember that all the stories our world wants to hand us, that we are not enough because of our age, our gender identity, our bodies, our disability, or our sexual orientation. All the stories with which the world wants to use to divide us by race, by language, by party, by nation. All those stories that we are not enough, that we don’t have enough, all those stories will fade away. The deep story will remain. You are all God’s beloved, all of you. God trusts you to draw the world a little closer to God’s dream.

As we mark the end of these ordinary days, may we prepare once again, to be greeted by the good news. God’s love outlasts every lesser story. If you are frustrated, if you are tired, if you are weighed down by the difficulties of our present days, you are especially invited. Mark the end of ordinary time. Join us as we look to a deeper calendar. All the years we mark in this place point us to the depth of God’s love. Love may not seem powerful, but it can remake our time.

Published by Mike Angell

The Rev. Mike Angell is rector of The Episcopal Church of the Holy Communion in St. Louis.

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