The temperatures dropped last night here in the Bay Area, and our Indian summer turned abruptly to a rainy autumn. The trees and foliage, still full-leafed, are quenching their thirst, open to the skies in thanksgiving. Soon our golden hills will be rolling greens.
In the Church Year we are still in the Trinity Season, marked by the color green in vestments and altar linens. The seasons change and time passes. Each of us ages another day, another month, another year. What is our accounting? What have I done right? What have I done wrong? How can I make my paths straight? Or at least straighter?
Saint Peter’s Anglican Church felt warm this morning, a womb-like sanctuary, safe from the cold and wet outside. The altar was alight with the flames of tall tapers, the tabernacle draped in a soft green, the celebrant in his chasuble of green. As I watched and waited and said the prayers of the Divine Liturgy with my fellow Christians, my family of God, glimpses of the week past came to mind, sudden, unbidden, like glimmering stained glass. Our visit to Boulder and my son and his lovely wife sitting in camp chairs on the field of green, the children running its length chasing the black-and-white ball, fast as the wind, flying. The Rocky Mountains rising from the field to the west, the broad plain stretching out forever to the east. The crystal blue of the dome of sky. Sunday worship together in the Presbyterian Church, sitting in the polished pew, praying and singing. The drive into the bleak scorched forests, the black sooty trunks screeching, mourning, one house standing, another gone, the random jumping of the holocaust. Hiking in to Gold Lake where my son was married thirteen years ago, now returning with his children, with his family. So I gave thanks here in Saint Peter’s, as I watched our priest move about the altar, the altar where my son once served as acolyte in his greener years.
Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians (5:15+) was lovely, full of color and song, “See then that ye walk…as wise, redeeming the time…singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord…” but the Gospel was full of “hard sayings,” those words of Christ that we don’t want to hear, this one taking the shape of a parable. In this story (Matthew 22:1+) Christ describes how a king prepared a wedding feast for his son and how, when the invitations were turned down, the king sent his servants to gather folks from anywhere and everywhere. The story portrays an angry king, one who destroys and replaces, one who, at the end of the story, casts out a guest for not honoring the occasion with a proper garment.
We do not want to hear of a God of justice, of moral imperative, of rules and regulations, and certainly not of a God demanding honor and respect. And yet, this is the Judeo-Christian God. While loving and healing and redeeming, he also keeps track, just as any parent would do with their children. For love entails just that, keeping track, keeping us on the right track. Love involves justice.
Time passes. Am I redeeming it? Can I account for it?
Of course the wedding feast for the son is the Eucharist. God the king provides this feast of his son, the Christ, and I am invited. What is my response?
The celebrant raised the host. “Behold the lamb of God, behold him that takes away the sins of the world.” Indeed, I would come to the feast and be healed. I would redeem the time. In so doing I would know how to redeem the hours of the week ahead. For God is just and God is good. He loves us. He redeems us over and over again, showing us the path, the way we are to go.
(I would also wear garments that would honor him.)
We stood for the final blessing, preparing to leave the warm sanctuary and enter the drizzly world. We opened our hymnals and sang, making melody in our hearts to the Lord. Indeed, we would redeem the time.