This passage from Isaac Watts’ well-known paraphrase of psalm 90 reflects the perpetual forward momentum that distinctly characterizes the dimension of time. This stream however, is one that we are unable to dam or stop. We human beings are so often wrought with anxieties regarding a shortage of time, or perhaps wrought with a restless confusion as to how time should be spent.
As the faculty, staff, and attendees convened in downtown New Haven on a blustery, stormy Monday morning, we sought to examine the pastoral demands of a society in which time is such an esteemed element. Ironically—the weather caused us to begin some of the day’s events slightly behind their scheduled hours. How appropriate and sobering that, at the very beginning of our gathering, we encountered a natural force which, though completely outside the realm of human control, caused us to rethink our preconceived notions of time.
Time indeed gushes forward like a violent river in spring, and the thought of squandering it is terrifying to many human beings. One significant element of ministry that is affected profoundly by this fear is the observance of a Sabbath. While adults of this generation are facing long work hours and the youth spend seven days a week participating in academic and extra-curricular activities, the concept of the Sabbath is fast becoming controversial. We spent an afternoon exploring ways in which our ministries, worship, and rituals can foster a peaceful observance of the Sabbath. We questioned how a deft intermingling of silence, music, arts, and word might foster a tone of rest and recreation.
We communally concluded that a Sabbath may NOT be composed of random ten minute fractions of respite. On the contrary, it must be an integral our weekly rhythm. Though time flows perpetually forward, we are reminded in Ecclesiastes 1:9 that “there is nothing new under the sun.” Paradoxically, the ever-flowing dimension of time is also prone to cyclical unfolding. Perhaps by coincidence, but perhaps not, we also have spoken extensively regarding the liturgical year. Human beings of the twenty-first century mark the passage of the year not only by liturgical elements, but by personal, natural, fiscal, cultural, and national elements. We found that a number of the aforementioned elements have obscured the transparency of the liturgical year. As human beings, and as Christians, the Sabbath is an essential part of our personal “liturgy” that often becomes overlooked.