It always seems a surprise to get to this point in the Liturgical year and still be referring to Easter: this Sunday will be the Fifth Sunday of Eastertide as we wend our way to Pentecost (but not before we journey through Easter six and seven, with Ascension Sunday nestled between them). It turns out that fifty days is quite a long time! The continuation of this rhythmic calendar- a way of marking the days, that we see reflected in the bible in several feasts such as The Feast of Booths, still celebrated as Sukkot, is a way of marking -or- Keeping Sacred Time
‘You shall live in booths for seven days; all that are citizens in Israel shall live in booths, so that your generations may know that I made the people of Israel live in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.‘ Leviticus 23: 42-43 (NRSV)
Wanting to mark the days is so embedded in the human psyche that I can only believe it to be a positive way of documenting our existence by rooting ourselves in something bigger than our own mortality. But in our western culture is there a point when these rites and rituals regress to be become more about containment and homogenising doctrine and less about safe space of expression and flow of our worshipping lives?
The ancient names for the phases of the moon remind me just how relational we are in our need to connect to the cosmos; personalising these cycles with names such as Wolf, Hunters and Snow¹. There is a poetic beauty that still draws us in to the marking of days in this particular way, even if the practical directives are all but lost to our consumerist sensibilities.
As the moon has waned and waxed through April, it has, for the most, remained a mere backdrop to busy lives and priorities that lay elsewhere. The brightness and clarity of its free and constant virtues seldom break through our day-night patterns of eat, work, sleep. In my new house I have yet to put up curtains at two windows that sit on the half landing, looming large at the front of the house, displaying the broad sweep of the mahogany banister to anyone with a mind to look up. Without the nightly closure of these window dressings, I have moved through my own phases of how I interact with the outside the window world…
Without curtains, at first, I felt on show, uneasy, and found myself disliking the way the window seemed to sit so forlorn, uncared for without anything to frame the view (and close out the night). As time has gone on (it has been six months now) it is a completely different story! Without the night shut away I have unknowingly been engaging with the sky for a protracted amount of time. I have found myself drawn to the landing as I see the light of the moon -reflecting the sun’s rays, directly into my home. I have been feasting on sunset after sunset that has forced me to stop.
To slow down. To reengage with our planet: God’s creation.
And steadily, day by day, the wonder has returned; beyond the awe of the pink super moon that mesmerises us all, to the everyday disappearing act of the waning moon that darts and dips behind the thick bank of moody blue stratus cloud…
Is there a window we can open to hear the bird song, or a curtain to pull back (without giving the neighbours a heart attack!) to let the night in? Our routines and calendars are wonderful tools- but human made systems, none the less, and they need to serve us in our devotions, not the other way around.
We have fallen (in part) for the uninspiring all-function retelling of our capitalist existence and the love has faded for that which requires our time and emotion- in many aspects, we are running on empty. But what would it be like to feel the soft voice of the moon calling to you, night after night, to run away and see the spring tide rushing in over the sand; to make time to sit and read a psalm by torch or fire light? When celebrating Sukkot, Jewish families build open air structures/ huts (sukkah) with branches and leaves where the sky can still be seen, to remind them of both God’s historical provision in the desert and the true source of protection in the heavenlies. I love that metaphorical pulling back- of the window dressing of life, reframing our perspective.
Our physical bodies too, have an important role to play in our worshiping lives, for how else can our devotion be a truly holistic practice?
This week’s gospel reading John 15: 1-8 reveals to us the nature of a God whose provision and love endure through all eternity…
‘…Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing…‘ (v 4-5 NRSV)
Jesus speaks directly to the heart of the matter; the ball is firmly in our court. My God does not have to be cajoled into abiding in me- quite the opposite! The constancy of Christ’s love is both a promise for today and my inheritance for all eternity. But how do we ensure that we keep close to God? One simple way is to recognise the divine in all that we encounter, thus making our every moment a chance for worship; a chance to build a relationship that will carry and sustain us.
May we feel the presence of God in the most unexpected of places this week and may the blessing of the most Holy hold you and keep you now and forever more. Amen.
¹ for an interesting overview of the phases of the moon: