Faces on Faith: Discovering the sacred in the ordinary
John Westerhoff often describes faith communities as “story-formed communities – people on pilgrimages through time, through seasons of profane time made holy by the external cycle of sacred time…. We recall and celebrate the occasions that are most significant to us, and the days we celebrate give meaning and purpose to our lives.”
During this busy season of family and friend gatherings according to the holy days of our various religious calendars, as well as during the times we gather to celebrate anniversaries, birthdays, weddings, funerals, or family reunions, we come together to honor and cherish occasions that are significant to us.
And when family and friends gather together there are always stories told, people and times remembered, and often a long-lost narrative retrieved from memory – sometimes humorous, sometimes sorrowful – but all times of remembrance.
These times of stories and remembrance on the calendars of our secular lives are what we refer to as chronos time – the time determined by our earthly clocks and calendars – the linear, tangible, and predictable time we understand and follow.
As we celebrate the gatherings in our lives that appear on the calendar, we need to also remember the less-tangible, less-predictable, and often less-understood concept of time we refer to as kairos – God’s time.
In our celebratory times this season – even the smallest gathering of friends for dinner – where might God’s grace-filled and holy Spirit be working during your time together?
As you check off calendar days and walk through secular activities, where might God be present in the unpredictable occasions of joy or sorrow with people you might not know well at all?
As the clock ticks and the pages turn, where might you pause in the chronos time of your mind to see a kairos moment in your heart and soul – a time when you take notice of the people around you and discover what the most loving thing is to do – right at that moment?!
Where are the sacred moments present on your secular calendars – potential holy spaces that beg to be captured? They may appear to you like a wind that blows you over, or even still a gentle breeze that calms you.
Gregory of Nyssa, in his efforts to seize each day and discover the sacred in the ordinary, wrote the following on the Lord’s Prayer: “Let us remember that the life in which we ought to be interested is ‘daily’ life…God tells us to pray for today, and so he prevents us from tormenting ourselves about tomorrow. It is as if God were to say to us: ‘It is I who give you this day and will also give you what you need for this day.'”
As you walk your pilgrimages through time with one another, as you recount stories that bind you together and tell new stories that create new ties, and as you seek to understand new ways of loving one another, keep one eye on your calendar and the eyes of your soul on where God is present.
We HAVE been given what we need, although it may seem to be just one more ordinary day.
-The Rev. Dr. Ellen Sloan, Rector, St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church