Taking Time


This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it.

Ralph Waldo Emerson[1]

Almost every Wednesday morning for the past eleven years, I have meet with a group of clergy in Fluvanna County. When we can gather together in person, we share breakfast. We also share stories from our journey as pastors, and we reflect on the upcoming scriptures that we will be preaching from on the upcoming Sunday.

We are still meeting, but during this time of sheltering, we meet on Zoom. This morning, my friend Don MacNicoll shared an article from the website Al.com describing how various pastors from Birmingham, Alabama were addressing the issues presented by Spanish Flu in their churches in the year 1918.

The article reports that “The Rev. Fletcher Parrish, pastor of Eleventh Avenue Methodist Church, … reflected on the opportunity for a true Sabbath.

“Meditation is very profitable for the soul, but the rush of the world is so great at present that very little time is given to cogitation and reflection,” Fletcher wrote… “However, we have a God-given opportunity for this helpful indulgence by reason of this unique Sabbath which has dawned upon us. Out of necessity our churches are closed, and all public gatherings must be discontinued. We cannot go motoring, and we would not go to business if we could… But we can sit by the fire and give ourselves to thought and reflection which will bring great profit to us.”[2]

In our action-oriented culture, some are finding this to be a time of enforced solitude and are finding it difficult. They are looking for something to do. Others may be finding this time to be enriching, an opportunity to get away from the daily grind and reflect, meditate, contemplate, and pray. For still others who are deemed “essential” in their jobs or are working from home and may be juggling the roles of work and homeschooling children, this time may be overwhelming. They long for the opportunity to “sit by the fire” and give themselves “to thought and reflection.”

It seems sometimes that people fall into the category having too much to do or too much time. Within these categories, we find that some people welcome the opportunity to spend more time with God. Others want to keep busy. And yet others want to find the time for reflection but they just don’t have the time or the energy. It seems like an either/or proposition.

Parker Palmer sees the dilemma of choosing between action and contemplation differently: “the one cannot exist without the other.”[3] They have a common “root … their root is in our ceaseless drive to be fully alive.”[4] In a fully integrated life, one can have both. He has made everything suitable for its time…” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

Questions for Reflection:

We will explore this theme during the next few days. For now, I ask you to reflect on how you have spent your time this day. Do you feel more fully alive in the world of action or in the world of contemplation? Or are you too busy to be able to think about it? Can you see ways that your actions are grounded in gifts and graces that God has given to you?

[1] Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The American Scholar: An Oration Delivered Before the Phi Beta Kappa Society, at Cambridge, August 31, 1837.” The Complete Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Accessed on April 22, 2020 at https://quod.lib.umich.edu/e/emerson/4957107.0001.001/1:10?rgn=div1;view=fulltext. [2] “What clergy said when influenza closed churches in 1918.” Al.com. Posted April 17, 2020. Accessed April 22, 2020. https://www.al.com/coronavirus/2020/04/what-clergy-said-when-influenza-closed-churches-in-1918.html [3] Parker Palmer, The Active Life: A Spirituality of Work, Creativity, and Caring (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1991), 15. [4] Parker Palmer, The Active Life, 17.

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