Last Saturday night we set our clocks back on hour marking the end of daylight savings time for another year. I for one am grateful for this. My 8:00 classes began while it was still dark and that did not make me happy. Now at least, my day starts in daylight even if it already getting dark by the time it ends.
And all of this got me thinking about time. Most of the time, I think of time of something that happens to me and I have no control over it. Time moves along a continuum and I have only have so much time to get something accomplished before I come to the end of the continuum. It moves at a constant rate of speed and if I don’t keep up with it I’m in trouble. My work won’t get finished, I’ll miss the bus, I’ll be late for class. For the most part, time is linear.
Twice this semester in a worship class that I’m taking, we’ve been encouraged to think of time as circular. Instead of thinking about time in terms of a line that we move along, we talked about thinking about it in terms of a circle that we move around. The difference is that there is not a defined started and ending point, it just keeps going. In addition, it means that time isn’t something that happens to us, it’s something we participate in.
If you think about, our calendars are circular as well. We tend to think of them in terms of lines – days, weeks, months, moving along a continuum – a timeline. But they are also a circle. Draw a circle and put January at the top and then February and so on until December and think and then think your day as a circle you get up, do your stuff, and go to bed, and then you get up and do it all over again.
Now apply this to the liturgical church calendar. Start with Advent and move to the Ascension in a circle. Now think of a worship service this way, not it terms of a line – what we can fit into the next 60 to 75 minutes – but as a circle. Start at the top with God calling his people to gather for worship and moving through the parting blessing and there again is God calling his people to gather. It’s a constant cycle that repeats itself week after week.
In my mind, thinking of it this way accomplishes two things. First, worship becomes not a set of minutes that has a start and an end but an endless cycle It doesn’t start and end it continues in a never-ending cycle of praise.
Second, it turns worship into something that we participate in rather than something that happens to us. Worship doesn’t happen to us, we are active participants in it. We don’t just stand up and sit down, listen and speak, pray and sing, because we’ve reached the point on the continuum. We do these things because we are participants in a continuous and ongoing relationship with God, picking up each week, where we left off last week. We don’t go back in time, or start a new timeline, we just step right back into the circle and keep right on going.
Sure, time still happens to us. I’ve still got to show up to class on time and make sure my deadlines are met. But having a different way to think about time might make me less inclined make excuses for what I do and don’t have time for and it might make me make different choices about how I use my time the next day. After all, every day is a new circle.