2 weeks ago Chicago removed it’s mask mandate for most public places. Yay! Although we no longer have a mask mandate or have to show our proof of vaccination in public facilities, I don’t think we can declare that the pandemic is quite over yet. Maybe we should say we are in a post-2021 time. In this new era, all future plans are tentative. Events come with a forked decision of live, online, or hybrid. In the post-2021 time, we are accustomed to shifting from celebration to cancelation in a moment’s notice. Put another way, planning in the post-2021 time is a wreck!
In her book, No Cure for Being Human, Kate Bowler talks about the three types of time in the Christian tradition. These are tragic, apocalyptic, and pastoral time. In tragic time we witness a vibrant life ravished by illness or cut short by accident. We struggle with evil that lives long while the good die young. Bowler points out, “In tragic time the problem of evil has swept away the illusion that all things will be made right, and suddenly we wonder at the goodness of the world.”
“Apocalyptic time is when “systems are irredeemably broken and injustice reigns. The veil has been lifted and now we see ourselves on the brink.” Apocalypse means to reveal. This is the time to retreat to the mountains, look for the anti-Christ. “The end of the world is nigh.”
Pastoral time is what we know as ordinary time in Christian calendar. “It is marked by the seasons, the sowing and reaping and herding that keeps the land tilled and the herds fenced. It is most of time.” Pastoral is from the word shepherd. It reminds us that our calling is watching over and caring for the ordinary: printing bulletins, attending meetings, writing sermons, and unjamming the copier.
I would like to add a fourth time. I call it layered time. It is living in all three times simultaneously. The time we are in is often determined by incidents outside of ourselves. Russian invades Ukraine and the price of gas skyrockets. COVID retreats and the pressure to return to normal ramps up. Shifting from one time to another in the layered time creates stress, pressure, and anxiety in an already wrecked system.
We feel overwhelmed, confused, and a little paranoid. We wonder where the next flair up will come from, what the next world-wide drama will be, what political decision will influence the peace, purity, and unity of our congregations. We question if this is our call or is there something else we should be doing with our time.
But we are not alone. We are surrounded by colleagues in ministry who are also seeking communion. As a connected church, we are going through time, whatever it may be, together. Our strength is in our God and in our community. Now is the time to be part of a small group, cohort, or class. We find comfort in stories, laughter, and tears of one another. We find strength and comfort when we are together.
Take the time (if you are able) during this break from COVID in post 2021 time to hang out with friends and colleagues. Call, Zoom, or meet. Get together and just enjoy being with one another. Amen.
Rev. Craig M. Howard