Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Sunday I Forgot My Watch

It’s not often that I leave the house without wearing a watch. When I do, it’s on my day off or on vacation when I know I don’t have to be somewhere at any particular time. Once in a while, it’s nice to enjoy your day without worrying about what time it is. Just go with the flow.

One Sunday morning a while back, I left the house without wearing a watch. I was halfway to the church before I realized it. Now, on Sunday the services should start on time. People expect that. Not to worry…I knew there are clocks on the wall throughout the church. The services would still start on time.

Usually on Sunday morning, though, it’s not only a matter of making sure the services start at 8:00 or 10:30. I also find myself checking my watch throughout the service. Every so often, I’ll look and see what time it is. I’ll think to myself, “Let’s see, that first hymn took about 4 minutes to sing”… “The Scripture readings are longer today than normal, and it's already 8:20. Maybe I ought to pick up the pace and read them a little faster" ... “Okay, let's see, it’s 11 o’clock. Right on track to start my sermon, which I timed on Saturday as being 13 minutes long”… “Oh, man, communion took longer than I expected, and it’s already 11:45. Should I omit the Post-Communion canticle today? No, I don't like to do that. Maybe I'll just speed up the final collect and announce that we'll omit some verses of the last hymn.”

The Sunday I forgot my watch, things were different. It was nice for a change not being able to check my watch during the Divine Service. I was forced to not be bound by time, and to just “go with the flow.” And “the flow” of the Divine Service should never by bound by time. After all, we are getting a foretaste of eternity when God serves us in Word and Sacrament with his love and forgiveness. God is outside of time. He is not bound by the clock. During worship, perhaps we shouldn’t be either.

Without checking my watch, I found I was able to more freely participate in the service. Not being bound by the clock, I found that my mind didn’t wander as much (yes, my mind wanders at times, just like everyone else). In a much greater way, I was able to appreciate the glory of the Divine Service and the gifts of God bestowed upon his baptized people. And when I got to the part right before the Sanctus, where we remind ourselves that we are singing "with angels, and archangels, and with all the company of heaven,” I imagined what worship will be like in eternity. And I didn’t see any timepieces on those resurrected wrists.

So much of our days are spent looking at the clock, worrying about getting to work on time, to class on time, to our next appointment on time. As a respite from the relentless rush of time, let me suggest to you that next Sunday, try “forgetting” to wear your watch. Don’t concern yourself with whether the service starts on time. If it doesn’t, then spend a few more moments in prayerful preparation. Don’t check your watch to see how long the sermon has gone on. Focus instead on the Word of God that the pastor is expounding upon and the Gospel-gifts that he is delivering to you. And as you kneel to receive your Savior’s body and blood, picture yourself at that eternal banquet table in the very presence of the Lamb of God. At that Divine Service, no one will ever check their watch and ask, “Is it over yet?”

1 comment:

Robert Talbert said...

One of my college English profs once gave a memorable comparison between modern man putting on a watch and slaves putting on a slave collar. I stopped wearing a watch that day and have never put one on since. (When I need to keep time, for example when I am teaching or presenting, I use my cell phone.)