We enter the last weeks of the Church Year. Like travelling on a circle or even a Mobius Strip, we are returning to the beginning again so to speak. These last weeks look at end times, judgements, Jesus’ return and almost seamlessly move into Advent as the final coming of Jesus fades and his first arrival on Earth comes into focus. We’re facing endings and beginnings.
We think similar thoughts at life events such as birth and death or maybe even graduation from school or university. Maybe a lot of our busyness is filling our time so that we don’t think ‘upwards’ or ‘beyond’.
This week I came across a point of view I hadn’t really encountered before. It intrigued me.
Up to the mid-nineteenth century, give or take a few years – it varies from country to another … most people in most parts of the world had at least three basic cer-tainties: where I will spend my life, what I will do for a living and what will happen to me when I die. Almost everyone in the world, just a hundred and fifty years ago or so, knew that they were going to spend their lives right where they were born or somewhere nearby, perhaps in the next village. Everyone knew they would do for a liv-ing what their parents did for a living or something very similar. And everyone knew that, if they behaved themselves they would be transformed to a better world after they died. The twentieth century has eroded, often destroyed, these and other certainties. The loss of those elemental certainties may have provided for the most heavily ideological half-century, followed by the most fiercely selfish, hedonistic, gadget-orientated half-century. (A Oz, How to Cure a Fanatic, pp.62-64.)
As I said, I’m intrigued but in the meantime you’ve still got to keep going – family, work, life – it’s all still happening.
I came come across the following prayer decades ago. It is a prayer for Saturday – which with Sunday is another ending – beginning point.
Waken my heart, O Lord, my God; make my heart watchful to serve you and alert to your command.
You have created us full of trouble; you have made us strangers in this world.
Trouble me with the smallness of my work.
Trouble me with the greatness of your command.
Trouble me with my unholiness and my slowness to obey.
Trouble me with time running out and every lost hour.
Trouble me with my sins and the sins of all people.
Trouble me with the troubles of your church which are the work of people.
Trouble me, and make me watch continually for your judgement.
Trouble me, O Lord, and let me keep my faith in the midst of my trouble.
Let me go forth desiring the coming of your glory.
Let me go forward; for your glory shall be revealed.
I thank you that my work ends and your work begins.
Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.
Amen. (K B Bitter, Pfarrgebete, pp.44f)