This was the big day.
This was a long day. People arrived early, to attend to last minute preparations, like putting the tree to be decorated during Sunday school in place, making copies of the program for the day, dropping off food for the buffet table. People stayed late, cleaning up, clearing the tables, putting away and distributing leftovers, gathering up the soiled tablecloths, washing cups and serving platters, all the usual tasks that go unseen by those who only see the “main event,” but that follow inexorably on every main event.
This was one of those days when the ordinary limits of being human become felt as limitations, constraints: only being in one place at a time, only doing one thing at a time, only having one conversation at a time, only having so much time for “it all,” only being able to take in just so much of all there is to be taken in.
This kind of day reminds us that we can’t do everything all by ourselves. We need collaborators, other people who can be in the places we aren’t doing the essential or desirable tasks we can’t and be one person: the food preparation in the kitchen and the Sunday school in the sanctuary and the reunioning and conversation hosting in the fellowship hall, all together making “it all” happen.
This was a once in a lifetime day – after all, as one of the task force members kept saying, you’re only 200 years old once.
This was a day to celebrate history, and in celebrating it, to appreciate it. We don’t have to be very old to have cherished memories of past times, memories that include people who have died, or moved away, or long ago grown up past the events of that memory. All the living pastors had been invited and almost all came, and shared their stories of the congregation during their time on the journey. The Presbytery sent a representative with greetings and congratulations.
Listening to all these stories is eye-opening; some things we remember, too, but smaller, or bigger, or different; some things we weren’t part of at all. No one of us lives “it all,” knows “it all.” No one makes stories like these, fashions memories like these, all alone. If we are the lives we have lived, the memories we have made, then we need these other people in order to be … ourselves. This was a day to notice that, and wonder at it.
We – the individuals who make up the congregation today, the folks who are on the active member roll, the ones who come on Sundays, or on Christmas and Easter and the special days – we didn’t begin the story of this congregation. We showed up “in the middle of the movie,” and will be leaving, one way or another, before it’s all over. At least, we hope so. We hope our own individual ends will only be the end of our part in the story, that other people will pick up where we leave off, and make more of the story.
This was a Sunday in Ordinary Time. That seems fitting.
Making more of the story mostly happens on all the other days, the days that are not the “big days,” the days that are “normal,” “unremarkable,” “just another day” after another after another. What’s vital, crucial, decisive is precisely what we do, how we live, all through those small “nothing special” days. It’s easy to forget, what with being human and having those limits on how many places we can be and how many things we can do and how much attention we can devote at any one time, and what with having to navigate through the present by sighting on the future. It’s easy to confuse the landmarks with the journey.
But how we make the journey largely determines where we will arrive: which memories we will have made, to celebrate and to recall; which selves we will have made, together with which others, to do that celebrating.
[God can’t just be a destination. “Go with God” is not just a figure of speech.]
And yet …
This was a day to notice all of that.
A big day.