blessed be the lonely
stuck in sameness
bored of the view
waiting for the phone to ring
watching the seasons change
through the window
daring to look inwards
to find hope they couldn’t see
by looking out
A Plug for the Humble Lectionary
As I’m writing this, there is a tropical depression going on outside the window. I wonder if those words have a double meaning. Tropical strikes me as exotic, new, alluring; depression as the elimination of novelty, and a shortening of the horizon into an endless grey sky. The two have seemed to meet in the middle.
Maybe that doesn’t sound too familiar. If you are short on novelty right now, what’s more exotic than a pandemic? Some of our more seasoned Presbyterians have remarked that, “nothing like this has ever happened before in our lifetimes.” The young have noticed the same. And while that may sound interesting—the Chinese curse, “may you live in interesting times” springs to mind—the lived reality of pandemic life has much to do with sameness: the same concerns, growing stale in frustration; the same arguments in the community; the same limitations at church. We wonder, when will it end?
For much of us, our faith is practiced in public, communal ways. We go to church. We participate in education and mission activities. Maybe we sing in the choir. It’s imperfect, because all practice of faith is imperfect. But it’s possible that the past year or so has further removed these parts of your exterior practice of faith to the point that you feel disconnected from it. If the view outside your window does little to offer a new horizon, maybe the journey has to be elsewhere—an interior journey.
At this point I may sound less Presbyterian, because we typically don’t talk this way, which is a shame. We talk about the providence of God, grace, and sin. We may have even borrowed a little language about “relationship” with God from our Evangelical brothers and sisters. But we haven’t always spent much time thinking about what it means to go deeper in our faith. And if we’re frustrated that our faith seems stuck, or moribund, or just something you do on Sunday, it’s that “going deeper” that’s missing.
C.S. Lewis once wrote a book called, The Screwtape Letters, imagining the kind of advice a demon might give to a young charge hoping to steal a soul away from God. (Interestingly, a clergyman without a sense of humor complained to the paper publishing the letters, wondering why someone was giving such “devilish advice.”)
Screwtape, the one giving advice, talks about “The horror of the Same Old Thing”—our great fear that nothing will change, and therefore we, as people, crave variety. Says Screwtape, “The horror of the Same Old Thing is one of the most valuable passions we have produced in the human heart—an endless source of heresies in religion, folly in counsel, infidelity in marriage, and inconstancy in friendship. The humans live in time, and experience reality successively. To experience much of it, therefore, they must experience many different things; in other words, they must experience change.”
The demon laments the way the universe is ordered, claiming that God gives us the best of both worlds—change and permanence: “He has balanced the love of change in them by a love of permanence. He has contrived to gratify both tastes together in the very world He has made, by that union of change and permanence which we call Rhythm. He gives them the seasons, each season different yet every year the same, so that spring is always felt as a novelty yet always as the recurrence of an immemorial theme.”
I have quoted this passage before—once, recently, when we debuted our new liturgical banners. In the church, we have ways of marking the passage of time through the seasons (each season with its own color).
We also mark time through the things that we read as a church. We sometimes read through the lectionary in worship: a calendar of readings that surveys the breadth of scripture. Some in our church read the daily lectionary, too: a similar calendar that pairs readings with every day of the year.
This has been a sustaining habit for me for some time, particularly as it can be practiced in the middle of a service of individual prayer through some resources our denomination provides.
If you’re curious about how you can take the first few steps of that interior journey, this isn’t a bad place to start. You can explore our Book of Common Worship https://www.pcusastore.com/Products/0664503527/book-of-common-worship-daily-prayer.aspx. Or you can download the PC(USA) Daily Prayer App on your phone, which walks you through the readings and prayers each days.
Whatever the view from your window is right now, or wherever you are in your faith, know that you will always be able to go deeper, even if you stay exactly where you are.
-The Rev. Dr. Will Scott, Pastor
First Presbyterian Church of Dalton, GA
 Kate Buckley, Untitled from The Presbyterian Outlook, Vol. 203 No.12, August 23, 2021, p.4.
Cover Art: Swanson, John August. Ecclesiastes, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. https://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=56542 [retrieved September 15, 2021]. Original source: www.JohnAugustSwanson.com – copyright 1989 by John August Swanson.