It is definitely early fall here at this old house: hot days and cool nights. We have had virtually no rain all month, so the grasses are dried out to a crisp. The Western Slope peaches continue to be exquisite but many tomato plants have not done well due to the cold, wet May we had. Agriculture requires such a fine balance, a reality too many of us have no clue about as we are so removed from our food sources and the land in general. With the ability to engineer foods to be available nearly all year long, most of us have no idea what it means for a fruit or vegetable to be “in season” or “out of season.” That makes it hard for many of us to fully appreciate 2 Timothy 4:2–Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season.
One of my favorite stories of Henri Nouwen, the late Dutch priest, goes something like this: Nouwen was exhausted and went to a monastery to rest. A group of Roman Catholic high school students came for a weekend retreat while he was there. Their leader asked if Nouwen would speak to the kids about worship and the liturgy. Frustrated, Nouwen went to the Abbot complaining about his desire for rest and lack of interest in preparing a talk for these students. The Abbot looked at Nouwen and said that if after all these years of being a priest he couldn’t simply talk to the kids about the liturgy, then there was something very wrong. Nouwen, the Abbot said, didn’t need to prepare but rather live in a state of preparedness and speak to these students out of that state. Put another way, Nouwen didn’t need to prepare a talk as if he were speaking to a conference full of liturgical scholars. Rather, Nouwen could speak simply and from his heart on aspects of the liturgy that would be appropriate to high school students.
When I first heard that story, I was profoundly struck by the idea of “living in a state of preparedness.” That is very much what 2 Timothy 4 is saying. This begs the question: how does one live in a state of preparedness? The quick answer be focused on a subject, always looking for ideas related to it as you go about your day. In the case of 2 Timothy, we would always have our antennae out for things relating to the Kingdom of God. Out of that richly tilled soil planted with godly seeds, one can then speak a word appropriate to any situation and person.
I tend to live and think “liturgically.” That is, I am very aware of where we are in the Church Year each week. I have three things that I use to help reinforce each week’s lectionary readings:
- a radio program called “Sing for Joy” (http://www.stolaf.edu/singforjoy),
- the three-volume set “Imaging the Word: An Arts and Lectionary Resource” (http://www.amazon.com/Imaging-Word-Arts-Lectionary-Resource/dp/0829809716/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1440874258&sr=8-1&keywords=imaging+the+word),
- and Nancy Roth’s three book set on hymns from the Episcopal hymnal 1982 related to each Sunday’s lectionary theme (http://www.amazon.com/Awake-My-Soul-Meditating-Hymns/dp/0898693209/ref=pd_sim_14_1?ie=UTF8&refRID=146ENAYW5EJR5B9Q59Y6&dpSrc=sims&dpST=_AC_UL320_SR242%2C320_).
I also do a daily devotional that is based on the lectionary for each day that includes three readings, a hymn from the Lutheran hymnal, and a prayer. By reading and/or listening to these resources, I find that I am more prepared for worship on Sunday morning and more grounded in kairos, God’s time. It helps me live in parallel worlds, chronos (clock time) but focused on the world of God’s Kingdom and rule in parallel with my daily tasks. It doesn’t always work. Chronos is a harsh task master but by periodically stopping and reflecting on God’s time, I can more easily “keep calm and carry on.”
In season or out of season, living in a state of preparedness–good goals for the fall, don’t you think?