God summons the days

It is the Summer Solstice today. That would mean a lot more to me if I was living two thousand years ago in the land of my ancestors. It would be among the more interesting days of the year, in fact. That’s not really the case now. I’m a Christian and I’m not supposed to find such things at all interesting. In fact if I were to go on and on about the importance of the Summer Solstice some might mark me with words rather insulting to my religious devotion.

I wonder about this, however. There’s this part of me that acknowledges my faith, and the lack of importance the longest day of the year has for it, and the reality that in contemporary life the rhythms of nature are little more than cues to dress a little differently at times. It’s not so much I’ve been taught to ignore the pernicious influences of pagan devotion as much as it has absolutely no bearing on anything in my life so such topics are entirely forgotten.

There’s this other part of me. This deep, old part of me that would love to dance in some oak grove on the morrow honoring the sun’s journey and the rhythms of nature.

My room has a large sliding glass door facing about northeasterly. Sitting in my room I can easily see the passage of the sun through the year. When winter comes it rises farther to the south, and at a certain point of the year it rises so far to the south the light of the sun never enters my room at all. When the seasons turn, however, the sun begins rising farther to the north and as the summer solstice approaches the rising sun makes its mark on my back wall, with that wall getting about four inches of light tomorrow.

I made a mark on my wall where the sun reached its furthest. At Newgrange, in Ireland, ancient people made a huge mound about three thousand years before Jesus was born, in which they dug a tunnel. On the morning of the winter solstice, and only on the morning of this solstice, the light from the rising sun shines into this long tunnel illuminating its entire length for about seventeen minutes.

That shouldn’t mean anything to me. Only it does. I have no idea why.

There is in Christian tradition a calendar, in which the rhythms of the religious life are organized. Feasts and fasts, seasons of green, or white, or red or purple are delineated according to historic patterns. This rhythm teaches the soul. It has little to do with nature’s rhythm but has somewhat of the same quality.

God taught similar rhythms in the Old Testament when he dictated the feasts to Moses, giving a very detailed pattern of observance for his chosen people which combined the religious with the natural, in which feasts of harvest and planting, or new years or salvations could be noted each year as regularly as the earth went around the sun and the moon went around the earth.

God, it seems, does pay attention to such things. Which shouldn’t be surprising, being that he made these rhythms. All of them.

God came to earth, born in a stable, and died on a cross, handed out his Spirit and gave particular people strong callings in this world, thus shaping our Christian calendar. He saved the Jewish people from Egypt, told them to honor him with their firstfruits and plead his forgiveness for their many gathered sins thus shaping the Jewish Calendar.

He made the sun and the moon and the stars. He put the seasons in their order and spun the moon around the earth and the earth around the sun and the sun around the galaxy and the galaxy around the universe. He made animals and plants act differently at different times of the year, some moving to and fro, other changing colors, or getting more active, or putting on new ornaments. This is God’s work in creating the rhythms of nature.

Christians, I think, have become so worried about the pagan considerations of nature they forget they worship in full the God who pagans know only from a distance. We worship God, who in three persons created all we see, and set us in a world which acts in a peculiar fashion.

So today is the Summer Solstice, the day that marks the sun at its northernmost point, giving us the longest day of the year, and the shortest night. It’s just a day I suppose. A somewhat warm day and a somewhat sunny day, but it is just a day.

Only it is also an opportunity. As a marker of passage it gives me a chance, it provokes me to remember, it pushes me to stop for a moment and express thanksgiving to God for the works he has wrought.

Psalm 50 says, “The mighty one, God the LORD, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting.”

I guess this means on June 21 God summons the earth for that much longer, and so he deserves that much more honor and praise and thanksgiving from me who can easily lose sight of God’s mighty works in the mundane realities of my life. The Solstice is a reminder. It is a beckoning to me to remember, and watch, and listen for the God who has made this day. I think I’ll rejoice and be glad in it.

This was written June 21, 2006

A few years ago, Barclay Press invited me to do a two week daily journal for their website. They’ve since changed their online presence so those writings are gone. I was sorting out different files on my computer this evening and happened to run across them. So, I thought, I might as well repost them here. Both to have a record of them, and maybe more so, because these were written in 2006 and 2007. A fair bit of changes have happened in my life since then, so these are records of a time in my life when all I had was faith. I was writing a lot during these journaling times, and it’s curious what came out when I sat down to write. So, mostly for me, but also for anyone whose interested, I’m going to post one of these a day for the next 20 days or so.

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