Time Traveling – An All Saint’s ReflectionBy imironchuk • Oct 31st, 2010 • Category: Pastor's Message
Rev. Scott Summerville
If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.
I have been thinking for the past week about traveling through time. You will see in a moment why I have been thinking about this subject.
Last Saturday I had the pleasure of accompanying our group on retreat on a stunningly gorgeous autumn day. It is a simple pleasure to be in relaxed company with people of a whole variety of ages and backgrounds and life experiences, to eat, to laugh, to worship, to dance – yes we danced to the African drums we brought back from Ghana – and to stroll through the fields and woods together and to come to know and love one another more deeply – this is something I treasure.
Mary Ellen and I left camp Olmsted in the afternoon on Saturday to travel north to attend my forty-first high school reunion. I had attended only one another such reunion prior to last weekend, and that one was attended only by a few people, so this was my first real high school reunion ever.
We arrived for the main event, the Saturday evening banquet. On a poster displayed outside the entrance to the banquet hall there was a list of names in columns like the names in our bulletin this morning, one column for each of the high school classes that was participating in this reunion, listing those members of each class who had died. On the list was my old buddy Terry who I played baseball and basketball and football with practically every day of my life from the time I was eight until I was seventeen. Terry died young of cancer.
It was when I entered the banquet hall that I began to think about traveling through time. I was looking into faces of people I had not seen since 1969. If you have had such an experience, you know how peculiar it is. Some faces seem to be scarcely changed through all those years, others faces are unrecognizable, having changed so much. I felt that I had jumped on a time machine and skipped over forty years.
You probably know this already, but permit me to summarize the physics of traveling in time, according to the principles discovered by Einstein and confirmed since by scientific experiments.
The laws of physics, specifically the general theory of relativity, tell us that you can travel forward in time relative to other people, but you cannot travel backward in time. In order to travel forward in time relative to other people, all you need to do is to hop on your personal intergalactic spaceship, rev the thing up to full speed – say, half the speed of light – enjoy the stars for a few years, and then come back. When you return, depending upon how long you have been gone and exactly how fast you have been traveling, the people you knew when you departed will have grown old or perhaps died – you may be meeting their grandchildren or great-grandchildren. You will return in their future, but you will have had no sense of time being any different for yourself.
There is no point trying to understand this, because the human brain wasn’t made to understand things like the relativity of time, but that is what the physicists tell us.
Coming back to find all our loved ones advanced in age or gone is not the kind of time travel most of us dream about. Most of us dream about going back in time. We long to touch again the people who once we touched and now are gone beyond our grasp. We long to go back to moments and places and people that we savor now only in our memories and our photographs. Sometimes we long to go back to undo things said and done that we wish had never been said or done.
Today we will hop on the only time machine available to us, our memories; we will read the names of the saints beloved to us, and we will remember the immensity of life, the awesomeness of a single human life; we will remember what the poet once said: it is an awesome thing to love that which must die. We will hear the Gospel’s challenge to live this very day and this very life to the full, to love to the full, to live this mortal life with passion and conviction.
In the uncertainties of life and death we walk by faith and share life together in Christ. In the loaf of bread that we break and share we will remember the love that binds us to one another, the living and the dead. And we remember the love of God in Christ that is with us whether we live or whether we die.
I was focused this week on so many things, getting caught up on things I’d fallen behind on during the trip to Africa and my recovery from the common cold. I was so focused on these things that I entirely forgot that there is this thing called “Holloween” that most people associate with this day and which has nothing to do with church services and saints.
On Friday I was visiting a patient at a rehabilitation center. I was directed to the rehab room where the patient was with a physical therapist. As I entered the rehab room it occurred to me that some of the young women working with the patients had what I took to be a new style – strange makeup and odd hair arrangements and some peculiar clothing, but I thought, “Well, as long as they do their jobs, who cares how they dress.” Then I noticed a certain young man giving physical therapy to a woman. He was wearing a very strange pair sunglasses and a pink headband, and he had the strangest mass of hair protruding in all directions above the headband.It was then that I finally realized that the staff was in costume.
Secular customs have swallowed up the ancient roots of this day, but today we reclaim the ancient meaning of it, as we name the Saints, and proclaim again this ancient truth:
“If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.”
Grace and peace to you.