We discussed last week in Sunday School, is Sunday worship the most important, the high point and culmination of the week or is the week what really matters and Sunday worship serves to strengthen and focus people for living the life. It was interesting because I think my Catholic assumptions were at work in seeing it as the height. Others of my bent were in agreement. The man who took the other position was more protestant. In our discussion the interaction of the two Sunday and week, worship and service came clearer. Certainly the prophets (most of them most of the time, except Haggai) would lean to the other opinion. But Torah certainly lays out a stunning case for worship. The two, righteous acts and right worship, have to go together and neither can exclude the other. We concluded that the emphasis may be different, but in the end we agreed both are key. Then I remembered the Eighth Day. In early church circles Sunday, which is Day One in creation, was seen as Day Eight because of Easter. So Sunday both begins and ends the week.
The fact is each week is a circle. Sunday serves to begin and end. It both strengthens for what lies ahead (Word to instruct, Sacrament to feed) and culminates (we offer ourselves, our treasure to God in and through Jesus' perfect sacrifice of Self). The circularity of it all means that we are constantly looking in two directions, behind and forward. Giving what we have and seeking what we need.
Likewise, John the Baptist. He begins the New Testament, he announces Jesus. But he does so as the end of the Ancient Covenant story. Dressed as Elijah, he is also a promised one, the precursor of Messiah. Theologians debate his role, beginning or end, and some have compromised and declared him a hinge figure, sort of the swing between both.Beginning and ending are rarely neat and clean. Transition is the murky grey area between black and white.I prefer boundaries which are clear, reality is not always compliant with my wishes.
Lives are not always easily divided up as before and after. The old lies dormant in the new, the new is never entirely able to shake free what went before. Perhaps it is because God wants it that way. After all, we believe not in life after death as a soul continuing on and on forever. We believe in resurrection. The body, once dead is returned to life, but a new life and in a transformed way of living. Jesus kept His scars and holes. The new life is going to be what God does in redeeming this old life I have lived. The circle continues. And it means that the life I am living has eternal significance. It means each choice has value and import forever. It means that God takes us very seriously, perhaps more seriously than we take ourselves. Something to ponder as we decide how best to honor the true meaning of the season.