God of Yesterday, Today, & Tomorrow
God makes everything beautiful in its own time. Out of abundant love, the Creator offered time as a gift to creation. Although humans try, time is not something we can control, create, or buy. Whenever we release these human restraints, we are set free to enjoy the gift of time with God and one another.
Within the pages of scripture, a timely poem nestles in the third chapter of Ecclesiastes. In the 1960s, The Byrds turned these words into a song entitled, “Turn! Turn! Turn!.” Often, we hear these words at end-of-life celebrations. Sometimes we hear these words at weddings, preparing two people to wrestle with life’s deepest concerns, such as birth and death, war and peace, love and hate.
The writer pairs seven good phrases alongside seven difficult ones in the poem. In one breath, he speaks together both the good and the hard. He assembles trials and celebrations side-by-side as if one best lives out opposing truths beside each other rather than on separate pages.
The God of yesterday, today, and tomorrow leads us gracefully through the seasons of life. My eyes have witnessed the God of yesterday embrace families in seasons of hardship as sudden loss reshapes their current reality. In the event of a loved one’s unexpected death, spouses, children, and siblings are often left speechless. Yet, when there are no words left to say or tears to cry, love stands in the gap with listening ears and comforting hearts. In difficult times, one is tempted to withdraw from community and stop loving, stop trusting, stop living. However, this is not the wish or hope of our loved ones nor of our loving God. We are called into community with God and one another to weather the stormy and sunny seasons of life together rather than apart.
When I am officiating a wedding ceremony, my eyes witness the God of today join two people as one in the covenant of marriage. My favorite love moments at weddings occur in the unexpected, such as whenever a nervous yet confident father leads his daughter down the aisle; as a couple enhances the ceremony with acknowledgment of the saints who have gone before them; or as two people now husband and wife dance down the aisle to their favorite song. God’s love is present in each loving moment, drawing us together in one grand celebration.
Soon, my eyes anticipate witnessing the God of tomorrow while experiencing a season of change during a sabbatical. From May 30 through September 4, 2022, I will step aside from all pastoral leadership roles and responsibilities at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Waynesboro, Virginia, for an intentional time of rest and spiritual renewal.
Many of you may be asking the question, “What is a sabbatical?” This is a great question, and we can turn to scripture to find the answer. The word “sabbatical” comes from the Hebrew word “shabbat”, which means “to cease or rest.” In Genesis 2:23, God worked six days and rested on the seventh day. Additionally, scriptures, such as Leviticus 25, teach about the sabbath year, where the workers rested during the sabbath year, and the land rested as well. Scriptures such as these and the example of Jesus extending rest to his disciples and the crowd in the gospel of Matthew are only a few references in scripture regarding the Biblical foundation for taking sabbaticals.
In the words of Eugene Peterson, “The original intent of sabbath is a time to be silent and listen to God, not attend lectures; a time to be in solitude and be with God, not "interact" with fatigued peers. If help is to be given to the pastor in midcourse, it is not going to come by infusion of intellect but by renewal of spirit.”
During the sabbatical, I will lay down my pen from writing wedding homilies, funeral meditations, weekly sermons, and monthly faith columns for “The News Virginian” to direct time and energy toward serving God and neighbor both near and far from home.
In June, my husband, Reed, and I will travel to Scotland to explore Edinburgh’s religious history, celebrate our twenty-first wedding anniversary, and learn about peace and social justice alongside residents on the Isle of Iona.
Then in July, Reed and I, along with our exceptional daughters, River (16) and Haven (14), will join the Baja Mission Team in community outreach and building houses for the Oaxacan Indians, one of the native peoples of Mexico.
Lastly, in August, I will visit Charlotte, North Carolina, where my passion for service began while directing CROSS Missions. I will volunteer at familiar and new mission sites and visit old friends.
As I prepare for this sabbatical season, my heart overflows with gratitude for the prayers and support from family, friends, church family, and the local community. You can follow my mission adventures during this sabbatical by reading my timely posts at www.aprilhcranford.com/blog.
As God’s beloved, we trust there is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens. May we all remember this summer by the moments we enjoyed rather than the hours that flew by. Linger a little longer in conversations and dance a little longer to your favorite song because all lovely things take time.