But not in very many places. The longest pastorate in one of the congregations that I served was thirty-seven years. In the succession of those who came after him, I was third and each of us served eight years. Someone had placed a sundial in a small circular patio on the church front lawn as a memorial to their long term pastor. The sundial sat in the shade and the gnomon was missing. The “gnomon” for those who do not know is “one who knows,” and that is the name of the device that casts a shadow across the sundial to indicate the hour. In the shade the dial is perpetually in shadows anyway.
One member claimed to have the gnomon in his garage, and he intended to put it back in place some day. He was the same person who told me that there was only one pastor that he ever liked (guess who?), and he did not intend to like me. He died a couple of years later, and I got to officiate at his funeral, whether he liked me or not. I must admit to feeling some affection for the codger.
The gnomon never turned up. It was not found in his garage, which would have required an EPA Superfund cleanup to do it justice. For some people time had stopped in that parish. They were geographically and emotionally isolated from the rest of the world, and they held on to things of significance from the past. Other folks were just as quick to let go as the first group was firm in hanging on, so there was no end to possibilities for controversy. I tried to serve as a gnomon for my term in office, and I cast a few shadows that still remain. Now there are probably a few people hanging on stubbornly because of my efforts as well as my predecessors.’
Of course time does not stand still even if we remove the gnomon or dwell in the shadows. We must make some kind of peace with the movement of time even when we refuse to be clock-watchers. It is going somewhere with or without us. Even without a gnomon, without knowing where time is going, we still hope to cast some kind of shadow across the places in which we will stand.
I will not hold on too tightly to the past, and I will appreciate the present, and the future? I will let it be exciting. I will yield to it. It will belong to Another, as all time truly does. Therefore it will be better that I imagine it can be.