It was a regular Sunday morning and the church did what it usually did…gather for corporate worship at 11 o’clock. Traditionally at the high and holy hour, the organist would chime eleven times while the choir entered the loft just before they were to sing the “call to worship”. For years the timing had worked perfectly. Even if the choir was a little slow ascending the loft, the organist could adjust her chiming rhythm to fit the pace of the entrance. It always worked.
That morning, however, something happened “back stage” that greatly delayed the expected entrance. By chime five and six the organist had realized there was a problem and so she slowed her rhythm a little.
By then the organist knew there was a huge problem. She slowed even more.
Before she struck eleven, the minister of music, who was standing in the wings, finally caught her eye and motioned to her to keep going while the bottleneck could be cleared. He intended to communicate that she should finish her 11th chime and then launch into prelude music until the choir could enter. She interpreted his signal to mean that she should keep chiming. And so she did.
Eleven, twelve, thirteen.
Those in the audience who were counting realized something was amiss. Some showed signs of worry. Others started to giggle. A few poked their unsuspecting husbands in the rib cage. Still the chiming continued without the appearance of even the first choir member.
Fourteen, fifteen, sixteen.
Then the hubbub in the sanctuary started to get louder and there were looks of panic on the faces of the congregants.
Seventeen, eighteen, nineteen, twenty.
Finally the pastor, who had figured out what was happening and, recognizing the concern of his flock, started moving toward the podium.
Twenty one, twenty two.
When the organist saw the pastor standing in the pulpit she finally stopped chiming. That’s when the pastor announced to his congregation,
“Ladies and gentlemen, it is now later than it has ever been”.
In a conversation I had this week with our oldest son, Mark, he mentioned that he had just discovered that the children born the year he graduated from high school will be seniors in high school themselves this fall. “Where did the time go?” we both remarked.
That’s when I remembered this story of the chiming organist as told to me by the pastor of that church. It caused me to reflect on not so much the passage of time, but the perception of it. It sometimes seems to speed up and yet sometimes it just creeps by.
Unlike the organ chime, time has a constant rhythm. It comes and goes at the same pace every day. It doesn’t speed up or slow down but it does often make us wonder if it’s later than it’s ever been…especially when we don’t perceive it moving quickly or slowly enough for our tastes. At those moments I have to realize that I’m not looking at the big picture, just one tiny piece of it.
Our friend and rising young recording artist Josh Wilson co-wrote a song called “Before the Morning” that contains the line:
‘Cause there’s good for those who love God
But life is not a snapshot
It might take a little time
And you’ll see the bigger picture
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