Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Work for the Night is Coming

I'm using this old hymn, written by Anna Coghill in 1854 when she was 18 years old, as a starting point for this Sunday's sermon. I like to start with an unexpected song on occasion and this one fits the topic.

As I prepare a sermon, I pray for guidance about the topic, and sometimes I get that guidance in the form of a song that appears first thing in the morning. This morning, "Work for the night is coming" was the song I found myself singing in the shower.

I'd been puzzling over how to start the sermon, whose title is actually "Twelfth Night Epiphanies" and whose theme is actually "service". We ministers think up these titles for a newsletter deadline and then spend time trying to reconcile the title with the theme that is trying to be born.

Did you know, as I was reminded during my Wiki search for info about Twelfth Night, that this day was once celebrated by a reversal of roles in some cultures? It was a time when the peasant became king for a day and the Lord of Misrule reigned in the village. At midnight the roles reversed again and things went back to normal.

It reminded me of my days as a teacher, when "Spirit Week" in the junior high where I taught sponsored a day when students taught the classes and the teachers sat in the desks. It was chaotic but kind of fun and I was always acutely aware of how well (or not) I had prepared my student to teach.

"Work" for Ms. Coghill probably meant working to save souls, as this hymn appears in most traditional hymnals and refers to a New Testament admonition to do God's work until night comes.

But the concept of "work" in today's world is markedly different from "work" in the mid-19th century, pre-Industrial Revolution. I hope to note some of those differences and contrast "work" with "service". And somewhere I have to tie it to epiphanies, as well.

But right now I'm taking a break, having written about four pages (doublespaced) and looking forward to getting a haircut at 11. My back is much better and it allowed me to spend New Year's Eve with some folks from the church, eating and playing games and laughing, then going home at 10 p.m., since it was midnight in Chicago!

Happy New Year, all, and thanks for spending time at Ms. Kitty's!

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