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Liturgical Splendor

Blue Mountain is green.  Bower Mountain is green.  The whole forest looks green.  The Laurel Run is surrounded by mountain laurels and hemlocks.  The poplars that were bare while stalking morels in the spring are now green.  The weeds in my garden are green.  I clear them out-of-the-way to find green tomatoes.  Green is the color of the season.

The church calendar labels this time of year as Ordinary Time.  After the festival of Pentecost, the calendar provides an ordinary time for growth.  Ordinary Time is symbolized by the color green.  How fitting, green is the liturgical color of the season.  Indoors and out, we enter liturgical splendor.  Everyone unplug everything and get outside!

We do not wear vestments during worship on Sunday mornings.  But I did preach in a green shirt one time.  I park near the line of evergreens separating the church property from the nearby auto auction.  There a mockingbird sits and sings.  He is singing when I get out of the car and has not stopped when I return.  He sings his song right through worship.  Part of me wonders if I can get him to release this song on iTunes.  A wiser part reminds me that indoors and out, we enter liturgical splendor.

Barbara Brown Taylor talks about hearing a sermon and walking out “into a God-enchanted world, where I could not wait to find further clues to heaven on earth.  Every leaf, every ant, every shiny rock called out to me – begging to be watched, to be listened to, to be handled and examined.  I became a detective of divinity, collecting evidence of God’s genius and admiring the tracks left for me to follow.”

Eugene Peterson writes that in spite of our tendency to take things for granted.  “Something always shows up to jar us awake:  a child’s question, a fox’s sleek beauty, a sharp pain, a pastor’s sermon, a fresh metaphor, an artist’s vision, a slap in the face, scent from a crushed violet.  We are again awake, alert, in wonder.”

At one point during Screwtape’s correspondence with novice demon Wormwood to secure the demise of a human client, he writes, “Even if we contrive to keep them ignorant of explicit religion, the incalculable winds of fantasy and music and poetry – the mere face of a girl, the song of a bird, or the sight of a horizon – are always blowing our whole structure away.”

If that is the case, Screwtape must hate the forest with its strutting turkeys and shimmery brook trout.  He must hate the wineberries that I pick to make smoothies and the tomatoes that I intend to fry green.  And the cold waters of the Laurel Run, the perfect skipping rock that Keightley found while there, the buck in velvet and the turtle laying its eggs.  He must hate the song of the whip-poor-will and the mockingbird who sings the prelude and the benediction at church.  He must hate the color green that manufactures the oxygen I receive when I take in a big breath.

Much like the green of creation allows us to enjoy breath and life, the Spirit of Pentecost provides ordinary time for growth.  But then, this is not just any ordinary time.

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