August 2 – An Ordinate Waste of Time

Sands of TimeTwo points of preface:

  1. LPC folks who are in worship on Sunday and those who read the prayer joys and concerns in the e-mail version of the E-pistle will know more of the details of this story. The details need not be hidden. The names not mentioned and the details not offered here are not hidden to protect the innocent, but because they are not necessary, really a distraction to a wonderful story of grace that should be told.
  2. Unlike, say, convenient and inconvenient, ordinate and inordinate are distantly related words, the former having to do with mathematics the latter having to do with things in excess and with a lack of appropriate moderation. Normally only the mathematicians among us have to think much about the ordinate; all of us need to be aware of the dangers of the inordinate. The title, of today’s post, then, begs an inordinate stretch of the definition of the word ordinate. Today it means the opposite of inordinate.

It was only the precipitating event. There had been other indications that the time had come for one of LPC’s oldest members to move from living independently to finding some assistance in the daily things of life. But six weeks ago it became very clear that the time had come for our very aware and otherwise capable friend to make the move.

Independence is a hard thing to give up. Handing over the car keys, leaving the house that has been home for forty years, eating from a limited menu rather than from a refrigerator full of food we chose from the grocery store shelves: these are among our lives’ most painful decisions. The last chapter of life is often marked by having to surrender independence sometimes literally one step at a time. The story has been told a thousand times over.

If we were the ones to write the last chapter of our stories should that last chapter be about the giving up of independence, we would want the choices to be clear and easily made. We would want our children who were once so dependent on us to be close by, roles now reversed, helping us, loving us, caring for us as we come to that time when there are not all that many pages left unread in the book that tells the story of our lives.

But we don’t pen the story of our lives. Whether it is just by the way things turned out or the consequence of some once-forgotten plot line from a much earlier chapter in the story, we must always deal with the ways things are and not with the way we wish they were.

The way things are, there was no family close by to help our friend move from the independent to the dependent life, “assisted living” we like to say.

That is why the church has done what it is called to do and has been what it is called to be. We are family, adopted brothers and sisters of Christ called to be dependent on our first-born older brotherand on one another by the grace of God the Father. The Holy Spirit empowers us to care for one another. And that is what LPC has done in the past six weeks and long before.

On Wednesday, our friend began to settle into a new home for the first time in forty years. And the church was there helping, one step at a time.

It has been a long journey and, frankly, a long six weeks. Looking from the outside one might be tempted to say that all of this has taken an inordinate amount of staff and Deacon time. I’ll mention some names here: staff member Kay Brown, Deacon Moderator Sue Pizzola, Deacon care-giver Tom Brown. Each, it might be said, giving an inordinate amount of time – work time, free time, inconvenient time – to what needed to be done. The tempter would have me count the hours. Lord, protect me.

I’ll give you inconvenient, but not inordinate. This lavish use, waste, of time was, in fact, ordinate in whatever way we might want to think of ordinate as the opposite of inordinate. Some might think that the call to love the enemy and to give up all we own for the sake of another is excessive, inordinate. Some might think having a mind that counts others better than self and puts their interest first is immoderate, inordinate. Some might call God’s love inordinate, excessive, immoderate. It is. But those of us who know that love know that sharing that love is our ordinate call, no matter how inconvenient. In a world of always too busy, freely giving hours to another is an ordinate waste of time, a holy and ordinate waste of time.

By the way, this was hardly the first time LPC people have so ordinately wasted their time. A very similar story unfolded just this past spring. And thanks to those deacons and others who helped write the beginning of a new and good chapter in some other folks’ story.

All this is not meant to be self-congratulatory, but in a time when church bashing from within and from without has become something of a cottage industry, the reminder of a modest people who have learned the joy and power of an ordinate waste of time is not at all inordinate.