You are hereWhat's in a name?
What's in a name?
Overnight tonight the clocks are turned back one hour taking us out of British Summer Time and back to GMT (Greenwich Mean Time). Quite apart from looking forward to an 'extra' hour I am also looking forward to once more arising in the mornings with light already in the sky, being one of life's owls and most definitely not a lark. The scientific among us of course are aware that Time itself is not changed by this altering of the clocks. The overall length of daylight hours or number of minutes we spend in darkness will still only alter by a minute either way as our planet tilts on its axis and our bit of it is gradually shrouded from the sun's rays by almost imperceptible longer periods until the earth's orbit begins to move us once more after the longest day in the back end of December when the nights begin to shrink and the daylight increases once again. But this natural progression is not altered one jot by which bit of the dark we decide to label 'midnight'! So what is in a name?
Simultaneously with this natural change of the seasons, the Church begins to shift into a different gear. At least this is so for those of us using the Common Worship (CW) resources. Those in the BCP groove will still be marking Sundays after Trinity. We at St Michael's though have kept going with the idea of the Season of the Kingdom which was officially sanctioned by the Church of England with the publication of The Promise of His Glory in 1990. CW counts down Sundays before Advent which is a rather clumsy nomenclature. The idea of Sundays of the Kingdom has the merit of acknowledging what was most often on the lips of Jesus according to the Gospel writers. We do not need to apologize for bringing this idea to the fore and I think it a pity we dropped it so soon after we decided to feature it in our official Calendar. It has much to commend it - not only that it fits the round of the seasons as summer turns into autumn, not only that Jesus tried to focus our attention on the Kingdom of God but also it helps us tie together a number of themes and festivals which fall in November that can often seem rather disconnected.
During November we have All Saints Day - one of the best festivals of the year but may be I think that because I used to worship in a church with this dedication so this day always had the party atmosphere of the patronal feast - but certainly wherever you are this is a major Red Letter Day. The very next day though is very different in tone, All Souls' day - a chance to remember loved ones who have died so always tinged with some sadness. Remembrance Sunday also falls during November and is a poignant occasion in national life. Finally comes the last Sunday of the Church year with its dedication to Christ the King. At first glance this just seems like a series of this and that without any coherence at all - until you put it into the perspective of God's Kingdom. Now we think about those who have contributed something recognizable towards building God's Kingdoms: the saints past and present; we remember the departed and our own place in God's scheme of things, we reflect on war and God's promises of peace, we celebrate Christ as the one who showed us the way to God's Kingdom by dying on the cross wearing a crown of thorns.
When we have made our journey through these great and deep themes we are ready to enter into the cycle of the Christian year once more with Advent and the coming of Jesus past, present and future. After marking the Season of the Kingdom we are more fully aware of the significance of that coming.
So, the Kingdom season by any other name might prove spiritually enlightening but the title opens up a richer focus than simply 'The nth Sunday before Advent' conveys. Just as the rose has a name which somehow conveys a sweet smelling flower in a way that 'stinking thorny flower' would not. So, I am hoping that when I awake tomorrow, on the first day of the Kingdom Season, it shall be to a rosy fingered dawn