What a summer this has been in the Deerfield Valley and surrounding towns. Jamaica celebrated its long history; Halifax celebrated Old Home Days, and in Whitingham there was also a Maple Festival. Then in Wilmington was the Blueberry Festival, the Wilmington Old Home Days, and now theFarmers’ Day Fair. Coming up is Dover’s 200th birthday celebration. The mountain is hosting Taste of the Valley soon, and the mud marathon looks like it will be fun. In Bennington there was the Battle Day celebration and parade! We’ve been a lively bunch. And it has all been the “old fashioned” kind of celebration: people getting together to remember and share experiences; real people in real parades, ice cream socials, cookouts, and banquets. Yet it has used the new technology for advertising the events and welcoming people to attend.
Can we catch our breath yet?
It seems that there hasn’t been time to catch up with all the summer plans and chores we had in mind for this year.
One of the very different things Jews and Christians did a very long time ago was to recognize that people need time to reflect on things. The God of the Jews proclaimed a day of rest every seventh day – in a culture that recognized no need of any regular quiet day. In fact, the God of scripture was very specific that not only should the faithful rest; but also the stranger in their midst, the servants in their homes, the help in their fields. One day out of every seven should be set aside to consider and reflect upon life and the good gifts which exist in our world. The instructions are there in scripture for us to read – old, old words from a long ago time, yet, I think very timely for us now. The human psyche hasn’t changed that much – we still need time to rest and reflect in order to make meaning of our lives and make meaningful choices for our living. We need to make time to see where we’ve been, and consider where we want to go. If we don’t take or make that time, it seems like we just plod through every day – going nowhere. Or going somewhere we had no intention of going.
That’s why these community celebrations of life are so very important. With regularity the communities of the valley remember the lives of parents and grandparents, teachers and town governments, plans and directions of the towns which have been established here. People are reconnected to their friends and to their roots; lessons learned are remembered; and hopes for the future are spoken and heard. It’s a time to reflect together, to build direction together in our communities. The thing is, it doesn’t happen all that often.
But there is a built-in regular time in our lives that has been given to us for reflection and thanks-giving. Some of us call it the “weekend.” Some of us proclaim it to be Saturday, others say it’s Sunday. Whatever it is, there is a time set aside for people of faith every seventh day to reflect upon the past week, the past year, the past centuries; to share stories of ancestors; to be challenged to find a direction for the future, and to look toward the God of creation who declared the importance of rest. We are invited to sit down together with others who share our faith; to offer prayer for guidance and help; to give thanks for the good things of our lives; and to ask to be delivered from doing evil. We are invited to reflect together on the heroes of our past, and also on the villains. We are invited to make decisions about role models; about whom we will choose to admire. And we are encouraged and sent out into the world to help make it a good place to live –and then to return in seven days to try again.
I invite you, as the summer comes to a close and the harvest is ready, as the birds head south and the young people head back to school, as vacation ends and the rhythm of ordinary days begins again, to find a place of worship, and to join those who make the time to rest and reflect and prepare – to think about the past and find direction for the future.
We are people in need of such a time. I pray you find it for yourself and your family.