“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh;…a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.”
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, selected verses (NRSV)
“Listening to a time gone by…”
by Rev. Rick Pittenger
Lent is a time of reflection and renewal. It is a time of taking stock in who we are and where we are in our journey with God. With that in mind . . . My mother, Ruth, gave me a family heirloom a few years ago. It was one of several pocket watches that my grandfather had in his collection.
I’ve shared before that he had hundreds of clocks in his home in Salina, KS. Several months ago, I was moving the pocket watch at home and I accidentally dropped it on the kitchen floor; the glass shattered and the balance staff “got off balance.” I first took it to the local jeweler hoping he could easily repair it. He replaced the glass dome but couldn’t fix the balance staff. So, when I was in Fargo a while ago I took it to a jeweler I trusted there… who sent it to their “guy” in Wisconsin who told me the watch had been in water and would need a total restoration, the cost $360+. I had them send it back, which cost $25.
Finally I took it to Robert Kolby (in Sioux Falls), a man who has repaired watches and wind up clocks since before I was born. He no longer fixes watches, but he passed his business on to a man that repairs watches on the side from his job as a pharmacist in Sioux Falls. About a month later I received word the watch was fixed. Cost? $60.00. For that he not only fixed the watch, but cleaned it, polished it and said it should now work well into the next generation of Pittengers. Not only that, but he gave me a little history lesson about my watch.
There were approximately 300 made of this particular style of watch, an open-faced Bunn Special made by the Illinois Watch Company (1869-1927). This specific watch was made in 1907, or over 100 years ago. It’s called a Railroad-grade pocket watch, a Bunn Special. After a terrible train wreck in Kipton, Ohio that took the lives of 9 people, a commission was set up to create new standards for the railroad pocket watch. Railroad watches had to stand up to constant abuse from the jarring and swaying of early trains. Once wound, the watch runs for 72 hours without needing to be rewound.
Engineers were required to have their watches inspected regularly and to submit a certificate stating its reliability and accuracy of 30 seconds per week to their supervisors. So the picturesque movie scene of a train conductor looking down at his watch and shouting, “All aboard!” does not reflect the true importance of a train staying on schedule. When there was only one track for trains barreling in both directions, being on time was a matter of life and death, as in the historic Kipton crash.
Having shared all that you may wonder, what does this have to do with us today? Well, I’m glad you asked. You see, we’re in the season of Lent. During this season I’ve invited our parishioners to join me in prayer at 7:12 (see picture, at top) PM each day for a time of prayer. Oh, there is no fear of catastrophe if our watches aren’t perfectly in sync.
Still, there is a similar kind of power when more than one person keeps time in our lives for prayer. Just as the conductors of old knew they were not alone in their unified spirit of being punctual, so too our lives will be richer knowing that at that exact time of 7:12 PM our whole congregation is in prayer. Imagine the power our united prayers could bring to our lives, our families, our church, our community, and our world.
May God’s Spirit be found in your life during this Lenten Watch season,