Thursday, October 18, 2012
The Preacher’s Corner
Winding the old clock – Sunday morning ritual
I begin every Sunday with a little ritual. I am not referring to the big ritual called Divine Service or simply church, which I am involved in later in the day. No, the little ritual with which I begin my Sunday is winding my grandfather’s clock.
It is a simple thing. Doesn’t take thirty seconds. I just have to remember to do it. Which I don’t always do. If I don’t, my mistake catches me on Monday or Tuesday when I notice a stopped clock on my shelf.
Note that I said this was my grandfather’s clock. It is not a grandfather clock; just a modest-sized mantel clock, manufactured in Germany, inexpensive in its day — designed not for show, but simply to indicate the time. I have seen scores like it through the years in the homes of people from that generation. The old clock is probably over a hundred years old.
It is hard to believe that a hundred years ago, people had to use wind-up clocks or watches. There were no digital clocks. Electric clocks that indicated time with hands on a dial were still brand new. So if you wanted to keep yourself on time, you had to remember to do your winding. Hence, the Sunday morning ritual.
Grandfath-er died before I was born, and when he died Grandmother took over the winding duties. When she wound the clock, she would often comment that Grandfather did this each week before Sunday School. I guess he wanted to be on time!
My Grandfather Zeigel (my mother’s father), was a teacher. I think being on time is especially important to teachers. I come from a family of teachers, so being on time was impressed on me with a vengeance.
When I inherited the clock, I immediately established the ritual of winding it just like my grandfather did. Of course, I have all sorts of other timepieces which are probably more accurate and dependable. The computer, the cell phone and the TV all give absolutely precise time readings. All one needs to do is look at the screens. These are digital indications, so that no ambiguity exists.
But the old clock is far friendlier. It has chimes, although it has been a long time since I let them sound.
My dog Gracey thinks the clock chimes are the doorbell, and she goes wild at the sound! When I used to let them chime, it was comforting somehow to drift in and out of sleep during the night catching the strike of the hour.
Our lives consist of rituals. There are the big ones like worship and weddings and paying our income taxes. Then there are a thousand little ones, like washing the dishes, making the bed, visiting our friends, and putting gas in the car. If we did not have our little rituals — if everything were spontaneous or haphazard — it would take so much thinking, we could not get through life.
Another word for ritual is habit. I am a great believer in habits. Emerson is said to have written: “Sow a thought and you reap an action; sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny.” It sounds almost Biblical doesn’t it?
Winding my old clock is one way I affirm this idea.
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