The Longest Day
Who knows where the time goes?
by Brian Radcliffe
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To encourage us to consider our priorities in our use of time (SEAL theme: Motivation).
Preparation and materials
You will need a leader and three readers.
The Bible passage in the ‘Time for reflection’ part of the assembly is from Ecclesiastes 3.1-8.
- Note: This assembly is best used on Tuesday 20 June, the day before the longest day, Wednesday 21 June. However, it can be adapted easily for use on other occasions.
Leader: Tonight, the sun is going to stand still.
Pause to allow time for thought.
Don’t worry, this isn’t a prediction of the end of the world, the apocalypse. Nevertheless, it is apparently true. Just before 5:30 a.m. tomorrow, we will reach the summer solstice, the point when the sun’s zenith is at its furthest point from the equator. If we lived in Scandinavia, we’d be able to observe the sun actually appear to pause as it is setting, and then begin to rise without going below the horizon. The word ‘solstice’ itself means ‘sun stands still’.
For you and me, the important fact is that tomorrow, we’ll have more hours of sun than on any other day this year. At least, we will if the weather’s kind to us. This sunshine was highly significant to people who lived before the age of electricity. For them, daylight provided the necessary conditions for all of the important activities that needed doing outside. The weeks before and after the summer solstice were weeks of intense activity, making the most of the long daylight hours. That’s why there have been festivals to celebrate the summer solstice since time immemorial. The best known of these in the UK takes place at Stonehenge. The festivals acknowledged the vital role of the sun in people’s lives.
Time for reflection
Leader: It’s easy for us to take time for granted. Unlike the generations who lived without the ease of electric light, we are not limited in any way by the hours of daylight. Darkness can always be overcome. Sports events take place under floodlights. Who could have imagined a day-night cricket match? Roads are lit by streetlamps. Vehicles have their own headlights. Buildings have individual lights for each room and security lights for outside. We can do what we want, when we want to. Or put it off until another time.
How do you use time? In the Old Testament, the part of the Bible that Jews and Christians share, there’s a passage that talks about the opportunities that time presents to us. It says there’s a time for birth . . .
Reader 1: . . . and a time for death.
Leader: A time for planting . . .
Reader 2: . . . and a time for harvesting.
Leader: A time for killing . . .
Reader 3: . . . and a time for healing.
Leader: A time for demolishing . . .
Reader 1: . . . and a time for building.
Leader: A time for sorrow . . .
Reader 2: . . . and a time for joy.
Leader: A time for mourning . . .
Reader 3: . . . and a time for dancing.
Leader: A time for making love . . .
Reader 1: . . . and a time for not making love.
Leader: A time for kissing . . .
Reader 2: . . . and a time for not kissing.
Leader: A time for finding . . .
Reader 3: . . . and a time for losing.
Leader: A time for saving . . .
Reader 1: . . . and a time for throwing away.
Leader: A time for tearing . . .
Reader 2: . . . and a time for mending.
Leader: A time for silence . . .
Reader 3: . . . and a time for talk.
Leader: A time for love . . .
Reader 1: . . . and a time for hate.
Leader: A time for war . . .
Reader 2: . . . and a time for peace.
Leader: I think that covers just about all human activity. In fact, it’s quite a good idea to go through the list and work out how it applies to our own lives. Might it be good occasionally to find somewhere totally silent so that we can think things through?
The passage emphasizes the importance of being sensitive to what is happening around us day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute. It’s what the Ancient Greeks called ‘kairos’, that is, ‘opportunity time’. Rather than being slavishly tied to routines (although they do have their place), over-committed to long-term plans (although once again, planning has its place) or addictively chained to habits, we can spot the moment when an opportunity arises and be flexible enough to grasp it. It might be a surprise meeting with someone, an unexpected invitation, a course that we see advertised, a vacancy in the team, a visit to a special place or a need someone has that we are able to meet. There are many ways in which an opportunity can arise.
Some people talk about ‘synchronicity’ or ‘coincidence’ when they describe an opportunity. These words relate to a random set of events that come together. Christians believe that opportunities are given by God and that his Holy Spirit is the one who helps us to spot each one. Whichever way you look at it, the important factor is our response: do we take the opportunity or leave it?
On this longest day, take a moment to look back over your life. How many missed opportunities can you remember? Maybe this is the moment to promise yourself that you won’t miss another one.
By the way, I’m afraid there’s a little bit of bad news to end with. When the longest day is over, daylight hours begin to get shorter. That means winter is on its way!
Thank you for every opportunity presented to us.
Give us the sensitivity to spot each one, and the courage to take it.
‘Turn! Turn! Turn!’ by The Byrds