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Some more thougths on time…

Like many people, I usually have a chronic sense of not having enough time to get things done and how we deal with time pressure and generally treat the time w ehave says a lot about us. Here are a few thoughts about time which I came across from a previous homily on the subject.

 

Time –  how does that word feel?

Time – how many sayings/phrases can you think of with the word “Time” in that we regularly use?

 

Im running out of time

I haven’t got time

The number of times Ive…

Time to go

Im short of time

Im behind time

It’s a race against time

Must keep my eye on the time

Her time is nearly up

 

I don’t suppose I’m the only one who, from time to time experiences pressure through the sense of not having enough time to do the things I feel I ought to be doing.

The hands on our clocks and watches so relentlessly round and we can often feel we are racing against time to get things done.

“ Time is a circus, always packing up and moving away” – Ben  Hecht.

Some time ago someone seemed bent on defacing every public clock in Shrewsbury. One incident involved breaking the minute hand off a clock 50 feet up a factory tower; on another occasion the culprit climbed 100 feet to wrench a minute hand from a public clock. But he could not stop the time. As Thomas Carlyle said in 1840  “ The silent, never resting thing called time, rolling, rushing on, swift,  like an all embracing ocean tide…….”

 

We live in a time conscious society where clock time governs our movements- and the strictures of time even pervade our worship in church. In our church of England services we invariably insist on one hours worship in sharp contrast to the way Hindu people come together. When I was training for ministry many years ago, I visited a  Hindu temple in Birmingham and saw how people  weave in and out of the large worship  area for several hours, sharing food afterwards and their community life.

 

But if we can feel that the passing of time is a tyrannical force in our lives, its flip side is that it is a very marvellous thing. Without the passing of time there would be no growth. I like this quote from the poet Laurens Van Der Post:

 

“” The true magic in life is growth. There is no instanteous creation of the new; even the most inspired vision needs time to grow; and if this law is not observed, only violence and disaster will follow” .

 

Growth is one of the most beautiful aspects of life around us. Growth of flowers from  seeds, growth of babies from microscopic fertilised ova and countless other examples.  Nature  teems with growth. Then there is the growth of human ideas, projects, and as the quote suggests above, nothing can be produced in a rush.

 

The last time I visited Oxford to see Michael, I found time to pop into Keble College and admire once again the painting called “ The Light of The World” – by Holman Hunt. It is a portrait of Christ based on verses from Rev 3 “ Behold I stand at the door and knock ; if any man hear my voice and open the door I will come into him and will sup with him  and he with me”

 

It took the artist several years to complete this sermon in a frame – this he did in 1851 after spending much time in the Holy Land observing sunrises – for a sunrise was to be an important feature of his  work.

 

As essential ingredient of producing anything of beauty to the eye is the passing of time to allow human creativity to flourish and bear fruit. Friendship too needs time to take root and to grow – the building up of understanding and exchanges of confidences which creates the bond of friendship cannot be rushed.

 

The again, time heals. Most dramatically, time heals the physical body. It is miraculous the way our bodies can heal after an accident . And time too, some will say, though not everyone, heals our emotional and mental pain.

 

So time can be an essential ingredient of growth and healing. Though we have to acknowledge a flip side to all of this – with the passing  of time there is change that is less welcome – put rather depressingly though some may say realistically in the hymn Abide with  Me “ Change and decay in all around I see – oh though who changest not abide with me” With time passing we have both the pleasures of spring and summer but must also face the autumn and winters in our lives and in nature. Time brings with it seasons – maybe the secret is to go with the seasons of life and not kick against them.

Time was a word which the writers of the NT  frequently used. In the gospels and the letters of the NT which were first written in Greek, two words were used for time  “ CHRONOS”    and “ KAIROS”  There is a big difference in the meaning of the two words, a difference often lost in translation.

CHRONOS – is clock time – measurable time, even though it is a man made measurement. In biblical times  systems were used to measure the passing of time connected with the observing of the sun and moon. Greeks and Romans developed candle clocks and water clocks and before those Egyptians had hour glasses and measured time in small units by observing the movements of shadows. Sundials had been in use 880 BC in china

 

KAIROS – meant something different to measurable time. In the classical Greek language it meant “  the right time” – the right time to take action, to go to war, to build a house etc. Sentiments very much expressed in the reading from Ecclesiastes.

“”There is nothing new under the sun, …… there is an appointed time for everything” – from Chapters 1 and 3, Ecclesiastes.

 

But when the gospel writers used Kairos, they gave it an extra meaning.  Here are some examples:

 

“ John 7 v 6  “ The right time for me has not yet come. You go on to the festival, because the right time has not yet come for me”

 

Luke 1 v 20  “ Gabriel speaking to Zachariah in the temple who was to be the  father of John the Baptist  “ I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God who sent me to speak to you. But you have not believed my message which will come true at the right time”

 

Ephesians 1 v 10 “ God did what he had purposed and made known to us the secret plan he had already decided to complete by means of Christ. This plan, which God will complete when the time is right, is to bring all creation together, everything in heaven and on earth, with Christ as head”

Kairos then was used to suggest the meaning of God’s appointed time. The NT writers believed that the coming of Jesus to earth happened at a time appointed by God and that all of the significant events in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus occurred at the time God had chosen. God was in complete control of the events of our salvation history – to use a theological phrase.  Paul takes this further and sees not only the life and death and resurrection of Jesus as part of Gods plan for our salvation, but also has a  vision of all creation coming together with Christ as head in Gods good time – at the right time. The early Christians saw God as the Lord of time having

our lives and the timing of the events of our life stories in his  hands. Do we truly believe that ourselves all those years on from the passion of early Christianity?

 

A little later on in Ephesians, Paul calls us to be good stewards of our time – he exhorts us not to waste our time and to make good use of our lives. He does this again in Colossians “ Be wise in the way you act towards those who are not believers – making good use of every opportunity you have of making the most of your time”

 

Paul regarded  time as a gift of God to be used to our best ability in positive and wholesome living aided by the power of Christ. And I feel pretty sure that a chronic sense of battling consistently as I feel I do sometimes against time isn’t something God intends for us.

 

We have much to learn from the gospel writers and their understanding of KAIROS time – Gods timing.  They understood this supremely in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus – that God had acted as he did in time to bring to all people the ever present possibility of wholeness, healing, salvation and forgiveness.

Through the eyes of faith, we can discern God acting in our lives at the right time, to offer us new opportunities  as individuals and as church communities – opportunities for growth and for loving. Whatever else the Shaped By God report may produce, I do hope  one outcome will be a sharing of  ideas and enthusiasm amongst groups of Christians who find  Gods prompting them   to try new things  – when the time is right.

 

For some God’s intervention  may be dramatic – like Pauls conversion on the road to Damascus. For most  of us  invitations to growth will be less dramatic and the outworkings of moments of change slow and fruitful.

 

Whether the opportuntities God offers come in quiet or in the storm of life, let us, in Pauls words, Praise Gods Glory  that all things are done according to Gods plan and direction.

 

In a garden next to Gloucester Cathedral is a sundial which bears this inscription

“ Give God thy heart, thy service and thy gold

The day wears on and the time is waxing old”

 

“ Time deals gently with those who take it gently” – Anatole France.

April 1, 2011 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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