August, 2011 "Where Does the Time Go?"
Fri, Aug 12th 2011, 08:24
Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people,
but as wise, making the most of the time, because the
days are evil. So do not be foolish, but understand what
the will of the Lord is.
— Ephesians 5: 15
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Recently I came across an article about “time compression,” a special technology commonly used both in the movie and television industries. Right under our noses, and without our being aware of it, big screen motion pictures are shortened for television in such a way that we are not conscious of what was edited out. Time compression works by electronically slicing milliseconds from a film to eliminate parts of scenes, and thereby shortening the film to the allotted time, but without losing even one word of dialogue. The unfolding plot stays perfectly intact, yet is tailored for a specific medium. Amazing indeed.
Then I began to think about how our personal real life often feels as if someone were doing the same kind of tailoring to our years and days. Doesn’t it feel like a mysterious time wizard is shortening our waking hours so that we often feel as if we can’t accomplish what we had hoped to do in any given year or day? Experiences such as these arise when we find ourselves busier than we’d like to be, but also when we hit life’s milestones: birthdays, the turning of the yearly calendar, or when loved ones or our kids leave home. Living is tailored to changing times.
When we were young it seemed that time moved very slowly, and that adulthood, with all its privileges, would not come soon enough. Do you remember these thoughts and feelings? But as we become older, time seems to move more quickly, almost as if time compression were taking place, yet not on the movie or television screen, but in reality. The lesson we learn is that physical and spiritual life depends on how we see it, or more importantly I believe, how we interpret and live it.
Our biblical scriptures offer us some help in thinking about time and our lives. In fact, I noticed that the Bible describes four dimensions of time: past, present, future and eternity. Of course, the Bible has things to say about eternity: that it belongs uniquely to God, who is beyond time. The past is certainly important in biblical history. One familiar example is Israel’s Exodus from Egypt, which is retold from one generation to another to teach the important lesson that “as God was with us then, so he will be with us now.” Yet, it seems clear to me that the past is not where the believer lives, nor from which we can completely interpret our present time of living.
The Bible actually doesn’t say much about the future-time on earth, other than references to covenants with God, which bind relationships with God into the future. For example, Proverbs 19:20 suggests that a wise person will listen and accept advice from the LORD, and thus “gain wisdom for the future.” The future is not known to us, but to God alone. We simply trust and hope. That’s about it, since it takes a limited and often subjectively skewed perspective of human imagination to determine an accurate incomplete description of this world’s future or the Church’s future.
In the final analysis, the reality and time that seems of most concern in the Bible, and, should I say ought to be of most concern to us, is “the present time.” God’s saving activity is always in present time, and is engrained in our conscious living into the present. Being wise entails relying on the grace of the Holy Spirit.
In speaking to the Christians in Ephesus, St. Paul encouraged them to “Be careful then how you live not as unwise people but as wise making the most of the time because the days are evil.” In the New Testament Greek there are two words normally translated as “time.” One is “chronos,” which is calendar or clock time, and the other is “kairos,” which means the time of opportunity. Believers who lived in Ephesus were in the midst of a strong pagan culture surrounded by many evils. The opportunities to tell others about the life-giving power of Jesus, and the gift of a new nature in Christ were limited. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians (5:15-20) encouraged them to embrace the present moment of time.
There is always an immediacy in relying upon God’s goodness and mercy in confronting every darkness and every evil. St. Paul also puts this teaching in another way: “see, now is the acceptable time (kairos); see, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2) .The opportunity of salvation is always before us. Our daily consciousness of the present time of living is essentially important to our faithfully living in Christ Jesus.
Of course, this takes much focused effort on our part, and much disciplined labor in cultivating spiritual behaviors in accordance with God’s Holy Spirit. Fritz Perls, the founder of Gestalt Therapy, wrote that “the fundamental question in life is whether we live it from the outside in or the inside out?” What is required for living in the present time of our salvation in Christ is unshakable faithfulness and trust and gratitude to our “God and father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” In other words, living in the present moment/time means living into an ever-deepening consciousness of the mysteries of God’s eternal nature of love, community, reconciliation, forgiveness, peace, grace, and living into God’s purpose of fulfilling every goodness and overcoming every evil in the world. Having received the gift of the Holy Spirit, we are to live life “from the inside out.”
August and September will mark a time of new transitions and new opportunities in our Diocese as we attempt to focus on our ministries “from the inside out.” With summer vacations now ending we can deliberately move into creatively engaging ourselves in building up the public mission and presence of this great Diocese.
The Lord has called us to be Christ’s Church in this place to serve the myriad needs of those who seek God. The opportunity to improve upon our lives and labors is now. It is God’s daily gift to us. We can consciously circumscribe plans not only for greater effectiveness, but also for greater productivity in both our Christian, secular and church labors. Now is the acceptable time (kairos), Paul tells us, and now is the time for us to enter fully into our salvation in Christ.
I am praying for a grace-filled August and September leading us into October’s Convention and for God’s generous blessings to be upon each and every one of us.
Joy filled Blessings be upon us.