It’s About Time
Based on Jeremiah 33:14-16, 1Thess 3:9-13, Luke 21:25-36
“…’The time has come, the Walrus said, to talk of many things: of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–of cabbages–and kings–and why the sea is boiling hot– and whether pigs have wings.’” This little snippet from Lewis Carroll’s, “Alice Through the Looking Glass”, came to me as I was praying and thinking about our sermon time together today. Not only is this section of the story with Tweedledee and Tweedledum reciting to Alice this poem one of my favorites, it also highlights one of the points that I’ll be trying to leave with you this morning. Because, it IS about time to speak of many things and to speak to the many things that we spend time on that are not focused on the One most important thing. More on that in a bit.
The Apostle Paul wrote about time in his letter to the believers in Galatia. In the fourth chapter he writes, “…when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children….” In other words, through the Word made flesh, we were adopted as children of a loving and faithful God – that is quite a Christmas present indeed! It didn’t happen at just any old time either, God planned to intervene in the world with God’s-self at just the right moment in the history of humankind. When the time was right and when all was prepared…it happened – a young girl who had never known a man gave birth to a fully divine and fully human child. She named him Yeshua…and we know Him as Jesus. Like all women who have carried a child to full-term and delivered a healthy baby – I can imagine her saying to Joseph and the animals, “It’s about time!” Let us go to God now and say thank you for this birth, and to ask for patience as we await His coming again.
The prophet Jeremiah has purchased a field outside of Jerusalem while it is under siege of the Babylonians. This act shows the prophet’s trust and hope in the LORD for the future of the Israelites. In Chapter 33, he is speaking the words God gave him about the healing and redemption that will occur following 70 years in exile. Our reading from today picks up the theme of returning the line of David to its rightful place in Jewish life once the punishment has ended. The predictions of the prophet foreshadow God’s great intervention through Jesus 500+ years in the future.
Jesus is speaking in an apocalyptic manner about the end of times and his second coming. He reminds them of the prophecies from old and inserts himself within them. He tells them to be alert at all times and do not let themselves be weighed down by worldly things – rather, keep praying for strength to endure when these times come so that “…you have the strength to escape all these things that will take place…”.
The Apostle Paul, writing his earliest letter (that we have) to the believers in Thessalonica. He had dispatched his trusted aide, Timothy, because Paul had feared that the young believers might fall away due to persecutions. Paul reminded them that he had told them this would come; and responds joyfully in the positive report that Timothy brings back to Athens. Our reading today is really a benediction from Paul to these believers. He states that he hopes to come to them soon, and is thankful that God has given these disciples to him. He prays for the Holy Spirit to strengthen them and to fill them with love. He finishes with a prayer for strength that they might stand blameless when the time for Jesus’ return occurs.
Time…we seem to be obsessed with it. Too often in the busyness of the holiday/Advent season we find ourselves openly wishing that there was more time. Our schedules are so packed with family, work and church obligations, that we find we spend the whole season in a frenetic rush and we wind up on the day after Christmas wondering where the season went. We are not refreshed, physically, mentally or spiritually. In fact, we are often more exhausted than before the season began. Some even begin disliking the holiday season because of all the angst that it brings.
In the face of all of that, it is worth recalling that the clock was invented not to keep track of our work, but to remind monastic communities to stop work and turn to prayer repeatedly during the day. Monastics pray “the Office” which is the day divided into 7 periods of worship from early morning through Vespers. Prayer dominates the day for those persons religious who live in community, and the clock helped to call them away from their worldly pursuits in order that they might spend time with God. Rather than marking every moment as a commodity to be bought, sold or wasted, the monastic schedule marked time as the unfolding of the relationship with God and it was sacred.
You see how things have changed in the 800 or so years since the first large clocks in Europe were built to mark time for worship? Time keeping was a means of grace that was taken over by the workaday world until it has now often become a tyrant. What was developed to call us back to God is now a technology to call us back to everything but God. This is why we need the Bible and the biblical witness of prophets like Jeremiah, Apostles like Paul and the Gospels with stories of Jesus – God in the flesh – to call us back to spend time in a way that gives life instead of taking it. It is an old but truthful saying that in the last moments of life no one wishes they had spent more time at work, playing video games, on the internet, or binge-watching television. No, in my experiences with the dying, most wish they had spent more time strengthening their relationships.
God told Jeremiah that all would be well with the people of Judah and Jerusalem following the Exile. God told Jeremiah to buy a plot of land (even though he was imprisoned at this point in the story for making the King angry) to be ready when the Exile was ended. It is a similar reasoning why many of you and your forebears spent hard earned dollars to have some land to call your own and to pass down to future generations. The vision was long-term – generations not years; the vision was to stabilize relationships through having a place to call home. It is the same with the vision and investment that brought to reality both of our churches. It’s about time…time that is used in a way that leads to life and relationship.
It’s about time, here at the beginning of the new liturgical year, that we look at our use of time in a different and more healthy way. It’s about time for all of us to take back our lives from the over-burdened, hyper-scheduled tyranny of the worldly view of the scarcity of time. It’s about time that we dedicate our brief moment here on earth to the things that lead to eternal life, that is, loving family, friends, our neighbors and God with all that we have and all that we are. It’s about time that our Advent preparation includes space for us to contemplate just how awesome and transformative a gift it was that God became Emmanuel – God with us! It’s about time that we share with one another and all who we encounter what a difference Jesus has made in our lives. In the fullness of time God did something marvelous…what will you do with your time this Advent season to honor this gift? Amen and amen!
It’s About Time