It's About Time
Ephesians 5:11-17 (The Message)
Don’t waste your time on useless work, mere busywork, the barren pursuits of darkness. Expose these things for the sham they are. It’s a scandal when people waste their lives on things they must do in the darkness where no one will see. Rip the cover off those frauds and see how attractive they look in the light of Christ.
Wake up from your sleep,
Climb out of your coffins;
Christ will show you the light!
So, watch your step. Use your head. Make the most of every chance you get. These are desperate times!
Don’t live carelessly, unthinkingly. Make sure you understand what the Master wants.
Ephesians 5:15-16 NRSV Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.
The last few weeks I have been doing a lot of thinking about time. Whether it was planning the schools picture day schedule or teaching some new afterschool daycare employees about how to clock in and out of work or thinking about how little time we really get on this planet. Time is something we all think about. It is a limited commodity and more valuable than even gold or diamonds.
In English we only have one word for time but the Biblical writers of the New Testament had two words to choose from for time.
They are the Greek words Chronos and Kairos. Both mean time but they imply vastly different things.
Chronos refers to minutes and seconds. To hours days weeks and years. It refers to time as a measurable resource.
Kairos is the word used for time in Ephesians 5:16. Kairos means an appointed time, an opportune moment, a due season or a quality of experience.
Put very simply Chronos is a quantitative measurement of time and Kairos is the quality of time spent or experienced.
In the New Testament Kairos is the word chosen by the writers almost 90 times. It seems the writers and speakers of our sacred book were much more concerned with the sacredness of time as to the actual quantity of time it takes something to happen or the length of time something occurs.
Of course our world (and that includes you and I) most often think of our time in a Chronos mindset. We think of having 24 hours in a day. We define our workweeks by the number of hours that we work. We have a list of things to do and only so much time to get everything done.
Being conscious of our minutes and seconds is a good thing. We should number our days as the scripture says. Our time on earth is so brief, and we want to be good stewards of every second that we have to glorify God on this earth.
But paradoxically, this Chronos mindset can make us miss what Paul is saying in Ephesians 5 and what is reiterated throughout the New Testament texts. Paul teaches us to remember the Kairos – to pay attention and take advantage of the favorable times, seasons, and moments. To make the moments we have really count and not just count the number of moments we have in a day. Because I can go ahead and tell you we have 1440 minutes or 86,400 seconds in a day.
Recently I read the Gettysburg Address to a class. I have done this many times through the years. In doing so I have learned a little bit of history about the day that Lincoln gave his great speech.
Two speeches were actually given at Gettysburg on November 19, 1863 when the Battlefield which had been the scene of over 51,000 casualties.
The first was by a famous orator, Edward Everett. He was the keynote speaker. He stood up and spoke to the crowd for 117 minutes – impressing even Abraham Lincoln. He checked all the boxes off. He did what was required but everyone who recounts what he said shares that while eloquent it wasn’t inspired.
Then Lincoln stood and spoke for 2 ½ inspirational minutes, and it still reverberates across history.
What was the difference? What made one speech unmemorable even though delivered with extravagant perfection? Why was a modest brief statement so memorable?
Because Lincoln was passionate about what he was saying. His words came from the heart. His compassion for what had occurred in that place and what was occurring to the country he loved resonated from the depths of his soul.
Sunday we will have a baptism at the church. My guess is that the whole thing will take 600 Chronos seconds but as a people of faith we believe that in this moment, this once in a lifetime occasion for this child, that with the help of the Holy Spirit we will be in the midst of Kairos time.
Of course, this event is a moment we are setting aside as being special but the writers of the New Testament and in particular Paul would remind us that any time can be sacred if we choose for it be. We simply need to look for those moments…those opportunities.
Of course, not every moment is a Kairos moment. Checking email, folding clothes, and paying bills are probably not going to be Kairos moments. The reality is some moments are more important than other but lots of Kairos moments are missed because we aren’t taking opportunities to look for them. Or because we are so busy cramming our days full of stuff that we don’t have the time to experience those Kairos moment.
Seeing time differently requires a change in mindset and habit. Instead of counting the days of our lives like sands through the hourglass, we need to see time as possibilities for experiences that enrich us by bringing us closer to God and one another.
And we need to do it sooner rather than later. For as my musician friend David Lamotte sings – “There is no time like the present, and no present like time!”