Wednesday, October 2, 2013

What TIme is It?

In my very second week of my Liturgy course at Drew Theological Seminary with Dr. Heather Elkins she asked a poignant question: What Time is It? The answers ranged:

  • Some said, "10:15am" noting the actual time on their watch.
  • Some said, "Back to School" noting the time of year when students and teachers return to campus.
  • Others said, "Ordinary Time" noting the period on the liturgical calendar not marked by a major event for the Church (ie. Advent, Passion, Easter, Pentecost)
  • I said, "NOW" thinking about Jesus' words in the sixth chapter of Matthew's Gospel:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.  Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." (Matthew 6:25-34 NIV, emphasis my own)

That was a little over five years ago, and while I—in theory—I am attracted to living in the present, I still have a tendency to focus on the past and future. While there is nothing inherently wrong with glancing on the past as a source of joy, comfort, strength, or learning, taking up residence in the past has a way of halting ones spiritual growth. And planning and future thinking, too, aren't wrong per se, but it is problematic to worry, fret, and become anxious what hasn't yet happened.

I noticed this just yesterday. I am in a prime place in my life: married to a wonderful man, mother to a beautiful daughter, able to move about with some sense of ease, poised to glorify God in ministry outside of my home, and yet I have been so anxious about the future. I would go as far to say that I've made an idol of my Drew Seminary self—a theological rock star of sorts—who should be preaching and teaching, and perhaps pastoring RIGHT NOW! And so, my "now" response then still haunts me.

After asking us the time, Dr. Elkins asserted the following thought: Technologies of time are often our theologies about God. In other words, how we understand time shapes our theology about God. In my stewing over the past and being anxious about the future, I am making a profoundly theological statement that God is not trustworthy. Heavy. Which I know is not true. God is absolutely trustworthy and faithful.  So why is this ordained-minister-blood bought believer lady behaving like a practicing atheist?

The answer lies in social constructs of time that I have allowed to shape who I am and how I move in the world. What would it mean for me, for any or all of us, to rest into now without concern for the future. To let the future unfold as a series of God given nows. What would it mean for me, and you, to move away from arbitrary time-marked milestones in favor? Really, if I don't have my PhD by 40 is something cataclysmic going to happen. (Cue suspenseful music) What would it mean to embrace the time that we are in—whatever that time may be—and let it be used for our good and God's glory?

For me, it would be extremely liberating. It would give me time to think. Time to pray. Time to move. Time to dream. Time to laugh. Time to be with myself and others. Time to create. Time to play. Time to walk. Time to run. Which, when its all said and done, that's what my time here on earth is all about anyway. It would be a life not bound by what I should be doing, but modeled after Jesus very being as the Great I Am.

Another great preacher understood time in this way:

 There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:
     a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
     a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
     a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
     a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
     a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
     a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
     a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, NIV)

Beloved, what time is it?

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