Tag Archives: time

In a Moment in Time

redwoodsIn a moment in time, early on this Christmas Eve, I crawled out of bed to greet this new day. In a moment in time, in the morning darkness of my kitchen, I ground beans, boiled water, and made a cup of coffee with an ancient Melitta pour over coffee cone. In a moment in time, I sit in a quiet room watching out the window as the sun peeks over the horizon. Moments of time stacked one upon another in a progression compose an individual life.

In a moment in time Mary and Joseph came to the difficult conclusion that there was no other place to bed down for the night. In moment in time the labor pains could no longer be ignored.  In a moment in time Mary gave birth, not in her mother’s home surrounded by matriarchs and a midwife, but in a cattle stall surrounded by beasts. In a moment in time, a moment marked not by the idyllic tranquility of O Little Town of Bethlehem, but by the terror of giving birth in such a place and the wonder of giving birth in such a place.

In a moment in time the Eternal put on the limiting cloak of chronos.  The Infinite became finite. In a moment in time God entered our world in an utterly dependent baby. In doing so, that moment in time would become the pivot point of all human history. In that moment in time, God took on all that it meant to be human, our tears, our sprains, our sniffles, our disappointments, our dashed dreams, and eventually our death.

The splinters of that crude manger would one day become the splinters of a cruel cross.  The One who entered time would endure death for our sakes. All of this in a moment in time.

God entered our times and our places and our flesh so that we could know God. In the baby of the manger and the crucified man on the cross, we discover God’s true disposition towards us, indeed towards all creation. God entered our world in a moment of time so that we could live in the confidence of divine grace and mercy.

God entered our time so that there are no moments of time in which we are abandoned to our own self destructive ways, to the evil of our lashing out at on another, to the ways of death we seem so determined to follow. We live trusting that even now, God is bringing all things to fullness in Christ.

Regardless of what any particular moments of time may bring, of this we can be sure:  they are embraced and redeemed by a loving and gracious God who at Christmas became one of us. In a moment in time.

Merry Christmas.


Progress Is not the Point

progressI recently returned from a conference whose theme had to do with the marking of time in the church. The conference was good as far as it went, but it felt to me like it lifted out and treated a very, very narrow slice of the who issue — namely how we mark time in the church by the use of a system of weekly readings (the lectionary). It was a bit unsatisfying for me because it left so much on the table.

In North American culture the passing of time has become inextricably linked with the notion of progress. As time passes, things will inevitably get bigger and better. To witness, every four years, the American presidential candidates stand before us and proclaim that the best years of America are ahead of us, thus enforcing the myth of perpetual, eternal progress, often despite the very apparent indicators all around us. It doesn’t take much reflection to grasp the absurdity of that position. No culture in the history of humanity has continued a path of increasing growth and increasing economic well-being into perpetuity. Kingdoms rise and fall; corporations rise and fall. Human persons are born, they grow, and they die.

Even in the church, we have bought into this notion of perpetual progress. There’s this unspoken, but clearly accepted notion that congregations and congregational leaders are somehow failing if the membership numbers, average weekly worship, and budget don’t keep growing. Yet, that is not a realistic expectation. The culture around keeps changing, communities change, congregations themselves go through life cycles; so the notion that as time passes, congregations will continue to progress (with the definition of progress that things keep getting bigger and better) is a patently unrealistic expectation.

When I think about how Jesus talks about the kingdom of God, he talks about growth in a way that somehow seems different than our American notion of progress. It’s hidden, like the yeast and like the seed that germinates in the darkness of the soil, apart from anyone’s ability to see it or notice it. As time passes, what is intended to be accomplished is. The New Testament seems to support the notion that God is moving all things toward their fulfillment in Christ, but I’m suggesting that it’s not the same thing as our cultural notion of progress.

If cycles of birth and death are the way of the created world; if that is how we experience the passing of time with respect to the changing seasons; if that is, in fact, how our very lives are structured, it seems to me that it would be a helpful and refreshing way also to look at our work in congregations and the church, both with respect to our internal work of community building, and in our external work of enacting God’s intentions for the world.

Especially the latter: if things are moving toward telos, fulfillment will be the enactment of God’s vision for the human community and all creation. And that’s what we ought to be working towards, regardless of whether it looks like progress or not.