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Edward F. Markquart

Time; Tick, Tock, Tick, Tock

Stewardship Sunday     II Cor. 6:2 (Also, Epiphany 8A)

(A metronome is on the pulpit, ticking in its metered cadence, and all the words in the opening sequence are spoken rhythmically, in time with the metronome.)

Tick, tock, tick, tock.

“Now is the acceptable time…the good time…the opportune time…Now is the time…of your…salvation.”

Tick, tock, tick, tock.
Hickory dickory dock, the mouse ran up the clock,
The clock struck one, the mouse ran down,
Hickory dickory dock.

Tick, tock, tick, tock. 

Are  you sleeping, are you sleeping, brother John, brother John,
Morning bells are ringing, morning bells are ringing,
Ding dong ding; ding dong ding.

A dollar, a dollar, a ten o’clock scholar, what makes you come so soon,
You used to come at ten o’clock, but now you come at noon.

Tick, tock, tick, tock.

Time, time, want more time,
Seconds, minutes, hours, days, want more time for golden rays.
Time, time, time.
Mommy, mommy, no to bed, want more time to read instead.
Time, time, time.
Daddy, daddy, what you say, want more time for fun and play.
Time, time, time.
The older you get, the faster it flies, what to do, when she dies.
Time, time, time.
Seconds, minutes, hours, days, prelude to eternal praise.
Time, time, time.
Wonderful gift, wonderful gift, wonderful gift of time.
Time, time, time.

(The metronome is stopped.)

In order to help us understand the concept of time in the Bible, I took an old dictionary from my shelf entitled “Theological Wordbook of the Bible” by Alan Richardson.  The pages of this dictionary are well worn.  Alan Richardson was a very popular and well-respected theologian many years ago when I was at the seminary.  The article on time was written by John Marsh.

This dictionary and John March inform us that the Bible uses two words for time:  CHRONOS which is chronological time.  Minutes, hours, days, months, years, decades,  like Lucy Lockhard living until she was 80 years old.  Marsh tells us that the Bible doesn’t really add much thought to the concept of chronological time.  But the Bible uses a second word for time, KAIROS, spelled K A I R O S, which is special time, prime time, God’s time, Jesus’ time, right time.  Kairos time shapes chonological time.  Importantly, what happens during these special, kairos moments affects all the minutes, hours, days and years.  Both chronological time and prime time are freely given to us by God, like rain, like sunlight; but the Bible sheds much more perspective on prime time than chronological time. The Bible’s focus is on prime time, kairos time.  

We discover in this article that God’s time, kairos time, can be a fraction of a moment; it can happen in a flash or it can take much longer, like when the Jews were forty years in the wilderness.  Or prime time can occur when we are in pain such as the “time of testing” when Jesus was in the garden of Gethsemane.  Or prime time can occur during the “times of harvest,” when everything is going well for you and this may be your special God given time.  So, short or long, fasting or feasting, good times or bad, in all of these situations, God can make them prime time.

In this article, the author says that prime time consists of an eternal oscillation. That is, God gives you this prime time and paradoxically, you must also seize the opportune time.  It is like the harvest.  The harvest is God’s gift, but in the same token, you must seize the time and harvest the crop when it is ready.

As I read these words in the Bible dictionary from so many decades ago, my mind immediately flashed to the murder of Sarah Yarborough at Federal Way High School, not that long ago.  Even since this enormous tragedy, I have always kept track of the Yarborough family, in the newspaper and other contacts.  At her memorial service and in the newspaper, I read the quotation from “The Dead Poet’s Society,”  “carpe’ diem.”  “Seize the moment.  Seize the time.  Seize the day.”  It was the theme of her young life.  And in the Bible we realize that there are two facets, two poles, two eternal oscillations:  God’s giving of prime time and our seizing of the sacred moment.  Both are important.

The author then refers to Luke 19:44 where Jesus wept over Jerusalem because the people did not realize this had been “the time of God’s visitation.”  Could Jesus weep over your life and mine, because we, too, did not realize that we were living in the time of God’s special visitation to our lives?  Do we seize the moment, the time, the kairos, or does Jesus weep for our lives because we did not see and act upon the sacred time that was given us by God?

Since the Biblical focus is on kairos time, God time, Jesus time, sacred time, prime time, that is what I would like to focus on this morning:  God’s kairos time in our lives.

We all know about prime time.  Prime time is on televison during the evening, from seven o’clock until ten o’clock.  That’s when the best programs are.  The best TV programs are not in the morning.  I can tell you that from being in the hospital for seven weeks.  The best TV times are not in the afternoon.  Again, I have recent first hand experience.  The best TV is at night, and you and I intuitively understand that.  It’s prime time.

Deon Sanders is a football player who played for the Dallas Cowboys.  His nickname was “prime time” because he always played best in the Super Bowl.  There was a baseball player by the name of Reggie Jackson who was nicknamed “Mr. October” because he always hit so many homeruns during the World Series.  We all have an intuitive understanding of prime time, special time, sacred time.

There is prime time in friendships. That is, there are those occasions with people, during short or long epochs, during good times or bad, that you sense are sacred times. You seize those times; you don’t run away from them; and a deep friendship is born.  You don’t experience deep friendships unless they are shared prime time, sacred time.

For example, one of my best friends is Rollie Martinson, a professor at Luther Seminary in St. Paul.  Rollie and I share much in common, but we primarily share the night that his son, Scottie, experienced crib death. Rollie and I rode around in a car for what seemed like hours, sharing that painful moment.  Rollie returned the favor, if you can call it that, when I was keenly depressed after helping many people die of cancer at a hospital and I was emotionally in over my head and heart.  Each of us were given a sacred time, an special moment, and we seized that moment; we didn’t run away from it, but immersed ourselves in each other’s lives.  Deep friendships only occur when you share prime time that then shapes all of our future chronological minutes, hours and days together.

A second example of shared sacred time and making of a friendship:  Ingrid and I are old friends.  She brings the Presbyterian donkey to the church each year for Palm Sunday.  We know the current donkey and its mother are both Presbyterian because the owners are Presbyterian.  For years, our family has been going out to Ingrid’s ranch to see the new colts being born.  Anne, Joel, Nathan, now young adults, all went as children out to Ingrid’s in order to see the new born horses.  The other day, we went out again, with our grandchildren this time, to see a new born colt and play in the pastures.  As Ingrid and I leaned against a fence when no one else was around, I said:  “Do you remember the creepy cousin? The lawsuit?  Your laying this ranch on the line?”   Of course she did.  This was a long, complicated story that we had shared, and the ranch could have been lost.  It was sacred time we had shared so many years ago, and having shared that moment and seized that moment together, our friendship had been deepened.

Then the other day, when I was in hospital, feeling crummy, the Good Friday morning after Thursday night Passover, Ingrid slipped into my hospital room and sat by me on my bed, holding a plate of Passover food on her lap, from the Passover dinner.  We laughed as I examined the lamb, barley and dates, all carefully saved for me.  She told me she came on Good Friday morning so she could slip by the guard at my door.  We laughed again, two friends, sharing another sacred time.

If you have a deep friendship, you have shared sacred time, an opportune time given to you by God.  You have seized the time, not run away from it, and your deep friendship has been renewed and deepened.

There is prime time in family relationships. Even though families share thousands of minutes, hours and days together, there are also those sacred moments within family systems that shape all of chronological time.

For example, many years ago, while at the seminary, my wife and I had our first child by means of adoption.  It was a great moment, and friends and family came to share, including friends from the seminary, Mark and Sandy. We have pictures of them, oohing and ahhing over the child.  These were friends from college, Sandy herself being an adopted person.  The years passed.  Mark became a pastor; then a CEO for the Good Samaritan Society, a position his grandfather had.  He then got cancer a few years ago and tragically died.  Recently, my wife and I were at the Seattle Art Museum and I looked at this woman I hadn’t seen for more than three decades.  I stared at her and finally approached her and asked:  “Are you Sandy?”  She said:  “Hi Ed.”  We reminisced about her husband Mark.  She was visiting Seattle.  And yes, she remembered coming to our home to see our infant daughter so many years ago.  Sacred time.  Special time.  Prime time makes for deep and lasting friendships.

Or I have told my friends that you should almost die when you are sixty years old, and you will discover how much your family loves you.  Of course, I already knew of my family’s love for me, but it was different now that my life was threatened.  Those days in surgery, those weeks in the hospital, those became prime time for my family and me.  They are shared moments.  No one ran away.  No one avoided.  Those moments, days and weeks became sacred time that shape all chronological time.

You experience deeply family relationships only if you have shared prime time. 

There is prime time during the death of one’s parent or parents.  The sickness and death of one’s parent is an enormously sacred time for most people, but for this to become sacred time, it must be seized, grasped, immersed in and not avoided.

For example, when my wife was back in St. Paul for weeks as her father died of starvation from cancer, this became a sacred time for her, and family and friends who emotionally shared in this event became sacred to her.  Or, when my mother died and as I went back to the Midwest for that last conversation which I didn’t know was the last conversation, certain people were with me and we experienced sacred time, primary time, the opportune time. 

As I pastor of many decades of experience, I now know how sacred and special are the times of illness and death of one’s parent.  When I was younger, I didn’t get it.  I only understood it because of a textbook.  But I do understand now.

There is prime time in counseling. Doug and Joan Anderson, professional counselors in our parish, are here with us today, and they will recognize what I am talking.  As a counselor, you meet with a person and you listen and listen and finally say, “Your anger is destroying you and your marriage.”  You listen and say the same thing about destructive anger in the first session, the second, the third, the fourth, the fifth, and finally, if a miracle occurs, the person says, “My anger is killing me and my marriage.”  And that moment, that time, is kairos time, special time, sacred time in counseling.  We had spent much chronological time together, but when God finally gets through to us, it is kairos time, prime time.

Slowly, you develop an intuition, a nose, a feel for prime time. It doesn’t happen automatically, but over time, you realize when prime time is happening.  You want to recognize it, see it, seize it, participate fully in it.  You don’t want Jesus weeping over your life as he wept over Jerusalem for not recognizing the quality of time that God was giving to you.  You develop a sense for the time you are living in.

There is a prime time in our relationship with God. There are those special gifted times, when God breaks through our defenses and we understand in a new way, when we finally “get it” about God. 

As the Bible dictionary said, the whole of life, death and resurrection of Jesus is prime time.  The Bible says, “In the fullness of time, God revealed himself to us in the person of Jesus.”  In the fullness of time, when the time was just right, God came in Jesus, and everything that Jesus said and did was part of that prime time.  The very beginning of the Gospel announces:  “The time is fulfilled; the kingdom of God is at hand.”  Jesus is prime time. To know Christ is to know prime time with God.

Prime time is whenever God in Christ continues to break through to you and me and speaks to our lives.

Prime time with God can occur in church, in worship.  Prime time can be a moment in the sermon, right now, or as you kneel for Holy Communion.  It can be during the hymns or readings or silence.  My wife would come to the hospital after church and say to me,  “Ed. We have a wonderfully good religion.  Today it was in the readings, the hymns, the prayers.”

For me personally, prime time is often during a time of religious aesthetics, when the Beauty of God or the worship service touches me inside.  Often, it is during the music, or dance or drama.  I think that is why I like the Russian Orthodox worship service so much; there is so much beauty in the vestments, the iconostasis, the smells, the music, the Presence of God.

Prime time can be at Bible Camp when God breaks through to you in a special way.  Like when Ted Hutchinson sings around the campfire.  He often sings a song, “In the Air,” and when Ted is finished, God has usually touched those kids’ hearts.  I have witnessed God’s breakthrough on so many occasions when Ted was singing.

For C.S. Lewis, the famous novelist and creator of the Narnia tales, prime time was a carriage ride, from this end of the campus to the other end.  By the time the carriage ride was over, he believed in Christ.  A miracle.  A breakthrough.  A kairos time.

All I know is that we human beings are forever experiencing prime time, special time, sacred time in friendships, family and work, but also we experience prime time in our relationship with God, when God finally gets through to us for the first time or again.

As I look back on the past eleven weeks of my life, they were all prime time.  I didn’t realize it at the moment.  For so many weeks, I had been reduced to nothing, to ground zero, to no energy or intelligence.  Thank God for family and friends and medical specialists who took care of me when I could do nothing to care for myself.  As I look back on it, it was my time of testing, my special time, my seventy-seven days of kairos.  But it was not only a time of testing for me but for my family and many of you.  Eleven weeks of prime time, a time of salvation, a time of healing.  I have seized that time, taken it in, and am slowly appreciating all the goodness that God has done in my recent past, my kairos, my prime time. 


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