November 7, 2021

Making Time for God

 

Ephesians 5:15-17; James 2:14-17

 

Today’s sermon is the first of 3 in a series on Stewardship. What is stewardship? Wikipedia’s online dictionary describes it as Stewardship is an ethic that embodies the responsible planning and management of resources. The concepts of stewardship can be applied to the environment and nature, economics, health, property, information, theology, time, cultural resources, etc.”  Over the next 3, Sunday’s our focus will be on the stewardship of time, talent, and treasure, and how we utilize those things for God.  Theologian Elton Trueblood wrote, “Our faith becomes practical when it is expressed in two books: the datebook and the checkbook.” Today’s focus is on our datebooks - how we steward the gift of time in our lives.

 

Regarding the stewardship of time- The day after Halloween is almost always time for me to take down all our outdoor Halloween decorations. This past Monday, I had a nice hike in the morning with Paula and our dog, Angus, ate lunch, and then spent the rest of my time that afternoon climbing up and down a ladder to get all our decorations taken down. Once I got the pile of decorations into the garage, I realized I needed to throw out some of the old and find a home for some of the new. This meant it was time to get a few big new plastic storage bins. So off I went to Bi-Mart.

 

Once I turned into the parking lot, I was amazed to see a long line of cars, at least 20, all lined up at Taco Bell at 3 p.m. in the afternoon. What in the world was going on? Did everyone just decide at once they needed an afternoon snack from Taco Bell? Then I remembered that Taco Bell ran an ad during the World Series, offering a free taco if one of the players from either the Braves or Astros stole second base during a game. Apparently, someone stole a base in the game the day before, and there were patrons lining up for their free taco. I went into Bi-Mart, found my supplies to put away all our Halloween decorations, came back out, and noticed that the car which had been at the long end of that line of cars was still waiting for their free taco, and hadn’t moved up very far. I spent a good 30 minutes in Bi-Mart. As I looked at the scene in the parking lot, I thought to myself, “What a Waste of Time! All that waiting for one free not very good taco?” I don’t think those folks in line at Taco Bell were being very good stewards of their time. Now, maybe if they had been at a Krispy Kreme Donut free giveaway, well…

 

What does scripture have to say about the use of time? We begin by focusing on the first passage for today from Ephesians. To bring us up to speed, I’ll give a brief synopsis of Paul’s intent in the letter to the church in Ephesus up to chapter 5:15. Paul focuses a lot on Christian identity and Christian conduct. Christians are reminded of who they are, especially as it relates to sharing the Gospel and being examples of Christ to others. Christians have been given a new identity and are no longer what they once were. They have taken off their old selves and put on a new self in Christ. Paul encourages the church in Ephesus to be “imitators of God” in their conduct, (Ephesians 5:1) and to walk in the light of Christ (5:8).

 

That brings us to this morning’s section, where Paul encourages us to pay close attention to how they live and to live wisely. Paul writes, 15 Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, 16 making the most of the time, because the days are evil. 17 So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” What then follows is a list of how one lives wisely, how to make the most of their time to reflect their new Christian identities to the rest of the world.

 

In our second passage for today, James has written what most scholars think is some form of circuit letter, meant to be read to the dispersed 12 tribes (That is the early church made of up Jewish believers of Christ as Messiah-James 1:1). He is trying in part to teach these new congregations how God wants them to spend their time. Apparently, these churches are more worried about their finances than their actions. They are more concerned with the offering plate than the poor. He writes at the beginning of chapter 2, “My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our Lord Jesus Christ? For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take time with the one wearing the fine clothes and say, ‘sit here please, ‘ while to the other one who is poor you say, ‘ ‘stand there’ or ‘sit at my feet’, have you not made distinctions among yourselves? (James 2:2-3)  These congregations’ use of time to focus upon the wealthy and neglect the impoverished was in the wrong place. James ends this section by telling them faith without works is dead, for they spent their time focused upon the wrong things, rather than spending their time focused upon the things of God.

 

So then, how are we modern disciples of Christ to live wisely and make the most of our time in the midst of what Paul describes as “evil days?” How are we to maintain our focus on performing works of faith, focusing upon the needs around us? How are we called to be faithful stewards of our time?

 

First, let us look at some ancient Greek understandings of time itself.  Greeks believed primarily in 2 forms of time, Chronos time and Kairos time.  What are these 2 terms and how do they describe the notion of time? According to the online dictionary of Wikipedia, “The ancient Greeks had two words for time: Chronos (χρόνος) and Kairos (καιροs). The former refers to chronological or sequential time, while the latter signifies a proper or opportune time for action. While Chronos is quantitative, kairos has a qualitative, permanent nature. Kairos is a term, idea, and practice that has been applied in several fields including classical rhetoric, modern rhetoric, digital media, Christian theology, and science.”

 

Chronos refers to minutes and seconds, of time as a measurable resource. Kairos is the word used for time in Ephesians, meaning specifically in Greek “an occasion, an opportunity, a season.” So, Chronos time, among other things, is going to Bi-Mart to get some storage bins or waiting in line for a taco. Kairos time is looking to use our time wisely, to look for an opportunity to use our time for God’s purposes and to make the most of that time - It is time off the clock, off the calendar, off the schedules that may drive us. What does that entail?

 

We are to use the Kairos gift of time to make a difference in this world, using our faith in action to show Christ’s love and justice.  James reminds us that faith without works is dead. Our faith is alive when we live in Kairos time, looking for the opportune time for action, for service to others.

 

Church reformer John Wesley is credited in saying the following about the Christian and our use of time. "Do all the good you can, By all the means you can, In all the ways you can, In all the places you can, At all the times you can, To all the people you can, As long as you ever can. " At first glance, if we take Wesley at his word, we are to use all the time and energy we have to do all we can without stopping until we take that last earthly breath and drop dead, exhausted! Each moment on our calendars is to be full of serving God and God’s purposes in the world…Is that really what Paul and Wesley mean, however? How can we use our Kairos time wisely?

 

Should we focus like a plow horse, blinders on working tirelessly from dawn to dusk to plow the fields all day, (as Wesley seemed to suggest), or perhaps it is more to be like my dog, Angus? Angus is a great dog and lives his life as a dog- barking at the neighborhood cat, loving to go on walks and hikes, receiving butt scratches and belly rubs, but ALWAYS looking for an opportunity to eat FOOD. His Kairos time is looking for an opportune moment, ANY opportune moment to get a morsel or bowlful of any food substance, bread in particular.  I think God wants us to be more like Angus than a plow horse when it comes to using our Kairos time- not of course to be focused upon the acquisition of food, but rather focused on the opportunity to share God’s love and light and justice, looking for any opportune moment to do so.  For example-

 

This past Tuesday as I was heading to work, I decided I needed a nice hot cup of coffee and went into the line of cars at Starbucks.  The line was rather long, and so I had some time to wait. I noticed the person in the car behind me, who seemed a bit frazzled. I then recalled hearing stories about people paying for the next person in line and thought I could do something nice for her, to help her possibly relax a bit, or at least have a smile come across her face.  So, when I got up to the window to pay for my cup of java, I said, “I’ll also pay for the person behind me.”  Although her order was a bit more substantial than mine, I happily paid for hers. By the time she got up to the window to pay, I was already heading up Walker Ave. to the church. It may not have been reading a passage of scripture to her, or telling her “Jesus loves you.” However, we may be the only Bible someone will ever read. Sharing Jesus’ love through our actions, sharing an act of concern about another lets them know they are cared about and valued, brings a bit of light into the darkness.

 

God wants us to have time in our schedules to build in the Kairos time, looking for opportunities to serve others. God wants us to serve here in the church as well. We have so many opportunities to serve others at this church, to share God’s love by giving of our time. We are hosting vaccination clinics for our Ashland community, addressing the needs of food insecurity in feeding others through our Little Free Pantry, helping people who are living in their cars find some stability while they work to get out of the grip of poverty, just to name a few. We have deacons who are helping fire victim families, making sure we have funds for monthly food cards and bus tokens, helping people keep their utilities paid, or giving help with rent to keep people housed. We have a group of church elders overseeing all of these and more ministries, giving of their time to make sure God’s work is being done and supported. We have a clerk of session who takes great notes and reminds us of all the things we have agreed to in our session. We have a treasurer who makes sure we have enough to do the ministry God has called us to. All of these volunteers and ministries are some of the many examples of people embracing Kairos time. I hope if you happen to receive a phone call from someone in our nominating committee, you might really pray and consider giving of your time to the inner working of this church. In those moments of service to others, those times in ministry, we can find gratitude and meaning, purpose and hope. Kairos time can be so rewarding!

 

In closing, I’d like to offer you a moment of Kairos time that is both faith-building as well as regenerative. Last week I watched the movie, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,”  about the life of Fred Rogers. In one particular scene, Rogers is sitting with reporter Lloyd Vogel, who is trying desperately to do an interview with him. They are at lunch, and it is obvious the reporter wants to get into the interview. He has a deadline fast approaching to hand his story to the editor of Vanity Magazine. He is solely focused on Chronos time and has been trying to interview Rogers and write something for a couple of days. Finally, as they sit down for lunch, Lloyd thinks he is going to get his interview. However, just as they sit down and begin to talk, Fred Rogers looks at him and says, “I want you to do something with me, just for a moment…Can you…think of all the people who have loved you into who you are?” Initially, Lloyd looks frustrated, sighs, and says, “I don’t really want to…” probably thinking to himself what a waste of time that would be. Fred stops him in his words and says, “just for one minute. All those who have loved you into who you are.” He then closes his eyes, and finally, Lloyd does as well, as well as a few of the patrons in the restaurant. In that quiet minute, Fred, Lloyd, and some of the patrons spend their time thinking about all of those who have loved them, molded and shaped them into the people they are in that moment. Their faces light up with emotion and gratitude. Fred then thanks Lloyd, and an interview almost sort of happens. What a beautiful use of time! God’s Kairos time…focusing upon love. As a way of practicing some Kairos time, I invite you to try that exercise as well.

 

The use of our time is important. We need to spend less time in line at Taco Bell and more time looking for those opportunities to serve God by serving others, bringing glimpses of God’s kindom in how we use our gift of time. And it just so happens we’ve even been given a little bit of the gift of more time, an extra hour today, thanks to Daylight Savings time to do what we can for God! So my friends in Christ, may your faith be alive as you do the work of God, making the most of your time - sharing God’s love, justice, mercy, and compassion through what you say and do. Alleluia! Amen.

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