Texts: Malachi 4:1-2a; Psalm 98; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13; Luke 21: 5-19
So finally now, the national and local elections have happened—and about time, some would say. This elections process has gone on a long time, too long, some would say. And yet, even now, we remain a divided nation; these divisions include the philosophy of government, personalities, and what programs should be developed to address the many challenges facing our communities, our nation and the whole world.
We cry out for unity and stability, for justice and peace, for hope and for anticipation of a better future. It has been a long campaign season. Did you happen to see the Frank and Earnest cartoon this week entitled: “Heavenly Politics”? The two heavenly angels are discussing both earthly and heavenly campaigns:
Anyone who has traveled with children is familiar with questions. When do we get there? How much farther? What time is it? When will be stop? I’m tired, I’m hungry. I hope things change.
In some ways, we are like children, older yes but still like children even as we travel on the longer ride of history. We ask: How long? What’s going to happen? Will our situation improve or get worse? How much longer before life gets better, will there ever be an end of suffering? To the agony of children and all people who are hungry and abused? How much longer? Wars go on and on. What time is it anyway?
Our texts for the day all deal with the issue of time, past, present and future. It turns out that “TIME’ is a fairly complex subject. For the fun of it, I used the internet and googled the word: TIME. I found topics like: the definition of time, the scope of time, relational time, absolute time, ideal time, becoming time, unfolding time, time consciousness, and on and on.
The ancient world struggled with the concepts of time also. What is the meaning of time? How do we measure time? The language of the Bible does a better job than we do in the English language in dealing with and describing the nuances of time.
It uses more than one word for our one English word “Time”
One is “chronos”—from which we have words like: chronology, and chronological . Chronos time is measured time, like with a clock or a calendar. Chronos time has to do with the duration of time. In the ancient world, it was often measured by the sun, or the moon, or the distance from known historical events. There are phrases like: “the reign of the kings”, or in Luke 1 “In the days of King Herod of Judea”.
The other Greek word is “Kairos”. Kairos is the time when something significant happens; it is the time of opportunity or fulfillment. Kairos time has content and event built into its identity . Days and times are known by their contents, usually involving historical events. We know the verse in Luke , chapter 2: “The time came for her to deliver her child”. Kairos time. It is the word for time most used in the Bible.
The Gospel writer of Luke commonly uses this word. Kairos time is “event time." And so the people, perhaps scribes as well as people from the crowd ask: "Teacher, when will these things be and what will be the sign?"
Jesus then said: “All of these things will be happening first before the “Kairos” of the end.” Jesus then lists the litany of events: “wars and insurrections, nations against nation, great earthquakes, famines and plagues, with signs in the heavens, and distress among the nations.
So when will this happen? What is the “Kairos” time?
And now as more time has gone by, both chronos and Kairos, some would argue that it already has happened. Indeed, Jesus said these things as he was looking at the beautiful and awesome temple, its spectacular and sturdy stone work. The temple was so high and so majestic as it towered over the city.
St. Luke now writes his Gospel account over 40 years later and the temple had already been destroyed. That happened in 70 AD, great wars were raging, and there continued to be earthquakes and tumult. But it is appropriate to say that the “Kairos” of such time could be anytime. History is littered with stories of those who have predicted the end of chronological time and the happening of a cosmic “Kairos” time, culminating with the Second Coming of Christ. Bible book stores, even today, abound with time charts and the predictions of the future.
However, the reality is: WE DON’T KNOW, AND WE DON’T NEED TO KNOW.
The “when” of the Lord’s coming is always near, always has been. The “when” is in God’s hands and that is all we need to know and that is good news.
Well, how about the ‘NOW’? What does God intend for our living in the “now” of life?
Apparently, in the Thessalonian Church, there were people who felt that they no longer had to do anything because the end had come or was coming soon. They decided that they no longer had to work.
The Apostle Paul addresses them directly: “You should imitate us and we worked day and night. We wanted to set you a good example. ” “But now we hear that you are living in idleness, mere busy-bodies, not doing any work.” “Well let me say: Anyone not willing to work should not eat.”
Now that got their attention. He is messing with their food and sustenance. Then St. Paul says: “Do your work quietly and earn your own living."
This is the "NOW" of life. You can’t sit on your hands or sit on the hillsides of your own history and wait. This is true no matter the age or the stage of life you happen to be in.
For Luke, the believers are to witness. They are to trust Jesus for words and wisdom, doing deeds of mercy, forgiveness, and justice. ---- Even against those who accuse or persecute them. Luke 21:13 uses the word “martyrion”, a word that comes into English as martyr, a servant, a witness, whatever the price.
Out of all of this, there is a “NOW” for our own living involving the key words of “witness, work, and service.” Followers of Jesus are to keep on doing the ministries of Jesus, keep on keeping on. Christians have no “retirement age” when it comes to the words and deeds of discipleship. To put it another way, we have no “sunset clause” even if we know the “sun-rise” or “Son-rise” is coming.
Martin Luther said one time: “God has taken care of my salvation. I am therefore free to take care of my neighbor.”
This is the NOW of our living, including the giving of who we are and all that we have to witness and work.
There remains the “THEN” of our lives and of all existence. There will be a coming again of the Lord in great glory: “Eye has not seen no ear heard what God has prepared. There will be a Resurrection. “There will be a new heavens and a new earth. The former things have passed away.”
Therefore, HOPE and ENDURANCE are what is called for. Hope has to do with "confident expectation," like a child waiting for loving parents to come home. Verse 18 says: "But not a hair of your head will perish." This is not to be taken literally, but it certainly means that you will be protected from eternal death and destruction. So let your trust, your faith endure. Endurance for the sake of bearing fruit, of a life of work and witness.
There is here the assurance of life beyond death, the hope of the Resurrection, and of the new creation.
We go from WHEN to NOW to THEN.
Or to say it another way: “The Kingdom of God is among us, and yet we are waiting for it.”
The answer to the question of WHEN is NOW. Today is the day we have.
“Whenever two or three are gathered in his name, Jesus comes.
“Whenever we break the bread, and share the cup, Jesus comes.”
“Whenever we give a cup of cold water or feed a hungry person, Jesus comes.”
“Whenever we give the gifts of healing and help to others, Jesus comes.”
Now. Now. And this is the how and the now and the when of the Lord’s coming. And so we say: AMEN