Ezekiel 33.7-11; Psalm 119.33-40; Romans 13.8-14; Matthew 18.15-20
This may seems a small thing, a cute story about a child growing up. Learning how the world works. But her experience continues to be true for us throughout our lives. We as human beings loves to sort things into categories, to know if something is right or wrong, black or white, day or night. When something happens that doesn’t fit with how we understand the world to work, we struggle. We are afraid.
We have twilight – the two times each day when there is light in the sky, but the sun is not visible. Paul beautifully evokes this metaphor of twilight when he writes in his letter to the Romans about knowing what time it is. That time right before dawn.
It is important to understand that our modern understanding and use of time is much different than it was in the world of Paul. In fact, our obsession with exact times is incredibly new. In the United States, it used to be that if you asked three different people in any given town what time it was, you would likely get answered that varied by up to an hour or two. The thing that changed that? Trains. It makes sense as soon as you hear it, right? If there isn’t a standard and exact time, then you would have people arriving very early for the train and others missing the train all the time. So the railroad companies took the lead in standardizing time in this country.
Since then, we’ve continued to improve at measuring time. Races are now measured down to the thousandth of a second. We see scenes in movies of people racing to get to work on time and slot there punchcard into a machine. That image evokes the idea of hard work and productivity. Being on time is highly valued by many parts of our culture.
We measure time by seconds, minutes, hours, days. And yet for most of human history, ‘time’ has been measured by activity. People would notice when it was time to eat, time to rest, time to work, time to wake up... Instead of measurement, time was about purpose. It makes sense then, that at the time the Bible was written down, there were a few different Greek words for time. The one Paul uses here is Kairos, which does not refer to a specific or chronological time, but instead indicates a special moment in time. It implies that the time being referred to is especially fit for something.
According to Paul, the time is especially fit to wake up because the dawn is near. It is no longer the dark of night, but we have yet to see the sun. It is twilight. The colors of the sky are brilliant, the dew clings to forests and crops as water cycles through our world to bring life, it is quiet but the birds are starting to sing their morning song. It is the moment before the curtain opens, right before kickoff, the cinnamon rolls are out of the oven ready to be devoured. We know what is coming and the excitement, energy, and momentum are building to that moment when the sun appears.
Twilight is a beautiful metaphor for when we are living our lives as Christians. We exist at the overlap of night and day, old and new. God’s kingdom is here, but not in every single moment. We have access to and experienced God’s promise that sin and death and pain will be no more. We feel moments of peace, comfort, and relief – we know God’s promise is true, and it is for us. In our relationships, in a moment in nature, in the bread and wine at the table – we experience God’s power of love being stronger than death, hate, and sin. But we also batten down the hatches for hurricanes, we still remember where we were on September 11 2001, we experience illness, divorce, and suffering. We live in a time when, because of what God has done in Christ, sin and death no longer have power over us. And sometimes we feel that and we know that in our bones, but sometimes it just doesn’t seem to make any sense and we can’t embrace it.
The kingdom isn’t present in every single moment, but we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the forever kingdom, the one that never fades, is coming. We know this because it is what God has promised. And because we know what is coming, we know what our work is. Before the sun even appears, we can be about the business of the day. For twilight is not some stale purgatory or the boredom of the doctor’s office waiting room. We are not left to twiddle our thumbs and long for more kingdom moments. Twilight is alive, buzzing with anticipation and purpose. It is full of potential and certainty that the sun will rise.
And so we get up, and we make more kingdom moments. With every moment of love, life, and peace we make the kingdom. With every moment of fellowship, welcome, of resolved conflict within community, we make the kingdom. With every moment of companionship, joy, comfort, we make the kingdom. We are continually changed and transformed by the moments of kingdom we have already experienced and the mountain of them we know have yet to arrive.
In twilight, we can find hope and purpose. In twilight, we can find love and community. In twilight, we find Christ, walking with us no matter which moment we are in, guiding us to the kingdom right now, right here, and for all the times to come.