Friday, April 28, 2006

Be afraid! Be Ve-e-e-e-ry afraid!

Detached intellectual? I don't know whether to be offended, grateful, amused, or confused.

Which will it be? Savior or destroyer? Just let me know which you prefer and I'll see what I can do for ya.

ht= brogreg

Sunday School Lesson: Everything Has A Season

Scripture: Ecclesiastes 3

What time is it?

When we hear that question, we automatically look to our watch or the nearest clock. I see the person who is not chained to some type of time-keeping instrument as very fortunate. Our modern lives have become so entangled with the minutes of the day that we have, for the most part, lost sight of time. I found it very interesting to learn in my reading for this lesson that there is no concept of, or word for, “minute” in the Bible. The word “hour” is found only in the New Testament. The most used reference to time in the Bible is “day”, with “year” a distant second, followed by “month” and “season”. Our culture has taught us to become so concerned with the minutes of our lives that we are losing our hours, days, years, and seasons.

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” - Annie Dillard

So, what time is it?

For citizens of the United States, it is a time of war and disagreement.

It is a time of worry and concern over unstable fuel prices.

It is Spring, and therefore a time to plant in farming communities like ours. “Planting Time.”

Also, at this time of year in South Georgia, some fruits are ripe and many are making home-made jellies, jams, and preserves. A local delicacy is Mayhaw Jelly. In our area we could call this time “Mayhaw Season.”

In our area, recreational league softball and baseball is in full swing. Those of us with sons or daughters who play in these leagues spend lots of time going to practices and games, shopping for just the right equipment, and practicing with our young athletes. “Baseball/Softball Season.”

Just recently with schools and colleges out for a week and our close proximity to Florida’s Gulf Coast, many had a “Spring Break.” The folks who live and work in those coastal towns can certainly tell you what time it is when Spring Break comes around each year. It is a time of money and madness.

The fish are bedding and biting on Lake Seminole. There it is “Shellcracker Season.”

“Reality is a question of perspective; the further you get from the past, the more concrete and plausible it seems–but as you approach the present, it inevitably seems incredible.” - Salman Rushdie

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 ESV
(1) For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
(2) a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
(3) a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
(4) a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
(5) a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

(6) a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
(7) a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
(8) a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.

What time is it?

What times are the times best remembered?

Times of love, laughter, and peace? Or times of strife, conflict, and war?

What does the first verse of this passage teach us about all the events of the world and our lives?

There is a purpose to all that happens. The first verses of this passage may not state it clearly, but this passage is not just the pessimistic groanings of a thinker attempting to make sense of a seemingly senseless existence. You have to read further to find it, but the teacher who wrote this passage did not simply state the obvious facts of constantly changing circumstances and situations. This teacher understood that God, not man, orders our lives and all of the changes of life. Without God, these changes would seem senseless. With God at the center, it is truly amazing how our lives are ordered. Without God, life is full of weariness and disappointment.

How is a Christian to understand such statements as: There is “a time to kill” and “a time to hate’?

Ecclesiastes 3:9-15 ESV
(9) What gain has the worker from his toil?
(10) I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with.
(11) He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.
(12) I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live;
(13) also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil--this is God's gift to man.
(14) I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him.
(15) That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been; and God seeks what has been driven away.

There are two Greek words used in the Bible that describe two different concepts of time. The first is “chronos”, from which we get the English words “chronology” and “chronometer”. Chronos is time from man’s point of view. This time can be measured and divided into components of seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, etc. We complain of our chaotic lives in reference to time, but just think how chaotic the world would be without standards of time. God, who exists outside of time, is probably not very concerned with “chronos”.

“The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.” - Albert Einstein

The other Greek word for time is “kairos” which means “the fullness of time” or “the right time.”

Kairos is not at all dependent on clocks, calendars, or chronometers. Kairos, “the right time” is always determined by God. A good analogy for kairos is the ripening of fruit. The time a fruit develops and ripens on a tree is measurable by “chronos.” The perfect time for harvest can only be determined by it’s ripeness. That is “kairos”, the right time.

Chronos and kairos are two totally different time frames. Chronos is measurable, earthbound, and totally human. Kairos is eternal, beyond measure, and divine.

How do we get ourselves out of chronos and into kairos?

To live in kairos we must live in the present. How common is it for a person to be so concerned about the future that they never enjoy the present?

“The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes per hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.” - C. S. Lewis

This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it. Living in the present is a definite part of discipleship. Wherever we are, right now, there are needs around us. If we fail to attempt to meet those needs wherever and whenever those needs are made known, then we have failed in that moment. Regardless of what success we find in the future, we cannot erase a single failure.

“Time is a companion that goes with us on a journey. It reminds us to cherish each moment, because it will never come again. What we leave behind is not as important as how we have lived.” - Captain Jean-Luc Picard

James 4:13-16 ESV
(13) Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit"--
(14) yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.
(15) Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that."
(16) As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.

To live in kairos we must patiently wait on the Lord and remain prepared for the “right time”.

We can never predict God’s “right time”. We must never so fill our “chronos” that we have no time left for prayer and preparation for God’s “right time” for us.

“Time is a sort of river of passing events, and strong is its current; no sooner is a thing brought to sight than it is swept by and another takes its place, and this too will be swept away.” - Marcus Aurelius

To live in kairos we must in all things give thanks. We will be spared very few if any of the seasons of life described in today’s scripture. Some of us will have multiple experiences of some of the ones that seem tragic or difficult. If we, like the teacher in Ecclesiastes can look at our experiences from the eternal perspective of God, we can say, “This is not the end of the world. With God’s help, I can get through this.” How difficult it is to give thanks in the middle of a difficult situation. Yet, nothing can separate us from the love of God.

Romans 8:35-39 ESV
(35) Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?
(36) As it is written, "For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered."
(37) No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
(38) For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,
(39) nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The teacher questions: How can one find happiness apart from God? There has never been one person who has not tried and failed. Happiness and joy cannot exist apart from God.

“My momma always said, "Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get."” - Forrest Gump

“So many men, so little time.” - Mae West