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The Lord of Time

Ephesians 1:3-10
Mark Edwards
December 30, 2018
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Congratulations! You have made it through the Christmas season and tomorrow is New Year’s Eve. As we turn from celebrating the birth of Christ, with all the “presents! The ribbons! The wrappings! The tags! And the tinsel! The trimmings! The trappings!”[1]

We turn to reflecting on what this past year has brought us and what we hope for in the coming months. Tomorrow night we’ll gather to clink in the new year with well wishes and confetti.
If you are like me, your Advent was a wondrous flurry of Christmas blessings with flurry being the key word. It seemed to go by so fast, did you even get time to try that new Juniper Latte from Starbucks? Are you ready for another celebration? Are you ready for another year?

For soon time, “like an ever rolling stream,” will bear us into the weeks of January, a graduation season, air conditioners and summer travel, and even another Advent. Perhaps your ever rolling stream has felt like the “lazy rivers” of the water parks, as you bob along wishing something exciting would happen. Perhaps you feel like your ever rolling stream is frothing whitewater bouncing you off of rocks and pitching you through frightening waves and waterfalls. Perhaps you are too bewildered to be looking at the year ahead and are simply wondering, where did this Christmas go? Where did this year go?

It is a troubling question. I mean, really, where did this past year go? Where does any time go? The hopes and fears of all the years…what happens to them when the years themselves tick away? And the present, it seems so, so, fleeting. It is gone so quickly- We live in it, and yet it is is gone, gone, gone.

And as we stand on the border of a new year, with all our anticipations, whether anxious or optimistic, we may well wonder, what does the future hold? What will time bring us?
The question of time has long intrigued and confounded. For example, St. Augustine, in his book the Confessions, ponders. “What then is time?” , “I know what it is if no one asks me what it is; but if if I want to explain to to someone who has asked me, I find that I do not know.” [2]

Perhaps we could leave it at that. Perhaps we should leave it at that. After all, as Isaiah 40 warns us:
Whom did God consult for God’s enlightenment,
Who taught [God] knowledge,
and showed [God] the way of understanding?

Perhaps the mystery of time is just that, a mystery impenetrable to the human mind. Such would seem to the the view of Ecclesiastes. For just following the passage read earlier, that “For everything there is a season, and a time of every matter under heaven,” the Teacher (aka, Qohelet, the Gatherer) suggests that trying to discern the rhythms of time and reasons of “why now?” is pointless and futile; a vanity; a chasing after the wind:
[God] has made everything suitable for its time; moreover [God] has put a sense of past and future into our minds, yet [we] cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for humans than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live;  moreover, it is God’s gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil.  I know that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it; God has done this, so that all should stand in awe before him.  That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already is; and God seeks out what has gone by.

In Ecclesiastes, “God is in heaven, and you upon Earth” (5:2) and trying to discern the ways in which God is directing time “under the sun” is futile. “We cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.”

But perhaps not? Perhaps time is something that human science and human rationality can decipher? Perhaps comprehending time is the point of human life after all? Inspired by the capacity of the human mind to decode and overcome the material world, the great physicist Stephen Hawking was hopeful that we would someday discover a grand unified theory, a so-called theory of everything. Such a “complete theory,” thought Hawking, should ultimately explain, why there is time, and should, be understandable in broad principle by everyone, not just a few scientists. Then we shall all, philosophers, scientists, and just ordinary people, be able to take part in the discussion of the question of why it is that we and universe exist. If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason—for then we would know the mind of God.[3]

Hawking thus thought, that if we could decipher the ‘why’ behind the big bang’s eruption of all matter, energy, space, and time, we would understand not only the point of our existence, but the very mind of God itself.

It would seem that in his letter to the church at Ephesus, the apostle Paul unites these two strands of thought. For what has been God’s impenetrable & mysterious plan for this world has been disclosed, such that we do have genuine wisdom- we can find out what God is doing from the beginning to the end:
[God] chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love.  [God] destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that [God] freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.  In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace  that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight  [God] has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that [has been] set forth in Christ, 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

According to Ephesians, Christ is God’s eternal plan and purpose for this world. According to Ephesians, our adoption in Christ as daughters and sons of God-is the secret that has now been disclosed. As co-heirs with Christ to all of the glorious riches of God the Father, there is something better than for humans “to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live.” What is better? How about being found “holy and blameless” before God the ultimate judge. Eternally. How about, being chosen for adoption by the Divine King. Even before the world was even created? How about being redeemed from our mistakes by God’s glorious grace alone? Paul thinks that understanding time is understanding the mind of God, for Christ is the fullness of time who discloses the mystery of God’s will for the adoption of all as sons and daughters of the most high. Understanding time is to understand the ‘mind of God’ for time itself is the gift which God gives us in Christ. Indeed time itself is made by God for Christ to come and live within it. Like baskets that need filling with bread, like an ark that needs filling with planet earth, like a jar that needs filling with wine, time is empty until Christ comes to it.

Friends there are many things that claim our allegiance, that profess to be the lords of our time. Clocks, stop-watches, stock-markets, newspapers, careers, social standing, the progress of nations and technologies. Time and time again, these present themselves as the meaning of our existence as they rule our moments and define our total existence. They dictate our schedules. They set the rhythms of our daily life. They fill us with hopes and anxieties for the future. They claim to make sense of the world’s past. Yet none if these is the true Lord of Time. That throne is for Christ alone.

Christ is the Lord of our Time, because in Jesus, God makes time for us. As Karl Barth writes, “Without Him without the fact that He is for me, I should have no time and therefore since I can be only in time, I should not be at all.” But “Because God loves me, without cause or merit, I am now.” (CD 3.2, 530) God is patiently giving us time; again, and again, and again. Christ is the Lord of our Time that we might know the riches of Christ’s reign and the glories of Jesus’ grace, again, and again, and again; ever in new ways, ever in ways that show us the beautiful life and fellowship of the Triune God. For this Triune God too lives in repeated affirmation and confirmation of a covenant of ongoing love. As Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, God is in ‘eternal repetition’ a repetition that ever generates new moments of divine grace and glory. These are shared with us as time, as history. God gives us time out of God’s own eternity that we might know and follow Christ, the one for whom all time is made.

King of Glory, Son of God, Lord of Time. A child, born in a manger. To Mary. Next to goats. This is the event to which and from which all time flows.
So Christ is not just the Lord of our time, he is the Lord of all the past, for since Creation, all time flows toward the incarnation. And Christ is also Lord of the present. For the one who says, “Before Abraham was, I am” is not limited and confined by time to being who he is in only one moment. Rather, Christ can be, and promises to be, present to all moments. Christ makes himself present to all times. In the third sense, Christ is Lord of the future. For all time is granted freedom from sin and death and is free now to meet its true lord and maker. And just as all created time flowed towards the incarnation and crucifixion, all redeemed time flows from the resurrection and toward Christ’s coming. As John describes in his apocalyptic vision of the end of time, recorded in the Book of Revelation the one who is encountered is the one who says: “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

This Lord God is Christ. Christ is the plan of God for the fullness of time, and in Christ, all things whether on heaven or earth, are gathered up in him.

Friends, in this new year, this year of our Lord 2019, may Christ guide your time, comfort your time, heal your time, redeem your time. In this coming year, may you, like the wise men offer your time to the the Christ child. May you return each moment to its proper Lord and may you see how the great weaver of time can thread the strands of your life into the beautiful and redemptive plan that is the goal and purpose for this confused world. May you trust that God will provide what you need, at the right time, just when it is needed the most. And may you not despair. Your time, and the time of the ones you love, the time of those whom the world forgets is not lost. It is not meaningless. For all time is given by Christ. All time is redeemed through Christ. And all time is gathered back into him. Let us, like Mary, treasure these things in our hearts, and seek the presence of the Lord of time again, and again, and again. AMEN.

[1] Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Online text at: http://web.mit.edu/tere/www/text/grinch.txt
[2] Augustine, The Confessions, trans. by Rex Warner. (New York: Signet Classics, a division of Penguin, 2009), p. 262 (Bk.XI, Ch. 14).
[3]Stephen W. Hawking, A Brief History of Time (Toronto: Bantam Books, 1988), 185.