I Don’t Really Know What Time It Is

What Time Is It

Ecclesiastes 3:11:  He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

I don’t know if you’ve ever had the experience of being around a friend or relative or someone from work, usually later in the day, when one of you looks at the clock, which reads four PM, and says something like, “It seems like it should be five o’ clock, or later.”

The interesting thing to me is, every time this happens, the other person agrees. I don’t think they say what they do this just to be agreeable. It’s simply a matter of a shared sense of time which comes, no doubt, from spending a lot of time together and sharing a number of experiences during a day. We’ve found that if we’re busy, we think it’s later than it is. Conversely, if we’re doing very little (which almost never happens), we think it’s earlier than it is because there wasn’t anything much to fill those hours.

I think that the spiritual truth of this is that God’s time is always right—not too early, and not too late. We may think that God is late delivering on what God has promised, but that’s not true. When God does come through, in retrospect we see that we were not ready for what happened before that, for various reasons. But God sees all things and knows all, so God comes through just at the right time.

Praise God for knowing us, for knowing what we need most, and for being right there with us through time and beyond, to where time does not exist, to eternity. Amen.

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A Sketch of Fingers Holding Pencils

 

Fingers Holding Pencil

Deuteronomy 6:4: Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.

In rehearsal, the choir members—sopranos, altos, tenors and basses—

Hold pencils to mark their music—

Entrances, stresses, rhythms, crescendos, decrescendos, rests, D.S.’s, codas,

And all the rest, and as I look around me, I see that the pencils

Held by the fingers of all the singers in all the sections

Lie at the exact same angle, just for a moment.

How this happens, I don’t know,

But I have heard that the hearts of singers in a group,

In rehearsal or in performance, no matter the season or how long they

Have sung together, or how the music is going,

The hearts of the singers beat as one. No one knows why or how

This happens, but it does. Hearts beat as one, just as fingers

Hold pencils at the same angle,

Those same fingers that signal and wave, that comfort and indicate,

Touch and sign, gesture and point, these fingers hold the warm wood

Of pencils at the same angle, and these heart beats and these

Angles are indications that fingers and hearts are one

As the singers are one

And all people are one

And the world and the universe

Are

One

And God is one,

Hear, O Israel, and hear, O singers,

The Lord our God is one God.

Amen.

Calling

 

Stop Calling Me

Revelation 3:20 : Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

I don’t know if you’ve ever been sitting at home doing something important like taking a nap or having a piece of chocolate pie when, wouldn’t you know it, the phone rings and interrupts what you’re doing. It might be important, but because you’re no fool, you look at the caller ID to see if you want to answer. What you see on the little screen is a “703” area code and a “368” exchange number followed by four numbers that don’t matter. Based on this, you figure it’s someone you know and care about, so you answer the phone, expecting to hear the soft tones of someone you like.

Instead, a young woman with way too much energy says, “Hi! My name is Kristie and I want to talk to you about reducing your credit card debt.”

Now it’s here that, because there are so many things to say, I have to hesitate so I can pick which one to use. That doesn’t matter to Kristie—I know that she will blather on until she asks, “Can I sign you up?” so I have plenty of time to consider my options. Frist of all, we’re blessed to not have any credit card debt, so maybe this call is a wrong number. Or Kristie is trying to make me think I do have the debt and offer me a loan at a high rate of interest to pay it off.

What I really want to do is to start screaming and continue until she stops talking (although she might win that contest), but then I think, Screaming is not good for my voice, and my director would not like it if I blew out my voice by screaming. I also could say, “Stop calling me! Stop right now! Quit! Go away! Leave me alone or I’ll hold my breath until I turn blue!”, but I don’t. I could as well say, “Put me on your ‘do not call’ list,” but I don’t know if there is one of those anymore. Apparently not, since I’m getting these kinds of calls. There’s too much going on to think straight so I interrupt Kristie—actually I don’t, since she continues to talk, remember?—I just say, “I’m not interested,” and hang up. It’s rude and probably breaks Kristie’s heart, but she deserves it. She was keeping me from my pie.

When this happened to me the other day, I thought that it’s good that most of us don’t try to convince people we’re someone or something else. It’s also good that the majority of us don’t force someone to talk to us when they don’t want to. Jesus understood this when he said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” He is all that, and we can trust his saying so. It’s also important that Jesus allows us to come to him without force or coercion. He said, “I stand at the door and knock.” He has to knock since the door to salvation, like doors of Jesus’ time, can only be opened from the inside, from within our souls.  We make the decision to open our lives to him freely, openly and with a full knowledge that when we do, all is taken care of, and we will live with Jesus forever.

Kristie is probably a nice young woman who is trying to make some money, but I wonder if I should have invited her to come to church. She might have turned me down—that would be her choice, after all. Or she might have come, and seen what a difference belief could make in her life. And maybe she would stop misrepresenting herself and asking people to do something they really don’t have to do.

Praises to God for not forcing anything on us and for loving us so much that we have the choice whether to accept his gift of salvation or not. And praise to God for God’s love and bountiful, eternal salvation through Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

The Seat of Majesty

 

The Throne of God Revelation

Isaiah 6:1: In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple.

I don’t know if you think a lot about chairs. I tend to, since I like to sit down because I’m lazy. Maybe some of us don’t think a lot about them because they are so common. But such was not always the case.

The earliest chairs we know about came from Egypt during the Early Dynastic Period (3100 to 2686 BC). They were covered with cloth or leather, were made of carved wood, and were much lower than today’s chairs – chair seats were sometimes only about ten inches high. In ancient Egypt chairs appear to have been of great richness and splendor. Fashioned of ebony and ivory, or of carved and gilded wood, they were covered with costly materials, magnificent patterns and supported upon representations of the legs of beasts or the figures of captives. Generally speaking, the higher ranked an individual was, the taller and more sumptuous was the chair he sat on and the greater the honor.

It is possible that the Israelites would have been aware of these chairs during their time and captivity, that this awareness might have influenced their ideas about the throne of God. Notice in the passage from Isaiah that God is “high and exalted.”

Other ancient cultures such as those in China and India also had chairs, although their use was rare until the twelfth century.

So, chairs were for many centuries a symbolic article of state and dignity rather than something for ordinary use. Because of this history, committees, boards of directors, and academic departments all have a ‘chairman’ or ‘chair.

The chair did finally come into common use in Europe around 1600 during the Renaissance, and by the 1880’s, chairs had become common in the United States.

The visions of Isaiah and that of Revelation which show God “high and lifted up” are meant to convey a sense of power and authority not only to believers but also to those who not, who may choose to change that unbelief. God’s power and nature are not dependent on anything, including creatures who believe or not. God is absolute, eternal and loving, and one of the miracles about God is that, as Christ incarnate, he came down from his high throne to walk in the dust with those like us. Praise God for his majesty, his goodness to us, and for his sacrifice made so that we with God may be, one day, high and lifted up ourselves. Amen.

 

Vicarious is as Vicarious Does

 

Sand Lot Players

Mark 16:15: And Jesus said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”

I don’t know if you’ve heard of a baseball league for kids that is run by the kids themselves. It’s called “unorganized baseball,” and adults are not allowed to have anything to do with the game. They’re not supposed to cheer the players, although some do occasionally. And they certainly are not supposed to advise, cajole or berate the players. A player from each team acts as an umpire, and that helps insure that the calls will be fair. There are no uniforms, no pressure, no tantrums, and no crying because the game is relaxed, much as the sand lot games were that we used to play as kids. The idea is to have fun, enjoy the game and get some exercise.

Of course, we know about the pressure and stress that can be a part of league play. Unfortunately, some parents who perhaps didn’t do well playing baseball when they were young want their children to do what they could not, and so they use their youngster to play vicariously through them. The harm caused by their yelling, scolding and berating their child is immense, and even though some leagues try to prohibit what the parents do, the adults persist. I hope “unorganized baseball” will grow and make an impact of how kids play other games, as well as on their lives.

I was thinking about these parents who live vicariously through their children and what a mistake it is, and believe that our faith is decidedly not vicarious. In the Great Commission, Jesus told his disciples and tells us to go ourselves into the world and made disciples. We are not allowed to send someone for us or send our money. That doesn’t count. We have to be involved in sharing this great treasure that is salvation and in continuing to walk with God. Praise God that we can be a part of God’s great plan for everyone, and that we can continue to be with God, supported by the Spirit to share the news of the sacrifice in love of the Savior. Amen.

Lather, Rinse, Repeat

Lather Rinse Repeat

Deuteronomy 6: 6-7: These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed how much people repeat themselves in everyday life. I’m not talking about someone making a speech or giving a sermon repeating themselves (although that does happen), but rather about people who say the same thing in daily life.

If you give someone directions, it’s interesting how many people don’t write them down, but rather repeat them to try to fix them in their memory. I write a lot of things down because I frequently can’t remember what I had for breakfast. Servers in restaurants also repeat a customer’s order. Someone might say, “I’ll have the pate de fois gras and the lobster thermidor. The server immediately says, “The foie gras and the lobster, right?” I used to think servers didn’t hear the order the first time, but then I realized they were repeating what the customer said to make sure they heard the customer’s order correctly and also to probably fix the order in their memory.

I’ve written that, when we greet someone, the person being greeted often repeats what the first person said. I might say to a friend when I first see him, “Hey, Bob, how are you?” and Bob will say, “Hey, Dan, I’m good. How are you?” I think this happens because we don’t have time to think of a different greeting. It also serves as a way of establishing a bond or a commonality between two people. It’s a way of indicating that we liked the way we were greeted so much that we use it again. The other person is pleased that we used the same words and resolves to become our life-long friend and give us lots of money. Maybe.

We can find repetition in the universe as well. The sun, moon, earth, galaxies and stars move in regular paths. We have birthdays and celebrate holidays at predictable times. Repetition is also important in the Bible. The Jews staged festivals and holy days at regular intervals. Scholars tell us that Jesus did his teaching orally, and that the disciples heard the same messages over and over again, enabling them to remember what Jesus said so they could write it down later as the Gospels.

The Shema is an ancient Jewish prayer consisting of three paragraphs that are repeated in the morning and evening. The first paragraph is, “Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One. Blessed is His name, whose glorious kingdom is forever and ever.” I believe we would be well-served to repeat this prayer ourselves as a reminder of the nature and power of God. Listen to these important words, all you believers: “The Lord our God is One God.” Amen.

 

Changing the Oil

Wise and Foolish

Matthew 25: 1-4: “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten young women who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise.  The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps.

I don’t know if you remember the days when, if a family took a lengthy trip by car and had to stop for gas, they not only filled the tank: they also checked the oil. I asked my dad once why he was checking the oil when he had checked it three hours earlier and, as far as I knew, we hadn’t anointed the road with the contents of the engine. He replied, “You never know what might have happened. I just like to be sure.”

I might be wrong about this, but I don’t see many people checking their oil when they gas up now. I think engines have become more reliable and less likely to dump their oil on the interstate or maybe more people have instruments to keep them informed about their oil level.

Just when this began to change, I don’t remember. It might also have to do with the fast pace of life nowadays. Yeah, we might run the risk of cooking our engines, but it would be worth it if we got where we are going a little bit sooner.

My father was wise check the dip stick at every gas stop. Doing so told him that his engine was able to continue the trip. Similarly, the wise young women in the parable made sure they had plenty of olive oil so they could do what they were supposed to. And I think that we need to take measure of our lives by prayer, reflection, reading the Bible, acts of service, and fellowship with others. All these tell us how we measure up to God’s standards. And measuring up to those standards will insure that, with the sacrifice of the Son, the power of the Holy Spirit and the love of the Creator we will continue to grow in Christlikeness. Praise God for the Trinity, Three in One and all that it has done for us, all that it is doing for us, and all that it will do for us throughout eternity. Amen.