June 3, 2012

Rev. John Watts

Nampa First UMC


Ecclesiastes 3:1-17

Ephesians 5:15-20

The fourth in a series of five sermons.

Childhood memories.  The older I get the more enjoyment I get from going back in my mind to recapture moments from my childhood.

I heard on public radio an essay read by a father who was becoming increasingly frustrated that his lawn was being destroyed by children.  Some of the children destroying his lawn were his own, and it was compounded by all the friends they would bring over.  They played on it, rode bikes on it, pets grazed on it.  No matter how hard he tried, he could not overcome this daily abuse.  He was about to lay down the law —  “stay off my lawn!!” — when a childhood memory returned to him.

There was a neighbor whose front yard was the designated neighborhood playground for children.  His lawn looked terrible.  It looked like the lawn atAnnMorrisonParkafter last summer’s beerfest.  What made it worse was that this man lived in a neighborhood with carefully manicured lawns, mowed every third day, fertilized every fifth week, everything just perfect.  One of his neighbors tried to be helpful.  He said, “If you want to grow your lawn, you’re going to have to get these kids off it.”  The man said, “Next summer I’ll grow a lawn.  This summer I’m growing kids.”

That’s a childhood memory that helped that father put things in perspective as he tried to grow both kids and a lawn.

Remember the definition we’ve been working with through this series.  “The family is a balanced environment, designed by God, for the growth of human beings.”  We’re going to be talking today about the growing of children in our families.

Think back to your childhood.  What are your happiest memories?  My guess is most of them involve time spent with your family.  We say it so often it sounds trite, but it’s true.  Simple things bring us the most joy.  We don’t have to spend money to make memories we will cherish forever.  But we do have to spend time.

You know how kids spell love?  T-I-M-E.  A survey was taken of 1,500 kids who were asked, “What makes a family happy?”  Far and away the number one answer was, “Doing things together.”  Here’s how Scott Peck put it:

Ultimately love is everything.  When we love something it is of  value to us, and when something is of value to us, we spend    time with it, time enjoying it and taking care of it.  So it is when we love children; we spend time admiring them and caring for them.  We give them our time.

It’s so simple!  Strong families spend time together.  It shouldn’t take a sermon to  explain this one.  But if it’s so simple, why do people like me find it so complicated to actually do it?

The problem is time.  More precisely, the problem is the way we understand and therefore use our time.

There are three images of time we’re going to be looking at today.  Most of us think only in terms of one — the western image.  The Greek word for this understanding of time is “chronos”.

Chronos time is time as a measuring stick.  It’s divided into seconds and minutes and hours and days.  Using this image, good stewardship of time means squeezing as much as we can into the 24 hours we have to work with each day.

I saw a cartoon that showed a husband and wife about to leave for work the week after their kids got out of school.  She says, “OK, I take Jason to band camp and Abbey to volleyball camp on my way to work.  You take Kevin to his summer job and pick him up at noon, then across town to tennis camp.  I’ll leave work early and pick up Kevin, you stay late and get Jason from his extended day program.  Abbey goes home with the Weinstocks and I pick her up on my way home from my meeting and we’ll all meet back here . . .”   He says,

” . . . in September.”

The lifestyle of people who live this way has been described as “keeping up with the gerbils”.  You have to be quick to keep up with gerbils.  Let’s take a look and see if any of us can relate to this kind of a lifestyle.

(Youtube video:  “Gerbils of Fire”)

Grown-ups can manage this.  It’s not easy.  It’s not healthy.  But it can be done.  Soon the adrenaline rush that fuels your fast-paced life almost feels good.  But children aren’t made for this.  Children are slow-pokes.  They need time to talk, time to do things, time to have fun, time for each other.  Children need mom and dad to get off that  running wheel, and slow down enough to be their mom and dad.

When time is “chronos”, it’s a limited commodity that needs to be squeezed dry every day.  There will be plenty of time to rest when you’re dead.

The word “chronos” is found in the Bible, but rarely.  One place is Revelation 10:6.  Most translations read ,”There will be no more delay”, but the word translated “delay” is that Greek word “chronos”.  “There will be no more time.”  Some day that will be true.  Have you ever taken your watch off and turned off your cell phone while on vacation? It’s a scary feeling at first but soon it becomes a wonderful feeling.  Time is no longer your master.  It is now your servant.  This verse in Revelation hints that heaven is going to be like that.

But short of going to heaven, and most of us aren’t quite ready for that, how can we escape the tyranny of “chronos” time?  We can change our perspective.  We can shift images.  We can look at time in a whole new way.  We can learn the meaning of another Greek word.  That word is “kairos”.

Find the word “time” in your New Testament and it’s very likely the word being translated is “kairos”.  It’s a word that doesn’t even translate directly into English.  That tells you how foreign this concept is to us.  “Kairos” is best understood not as a second or a minute or an hour but as a moment.  Moments are meaningful.  All time is not equally meaningful.  Certain opportune moments come and go and are gone.  You miss them and you can’t get them back. We don’t remember days.  We remember moments.  So stewardship of time is not a matter of hurrying but of timing.

Farmers understand this.  When it’s time, they work day and night.  When it’s not time, they wait.  At Lakeshore Market Country Store, I’m told.  If I were a farmer , I would schedule harvest on my  calendar so I could plan my other activities around it.  But it doesn’t work that way.  The harvest comes when it’s ready, not when we’re ready.  When it comes, we either capture the moment or we miss the moment.  If we miss the moment, no matter how hard we work out in that field in December, it’s not going to make any difference.  It’s too late.

Life is filled with harvest moments.  “Kairos” moments.  One was in Rocky V.  Rocky’s son wants to be a fighter, like his dad.  But he’s small for his size and not very strong.  He’s easy prey for the bullies at school.  So he hangs around his dad’s gym.  He starts working out like his dad.  He develops some strength and he learns how to box.  One day at school he’s challenged by the same bully who has always beaten him up before.  This time the bully gets beaten up.  Rocky’s son runs to the gym to tell his dad.  And his dad doesn’t have time to listen.

That was a “kairos” moment.  Timing is a big part of boxing.  It’s an even bigger part of parenting.  Ephesians 5:15.  “Be very careful then how you live — not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity” (NIV).  The word translated “opportunity” is “kairos”.  Are we seizing the opportunities that come along each day?  Or do they come and go and we don’t even notice because we’re so busy keeping up with the gerbils?

There’s a third image of time in the Bible.  It’s the dominant Old Testament image.  The Hebrew word is “ait”.  It is similar to “kairos” in giving certain moments in time greater value than other moments.  But it goes a step further.  God gives time its value.  Time is God’s appointment with us.  Good stewardship of time means keeping your appointments with God.  Whenever something happens in the Old Testament it is because “this is something God appointed”.

This comes through in the passage we read from Ecclesiastes.  “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven . . . [God] has made everything beautiful in its time.”

The idea is that God has a plan for what happens when.  This does create some theological problems if we apply it to everything.  Some high school kids are driving too fast and get themselves killed.  That scripture won’t be very comforting to their parents, “For everything there is a season . . .  a time to be born and a time to die.”  I don’t happen to believe that everything that happens is God’s appointed plan.  There are things that happen in this life and on this earth that are far from what God wants to happen.  This leads us into the problem of evil and why a God who is both good and powerful doesn’t swoop down and prevent every human tragedy.  That’s another sermon, not this one.

We’re looking at what Ecclesiastes tells us about how we are to use our time.  It says there is a right time for everything.  It’s not a matter of getting in all done.  It’s a matter of finding the right time for the right thing.  When we do that, when our plan and God’s plan converge, it’s a beautiful thing!  “God has made everything beautiful in its own time.”

Then we skip down a few verses and we read that God “has appointed a time for every matter and for every work” (3:17).  In other words, there is time for everything God wants me to do.  There is time for everything that really matters.  I think if we would really believe that, it would transform our lives.  There is time for everything God wants us to do.  But notice, if doesn’t say there is time for everything everyone else expects us to do.  It doesn’t say there is time for everything we think we have to do to meet the expectations others place on us and the expectations we place on ourselves.  The question is, Who controls how we spend our time?  Who controls our calendars?   Who controls our lives?   Is it God?  Or is it that gerbil wheel?  The crazy, fast-paced culture we live in that chews people up and spits them out?  You say, I don’t have time.  There is time for everything God wants you to do.

What would happen if you changed the way you think about time?  Which way did you see time this past week?  Did you see it in terms of schedules and deadlines and to-do lists?  Or did you capture those special moments God gave you with your spouse or your child or your friend?  You caught it.  You didn’t drop it.  You didn’t miss out.  And it’s making you feel so good about life today!  Did you see God’s hand in the events of your week?  You started each day with prayer, that you might know God’s plan for that day and you set your agenda accordingly.  And even though some things didn’t get done that you wanted to do or that someone else wanted you to do, you are at peace because you did what God wanted you to do.

Change the way you think about time and it will change your life.   It will change the life of your family.  Time is not just a measuring tape.  Time is opportunity.  Time is God’s gift to you and to yours.

We learn to live by living.  If we’re smart, we also learn by listening to others who have learned by living.  If there’s one lesson I’ve learned from others and want to leave with you today, it is this:  Spend time with your families.  Now.  Not when you get through this unusually busy time in your life.  When you get through this, you’ll get unusually busy with something else.  Spend time with your families, now.

I’ve heard it so often it’s like a broken record. Older people, looking back on their lives, say:  If I had it to do over I would spend more time having fun with my kids.  Have you heard that?  Have you said that?  Are you going to say that years from now even though you know better today?  Why can’t we learn this lesson?  It’s really not that tough.  Kids spell love T-I-M-E.  No one on their deathbed says, I wish I had spent more time at work.  I challenge you to make a commitment today that you will start seeing time God’s way.  And that your family will start seeing more of you.

A missionary was asked, “Tell us about your god.”  The missionary wasn’t expecting that it would be this easy.  He started talking about God and about Jesus and about Christianity.  But the missionary was interrupted.  “No!  No!  We don’t care about that god.  Tell us about the god your wear on your wrist, the god you keeping checking with all through the day.”

Dear God, eternal, timeless, help us to capture something of eternity in each moment you give us.  We have been poor stewards of time.  We have been foolish in exchanging the limited time you have entrusted to us for things that have no eternal value.  Wake us up this morning.  Shake us.  Bother us.  Keep us awake at night.  Whatever it takes to get our attention.  For we want to capture what you have for us in the time we have left.  In Jesus’ name,  Amen.