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Eden Evangelical Lutheran Church ~ Munising, Michigan

Time Is Fulfilled - 01/24/2021

The concept of time came up in our Wednesday night faith formation/bible study group this past week. We were reading from the first account of creation – when God created the night and day, the sun and the moon. And, in the process of all that, set into motion the great, sometimes fiery ballet of the universe. And so, our seasons were also born – a basic sense of time and rhythm most of us live by.

I had never thought very specifically about time as being part of God’s vast creation, even though it’s right there in the story.

“And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years.” (Gen 1.14)

And it makes sense. One thing we learn in the abundant detail of God’s creative activity … from the unfathomable expanse of the universe to “everything that creeps upon the ground of every kind” (Gen 1:25) … one thing we learn from that is that God is in all of it – from sky and seas, to us and creeping things, to space and time.

And maybe because of that discussion, the word “time” in our Gospel reading from Mark today really leapt off the page. “Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’ (Mk 1:14-15)

There are two words for “time” in Greek, the language this scripture was written in.

There’s Chronos – which is chronological time. It’s where we get the word chronology. It’s the kind of time we mean when we ask, “What time is it?” Or “What time does the mail usually come?” “What time do you get off work?”

It’s the kind of time we mark with birthdays and anniversaries or when we build a strategic plan or set up monthly loan payments and figure out interest.

The other word for time is Kairos. It is time that is not attached to chronology, calendars or interest tables.

It is more like a time in which something comes to fullness or wholeness. It is not defined or constrained by our calendars or clocks, or the expectations we have based on our calendars and clocks. It is out of our control.

Maybe you can hear the difference between the two if you think about the difference between asking “when will it be time for the baby to be born?” (Kairos) and “what time was the baby born?” (Chronos) Those are certainly two different things.

Kairos time, I think, is what I experience when I go over the handlebars of my mountain bike. Everything slows down and it seems like it takes forever for the world to go heels-over-head. I notice things more vividly, like the green of the trees, twigs, and the slow-motion spin of the wheels over my head as my bike follows my body end over end. And then I hit the ground and everything pops back into Chronos time.

Kairos time is probably more like what we are experiencing right now when we think about the end of the pandemic – it’s not a specific time or date, but rather a future time when enough people will be vaccinated, and we have shored up our remedies for those who do get sick so that this virus is not a threat to all of humanity.

Often Kairos is thought of as God’s time, which is all of time. While we can only exist in the moment in which we are standing right now, God is in all of time at once.

As you may have guessed already, Kairos is the word Jesus uses in this verse Mark. “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” (Mk 1:15)

Since this “time” Jesus speaks about is not a fixed date on the calendar or a prescribed hour of the day, I wondered if we could better understand this “time” as if it were a gate for God’s people, God’s whole creation really.

This idea of the metaphor of a gate was suggested to me by a friend shortly after the death of my father. I had taken care of him for a year and a half and everything in our lives revolved around that care. It is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done and one of the most sacred. And, when he died, I didn’t know what to do with myself for a while.

And so, a friend of mine suggested I think about it as a gate in my life. As we move through these gates, we are encouraged to look back at where we have been for the lessons learned, and memories that form us, she said. But we’re not meant to get stuck there. We are meant to step bravely through the gate, perhaps wounded, probably wiser, trusting that God’s got us … Kairos time may be out of our control, but not God’s.

I really liked that idea of the past we are continually walking out of and the future we continually walk into.

And it seems to me, it’s a lot like what Jesus is offering us here. The time is fulfilled, Jesus says as he stands at this gate created by his presence in the world.

When we look at the time before this gate, we see the God of creation, and then the beginnings of God’s people. Adam and Eve, Abraham, Sarah and Hagar and host of unexpected offspring. We see a God who persistently works through their strengths and flaws to make good on the covenantal promises.

And eventually, we also see God’s people too often groaning under the weight of the sin they can never completely overcome. Always the impulses to worship money and power over God, to condemn those foreign to us, to hoard God’s abundance… always these impulses get the best of us.

How could the people ever be sure their sacrifices were good enough? What about sins unknown, which were fully known to God? And what about the poor and the lame and the outcast who weren’t even permitted access to being faithful people of God?

And then we come to the gate: “The time is fulfilled” Jesus says at this gate created by his presence in the world, and he ushers God’s people, God’s whole creation really, through that gate and into a new world order.

This is where we all exist now, on the other side of that gate of time fulfilled, where there is no need for blood sacrifice offered up to cover our sin and uncleanliness. Jesus has made the ultimate blood sacrifice for us. We are no longer enslaved by our sin or other’s sins against us. We are free.

This is where we all exist now, on the other side of that gate of time fulfilled, where Jesus’ death and resurrection cover even sins unknown. They are forgiven by that same God who sees all and loves us and calls us beloved anyway.

This is where we all exist now, on the other side of that gate of time fulfilled where Christ is Risen and that news is especially for the ears of those who mourn, who are poor, sick or oppressed, who are outcast, foreign and forgotten. The last word can no longer be claimed by the powerful, the rich, the healthy, the elite because on the other side of the gate, “the time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God has come near.” That is the last word.

So, what are we going to do with that, Church? What do we do with our lives on this side of the gate of time fulfilled? What do we do with this God-given life, freed in Christ from our own brokenness already?

I think God eagerly waits to see what we do. And Jesus gives us the place to start in this very same verse. “Repent,” he says. Repent is the word metanoeō, which means to change one’s mind and heart for the better and wholly.

And then “believe.” Believe that this is true. That the time is fulfilled and in Jesus the kingdom of God is near. Believe that you too, like all of God’s creation have been ushered through this gate, that you are no longer enslaved by your sin. That God has the last word on your humanity throughout time. That word is Jesus.

Let us pray,

God, In Jesus you have already ushered us through that gate to the new world you have prepared for us, where we are freed from the burden of sin for a life lived to your glory and for the sake of our neighbor. Help us to turn our whole hearts and minds to you, help us in our belief and our unbelief. Use us a witnesses to the Good News. That the fullness of time is upon us and Christ is risen! Amen.

Pastor Ann Gonyea

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Eden Evangelical Lutheran Church ~ Munising Michigan ~ An ELCA, Northern Great Lakes Synod Congregation
P.O. Box 360 ~ 1150 West M-28 ~ Munising, MI 49862 ~ 1-906-387-2520 ~

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