This reminds me of how we now look back at the turning of our world from the 1950’s to the 1960’s. Suddenly, everything was in chaos. What we once counted on, to be true, was seemingly overnight, all up for grabs and in question. What time is it?
It’s time for Jesus to set his “face toward Jerusalem.” Luke makes clear, Jesus is on a journey. He, has it together. He knows what time it is, and where he is headed. “It is impossible for prophets to be killed outside of Jerusalem,” Jesus tells his disciples. “I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed!” It is time for Jesus to be on the road to Jerusalem and the cross.
Our God is a consuming fire, and, a bringer of unconditional mercy and love. Fire, of course, can be both de-structive and con-structive. The sun, burning at infernal temperatures 93M miles away, bestows on us the good gifts of heat, and light, and life. We couldn’t live without it, and the magnificent and awesome gift we have been given – the unfathomable complexity of how God created our solar system and cosmos, and placed us right here in it. But get too close and you will be consumed!
Camp fires and cooking fires, give warmth for enjoyment, and our needed daily sustenance. But the fire that comes unexpectedly from a faulty wire, or lightening strike, can burn down our dwelling and leave us homeless and even take innocent lives.
Some fires can do both – consume and purify. I think of the jack-pine tree whose pine cone seed can only regenerate by the renewing, blazing hot fires that consume its forests, and replant it. And think of the fuller’s soap, which is made from the ashes of its furnace of fire. It is no wonder that the original image of YHWH, the one Lord God who appeared to Moses, was in the fire of the burning bush – a bush that, though it burned, was not consumed… the mystery of our incredibly intimate yet wholly omnipotent God, where Moses stood on holy ground, and received God’s name: “I am who I am; I will be who I will be.”
What time is it in the realm of God? When the heat of hate speech is turned up and aimed at our Muslim brothers and sisters by a media hungry and bigoted person of the faith, it is the time for us to speak up. As when I heard this week the particularly disquieting news that a Pastor –and I use that word with quotation marks around it– a Pr. Wayne Sapp in Gainesville, Florida, who is calling for an ‘international burning of the Koran (Qur’an) day,’ on Sept. 11, the 9-11 anniversary! Such incendiary hate-speech is intolerable. And I have been in touch with Jamal Hussein of the Ismaili Center about how we can activate the Edgewater Community Religious Association to come together and speak out. Such an image of fire is at once unspeakable and unacceptable. But, there is also the burning passion that we have of a purifying fire, in response. A fire in the belly to follow the ‘true prophets’ and truth-tellers of our time, who can help us to organize and put out this fire. In doing so, we become the flame of light that illuminates, and a hope that will shine brightly.
What time is it? Jesus asks: Are we able to interpret “the present time” as well as our weather forecaster can tell the coming of a storm, or a warm summer breeze?
One of my favorite new songs in the ELW is the Gathering Song we sang, “Canticle of the Turning,” which dares to tell time, and even to celebrate the new day God is bringing. The refrain goes: “My heart shall sing of the day you bring. Let the fires of your justice burn. Wipe away all tears, for the dawn draws near, and the world is about to turn.” It is at once beautiful and terrible! This is the God of consuming fire, and, the bringer of unconditional mercy and love. This is a God who tells time, differently. And the Greek language of the NT is clear about this difference between ‘chronos’ time and ‘kairos’ time. Chronos time is clock time; calendar time. We know the seasons, how they inevitable follow one another; we know how the night follows the day. But kairos time, is time that is expectant, as in “the day of the Lord God,” like a mother with child. Kairos time is when God comes to “turn our world around,’ when ‘the fires of justice will burn.’
What time is it? Jesus’ talk of the division of families doesn’t just come out of no where. Jesus passion and fire to proclaim and bring in God’s kingdom, by the nearness of his presence, creates a new expectation, for us. Jesus didn’t come to change things just for the fun of it, or just for the sake of change. He didn’t come to rearrange the deck chairs on a sinking ship. Jesus came with the purifying fire of rebirth and new life, for a world, a cosmos, that was about to, was on the verge of, turning, on the verge of awakening, becoming, in accordance with God’s justice. Jesus is the fire, and in his brightly burning light, a light that seemed as if it might be extinguished on the cross, he turned us instead, fulfilled time and all the ages, that precisely, through his death and resurrection, God could make something new, and that we might receive a small, but fully charged portion of the flame, so that we might burn brightly, as fully charged followers, continuing to renew the face of the earth, because Christ burns, in us, and through us, and for others.
What time is it? Is this a time of turning? Is this a sea-change time, like from the 50’s to the 60’s? Is our world about to turn or change? Is our church able to weather a change? Are we leaders, in lighting the way to God’s new day?
Let’s take a minute to ask this question of each other: what time is it? (in the world, church, neighborhood, at work, school?)
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What time is it? Jesus announced that in him, the realm of God, an alternative to the world as we know it, was dawning. God has come near, and we are not burned or consumed, but hearing and accepting Jesus message, we are invited on to holy ground. Through Jesus, the cast out ones are welcomed, separating walls are brought down, and all are healed. All nations and peoples are invited to this newly created family, a surrogate family of God. And the sign of this family was the ‘open table fellowship,’ the meals of inclusion, forgiveness and new life Jesus proclaimed and participated in. As Bishop Wright says: in all these meals, “Jesus was celebrating the messianic banquet, and doing so with all the wrong people.” So turns the world!
What time is it? Just this week one of our own told me about how Unity is more of a family that this person counts on, then their own biological family. That is the surrogate, newly created family Jesus brought us, or, more properly, the church, the people of God. This is the light that warms my heart, and gives me a glimmer of hope, of God’s new day – in God’s time.