A Spirituality for the SummertimeGenesis 1:1-4; 1:31-2:3 Philippians 4:4-9 Matthew 6:30-34
During our recent visit to Grand Rapids, Michigan, I struck up a conversation with a Navajo pastor. Because I had worked with Navajos in Arizona some thirty five years ago, we mused about the differences between Navajo and white culture. Whereas white folks generally are ruled by clock time, with clear beginnings and endings, Navajos tend to see time as experiential. When the task is done, we move on to another. When a conversation or work day is finished, we move on to the next, regardless of how long it might take.
While both forms of time have their respective benefits and challenges, it is clear that how we view time is a matter of perspective and not absolute.
Now most of us are busy people, and technological advances have not slowed us down. I remember the sagely journalist Walter Cronkite wondering what we would do with all our extra time as a result of labor saving devices and means of communication. Did he say extra time?
Just think of the following reality. During a recent day off, I chose not to check my e-mail or answer my cell phone for eight hours. When I decided to check what I missed, I was confronted by nearly 200 emails on my two accounts, a number of Facebook messages, a few text messages, and a couple voice mails. Most weren’t important, and did not require any attention, but the volume was staggering. In our 24/7 world, there is nowhere to run and nowhere to hide from requests and needs.
Our attitudes toward time can cure or kill us. Physician Larry Dossey has identified a phenomenon he describes as “hurry” or “time” sickness, the sense that everything is urgent and must be addressed immediately, and that we never have enough time to respond to what others require of us. Hurry sickness is, of course, a matter of perspective and largely a matter of how we interpret the events of our lives, and most importantly, how we view time. Sadly, many of us are like the White Rabbit in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: even though we don’t exactly know where we’re going, we recite over and over, “I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date,” and rush off to the next event, filled with stress, but never quite sure why our next destination is so important.
Now, a little urgency is good. We are moving toward being a twelve month church, and this is essential for our vitality and growth: but, this should not be a matter of being more busy, but being more faithful and seeing our activities in light of God’s timetable and not our own frenzy or need to succeed. Indeed as we do more, we need to pray more and be more intentional about times of refreshment, play, and fellowship.
In the New Testament tradition, there are two kinds of time: chronos and kairos. Chronos time is clock time, evenly moving and always slipping away from us. We are occasionally tempted to say “I don’t have enoughtime” even though chronos time is evenly flowing, 60 minutes in an hour, 24 hours in a day, 168 hours in a week. Kairos time, on the other hand, is the right time; the time of Christ’s coming, the time when we encounter God’s presence in our daily lives: it is always the right time, and we have plenty of it, enough to do everything we need to serve God, love each other, and live out our calling.
Today’s scriptures are about time. God brings forth a wondrous world, proclaims it good – not perfect – and then goes on a holiday – or shall we say, holy day – taking the Sabbath off to enjoy the good work of creation. God rests from God’s labors, and this serves as a model for humankind. We need time to rest, rejoice, refresh, renew, and revive our spirits; we need to put our cell phone away, turn off the internet, switch off the television, and breathe deeply the stillness of life.
According to Jewish mysticism, God’s rest – tzitzum – allows humankind to be creative and adventurous. If God never went off duty, and was over-functioning and micromanaging, then there would be no room for creation to fulfill its destiny. Our rest allows others to rest and create; and believe it or not, according to studies, after spending time working on a problem, taking time away for rest or time for playfulness allows room for new perspectives, creative responses, and breakthrough ideas.
Believe it or not, the disciples got caught up in the frenetic nature of time. The demand for healing of body, mind, and spirit was so great, according to Mark’s Gospel that they had no time to eat. Seeing that they would soon be running on empty, Jesus takes them on retreat. Jesus sees the great needs all around, but he also recognizes that he and disciples need time to rest, pray, laugh, and be off-duty. Mark notes that when he returned from the retreat, Jesus saw the crowds and had compassion on them….when we are rested, we can address the challenges of life and others’ pain with more compassion, creativity, care, and patience.
It’s all about time, and this is the heart of spirituality for the summertime. It is how we interpret the events of our lives: do we have enough time, energy, and resource, or do we live by scarcity?
Taking time for our spiritual lives actually transforms our time perception. That’s the point of the Philippians reading. Paul can rejoice, even in prison, because he knows his times are in God’s hands. He sees God at work and experiences God as present, and abundant, because of his prayers of thanksgiving and intercession, positive spiritual affirmations, and sense of God’s nearness.
We have plenty to do, my friends, but we need not be urgent or frenzied. Remember, we really do have all the time in the world, because we dwell in God’s time. We can work hard, meet schedules, expand our congregation’s outreach, and plan new programs to serve the community, and also be calm, centered, and content. We can move forward with intentionality but also with grace and gentleness, taking it easy and centering on God, and creating a space where there is enough time for everything.
To everything there is a season, and our season is one of rest and action, prayer and possibility, and meditation and moving forward. One step at a time, let us move forward, inspired by God’s call to beauty and love; let the yard sale be holy ground, let the Thrifty Niche be a tabernacle, let our outreach be a prayer, and let every breath we take, praise God. Take time, for we have all we need of time, talent, and treasure to live gracefully and be God’s companions in healing the world.