Reflection February, 21 2016
Thoughts on Time
Rev. Dr. Thomas Aldworth
This past Saturday (February 13), as many know, we had a memorial for Peg Brewer - a great pillar of our beloved Morgan Park Baptist Church. The service was very well attended and it was a fitting celebration of the faithful life of this lovely woman. The sermon I gave in her memory can be found on our web page.
As is often the case when I’m involved in a memorial service, I began to ponder my own passing. Many of us live our lives as if we have an unlimited amount of time. But this is folly!
I’ve asked the following question in church and in most college classes I teach: Would you - if it were possible - like to know the date of your death? A big majority would not like to know. For me - without hesitation - I’d like to know. It would certainly make planning a lot easier!
Our personal time on earth is limited. None of us will be here forever. It’s been suggested that being born is like setting forth on a ship’s journey, knowing the ship will sink.
Most of us expect to live long lives. My mother lived until 95 years of age. Does this mean I will live as long? My father died when he was 59. I have already outlived him by 9 years. Who - but God alone - knows how many years remain for me?
None of us knows how much time we have left. We are all under sentence of death - we just don’t know when the sentence will be carried out.
Now I certainly don’t want to sound morbid. I just want to remind us that our personal time is limited. We all know this - but we don’t always act as if we believe it. We waste time until there is none left to waste.
All of us know - after various disaster movies - that our earth could be hit by an asteroid or large meteor. Such could signal the end of human life. We also know from our scientists that our sun will eventually die and in that process engulf the earth in its fiery embrace. The fact that this probably won’t happen for another 4 billion years can give us some consolation!
Naturally, when our sun ceases to shine - so will we (unless by then we’ve wandered off to other planets). But just as our personal time is limited - so is our earth’s time. Everything comes to an end!
Yet, as believers, we believe in the God of Scripture - a God who has shown a strong hand in time - a strong hand in history. At some point in the future, we expect time to be radically altered by God and the return of the Risen Christ.
We do not hold to an endless ocean of time - eternally ebbing and flowing. We believe from the Bible in a God who will come to us in a radical way at some point in the future. At what point? Only God knows.
As Jesus himself cautioned the disciples with his final words before his ascension: “So when they had come together, they asked him, ‘Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He (Jesus) replied, ‘It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority.’” (Acts 1:6-7)
This - to me - makes it crystal clear that the time of Christ’s return is not only unknowable - it is NOT FOR US TO KNOW! I’ve been continually appalled over the years by pastors and preachers declaring “The End Times” - as if they have been given special knowledge that the Risen Jesus declared is not ours to know. I believe ALL TALK about “End Times” goes against this clear teaching from the Risen Christ.
We all pray for and await the reappearance of the Risen Christ who will then transform everything and everyone in need of transformation. We all await the return of the Risen Christ who will then heal everything and everyone in need of healing (including those who have already gone to God!).
I end with some poignant words from Madeleine L’Engle’s Glimpses of Grace: “We have much to be judged on when he comes: slums and battlefields and insane asylums, but these are symptoms of our illness, and the result of our failures in love. In the evening of life we shall be judged on love, and not one of us is going to come off very well, and were it not for my absolute faith in the loving forgiveness of my Lord, I could not call on him to come.
“But his love is greater than all our hate, and he will not rest … until we can all freely return his look of love with love in our own eyes and hearts. And then, healed, whole, complete but not finished, we will know the joy of being co-creators with the one to whom we call. Come, Lord Jesus!”
Rev. Dr. Joel Mitchell, Pastor
11024 S. Bell Avenue
Chicago, IL 60643