Rev. Dr. Joel Mitchell, Pastor
11024 S. Bell Avenue
Chicago, IL 60643
Reflection December 30, 2018
"Eternity & the Human Heart!" - by Rev. Dr. Thomas Aldworth
We know that God lives outside of time yet God also resides in every moment. We humans are also called to live in time but likewise beyond time. As the famous 19th Century Danish philosopher/theologian Soren Kierkegaard phrased it: “(The human person) is a synthesis of the infinite and the finite, the temporal and the eternal.”
We humans are created to bridge the gap between the finite and the infinite, the temporal and the eternal. New Year’s Day is a time when we’re called to be grateful for the gift of time.
Many of us remember the 1965 #1 hit based on Chapter 3 of Ecclesiastes: “Turn, Turn, Turn.” I had just started Quincy College when the folk rock group The Byrds had their hit covering this Pete Seeger song. I remember how amazed I was to hear a rock song based on something from the Bible. “Turn, Turn, Turn” certainly has the distinction of being the #1 hit song with the oldest lyrics!
As we celebrate another New Year, it’s an appropriate time to ponder time and our relationship to time. I present the following from the philosopher Jacob Needleman’s book, Time and the Soul: “I am having dinner with a brilliant and devoted doctor. He is well known for having introduced revolutionary patient-care procedures in one of the country’s most prestigious medical centers.
“When I remark about the success of his work and ask about its future, his dark eyes suddenly well up with tears!…He puts down his cup and in an unsteady voice that is part desperation and part anger he says: ‘I have no time.’ I nod sympathetically. But he goes on: ‘You don’t understand. I have no time! I am pathologically busy. It’s beyond anything I have ever imagined. I can’t give anything the attention it needs. I can’t do anything well.
“I wake up in the middle of the night on the verge of a breakdown. And more and more people depend on me. More and more things, good things, important things, keep coming to me. Any one of them is worth the whole of my attention and needs my time. But ten, twenty of them? A hundred of them? And it is the same with my staff. They are being driven past their limits…My friend keeps talking…I cannot find a moment to break in and say, ‘Yes, I understand. It’s the same with me.’”
While the example of the physician might be extreme – yet is it not the case that many of us feel starved for time? As Needleman notes: “Almost all of us are gasping for more time. We are starving (for more time.) All the devices…that our inventive culture offers only increase the yearning for time…Our cell phone, computers and fax machines and the countless other inventions that ‘save time’ only starve us more and more…We are paying for these things with our time…”
If we want to live a more pleasant, peaceful life and not be constantly battling time, we need to develop a different perspective. One possible way to achieve this is to understand that everything in our cosmos, in our universe, is ultimately energy.
We all learned Albert Einstein’s famous formula: energy equals matter times the speed of light squared (E=mc2). What this really means is that everything we see and everything we are – all matter - has evolved from energy. When God initiated the Big Bang – only energy was produced at first. In one sense, matter evolved from that primordial energy as it slowed down and entered more fully into time.
And even today, almost 14 billion years later, matter is still evolving out of energy and all matter eventually returns to energy. As a tee shirt my friend Vinal gave me proclaims: “You Matter! … Unless you are traveling at the speed of light squared, then You Energy!”
Time is an energy we can use in whatever way we wish but we misuse the energy of time when we spend it on things that don’t matter much. Here are some examples of how we might squander the energy of time: “Some of us are almost always nursing some hurt or slight; others are continually angry or irritated, whether we express this anger or only live it in our thoughts; others fall from one occasion for self-pity to another, others are constantly guilty about things big and small, from their family relationships or humankind or the earth itself to their cat or dog or even a plant that needs watering.” (Needleman)
We waste the precious and divine gift of time when we squander it foolishly – when we allow our thoughts and our minds to focus on hurts and the worries of our world. Did not Jesus teach us: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?” (Mt 6:25–28)
I believe Jesus was/is teaching us to pay attention to what is before us – to what is before our eyes. When we pay attention – we may well find we have all the time we need. When we pay attention to what is before us – we stop wasting time with worry and regrets and a hundred other emotional hijackings. This is how we can liberate ourselves from the prison of time-sickness and the persistent plague of feeling rushed.
If we are patient with time, time will be patient with us. “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” Most of us know these words from Ecclesiastes but we may not know what is written a few lines later: “God has made everything beautiful for its own time. God has planted eternity in the human heart.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11 New Living Translation) So together let us seek in this New Year 2019 to see the beauty everywhere around us and especially the beauty of eternity in each human heart! (No Advance Reflection next week!)