ďAt Peace in Godís TimeĒ
2 Peter 3:8-15a
December 8, 2002
It seems almost contradictory doesnít it?† That last week we would read a scripture text about the imminence of Christís return and our call to keep awake, and now today we read about the patience of God and our call to wait.† So which is it?† Keep awake or wait?† Is Christís return sooner or later?† Right now or some other time?† This very week, day, hour, or second or should we not hold our breath.†
This is not a new problem you know.† When Peter wrote this letter in about 90AD, the first century Christians were experiencing this same kind of anxiety over Christís return.† Some 60 years after Jesusí death and resurrection, those who were eyewitnesses to the life of Jesus, who had experienced his miracles, and had seen his ascension and heard his promise to return were starting to die off.† Even those who became Christians later were now much older, and Jesus had still not come back.† Yet they kept their faith in spite of the taunts and jeers of those who scoffed at such an outrageous claim of Jesusí return.† How much harder is it for us?
††††††††† After all, letís not kid ourselves, it has been nearly 2000 years, 2000 years!, since Jesus left promising to return.† Nearly 2000 years since he ascended into heaven saying, ďIíll be right backÖĒ† Nearly 2000 years!† Just try to imagine what has happened in world history over the last two thousand years, the last 730,000 days.† Whole empires have risen, flourished, and fallen.† Dynasties have ruled over countries and have been overthrown.† Whole countries have come, been split up, and have fallen into the past.† Not even the church has been immune to the marching on of time.†
Just think about all that has taken place in the 2000 years since Jesusí walked the earthÖthe creation of the Bible as we know it, 263 Popes, the discovery of the Americas by the Europeans, the Reformation, world wars, airplanes, even men on the moon.† Did you know that on this day in history in 1776 George Washingtonís army crossed the Delaware, in 1863 Abraham Lincoln announced his plan for the Reconstruction of the South, in 1941 the US entered WWII, and in 1993 the Dow-Jones hit a record of 3734.53.†
Time continues to tick away.† The boundary between the past and the future continues to move forward with each tick of the clock.† Yet, in spite of all this, Christians still make the same outrageous claim that Christians made in the first century: Christ is going to come again.† But when?† How soon?† We may say openly that Christ will return, but in private we may also wonder what has happened to the promise of Christís return?† Shouldnít he have come by now?† Is his return really near, really sooner than later?† When is the time of his return?
Time.† We think we have a handle on time.† We keep it on our watches and clocks, our calendars, and palm pilots, but do we really understand it, do we really know what time is?††
In the early 1900ís, Einstein wrote his Special Theory of Relativity, which was a breakthrough work on the effects of time, essentially saying that time is relative.† Now you donít have to be a rocket scientist, nor even understand E=MC2, to know that time is relative.† We all know it depends on what you are doing.† To brush your teeth for a whole day would be a long time, but in the raising of our children, one day is a very short time.† To hold your hand over a flame for 4 seconds would be a painfully long time, but to run the 40-yard dash in four seconds is a very short time.†
Time.† The Church is in the time of Advent.† We are supposed to be preparing ourselves for the coming of the Lord, but how can we possibly prepare ourselves for an event that we cannot mark on our calendars, an event that we cannot mark with time as we know it?† No wonder we await anxiously for it, because everything we do in life revolves around time.† We have a time to get up, and time to eat our meals, a time to go to work, a time to watch our favorite show, a time to pick our kids up from school, a time to go to bed, a time for worship, even a time for teeing off.† Our lives are programmed around time.† Just try going a day without a watch on and tell me how many times you look at your bare wrist.†
So what are we supposed to do during this time of Advent, during this time of preparation?† How are we supposed to live our lives in this in between time, between the first Advent and the second Advent?†
First, Peter reminds us that Christians live by a different time than that of the world.† In the Bible, there are two words for time, chronos time and kairos time.† Chronos is the time marked by our watches and clocks, the continuous time of history, but kairos time is something completely different.† Kairos time is not about time as we know it, it is not about what time it is, but about whose time it is.† Kairos time is Godís time.†
As Christians, we are called to live in kairos time, we are called to live in the reality and in the conviction that it is God who is the God of all times: past, present, and future.† God is not controlled by the ticking of the clock but by the eternity in which God is at work.† For God, a thousand years is like a day, and a day is like a thousand years.† The eternal God transcends space and time as we know it, but in every moment of eternity, in every second of time, God is present and at work, not only in the world, but also in us.
The good news of our text today is that God is not absent in history, not absent in any time or place, not slow to act, but is acting even now, this very second, out of divine patience not only for us, but for the whole world.† It is truly good news to know that God is being patient with us all, and wants all of us, every human being, to come to repentance, because the day of the Lord is coming like a thief in the night, and time as we know it, chronos time, will not just cease to exist, but it will be dissolved along with the heavens and the earth.
That is why the time is now for us to begin living in Godís time, for us to begin living our lives in holiness and godliness without spot or blemish, because when the end comes there will be no turning back.† That is why we need to think long and hard about the second thing we are called to do during this time of Advent, which is to wait in peace and to hasten the coming of the Lord.
All of us strive every day of our lives to live in holiness and godliness.† We really do try to be Christ-like in every way possible.† We donít always get it right, we know we fall short, but we do try to be faithfully obedient in response to Godís abundant grace.† Thanks be to God that God is so patient with us every moment of our lives.†
But the problem is that we are still governed by chronos time, time which turns our lives of faith into lives of hectic schedules, time which turns our attention away from seeing Godís acts of love, faithfulness, and redemption over the course of history to focusing on what we need and want from God right here and right now, time which turns the hope of our own resurrection into a countdown to the end of life, time which turns a life of peace in the knowledge that this is Godís time into a life of impatience in the worldís time.
When I lived in Atlanta, I got to a point where I had run out of patience.† I was impatient with people, with things, and even with my family.† Let me tell you what my normal day was like both before and during seminary.† Before I went to seminary, I would get up at 6:00am, leave the house by 7:30, drive 40 miles to work which would take me about an hour, work all day long on the phone with airlines trying to get my freight to move, and with customers trying to fix problems.† Then I would leave about 6:00 many times later, drive another 40 miles home, which could take an hour or more, and get home in just enough time to kiss Hollie goodnight, eat some dinner, then go to bed.† It was crazy, and I was going crazy.†
In seminary, I was a full time student, had classes everyday for most of the day, worked part time on weekends, studied as much as possible, preached in a church 50 miles away once a week, and then tried to find time to spend with my family.† I wasnít living in Godís time, I was living in chronos time, and I had no time for me, my family, and not enough time with God.
My friends, we cannot continue to live so focused on chronos time that we miss living in Godís time.† Living in holiness and godliness is more than just following Godís commandments or being pious, it is more than just trying to fill as much as we can into a day, being holy and godly is living in a life oriented in Godís time, living in the hope that God is at work in us and in our lives of faith every moment of every day, living in the trust that God will continue to be at work even to the end of the age.
Iím not suggesting we throw away our watches, clocks, and calendars, although sometimes I have wanted to do just that, but what Iím suggesting is that during this Advent season we begin to re-define time for ourselves, that we look for ways to slow down, to commune with God and with each other, that we become good stewards of our time, because our time belongs to God.
During this time of Advent, let us remember the peace we have in Jesus Christ, the only one who gives us all not only peace of mind, but peace of heart.† Therefore, let the peace of Christ re-orient your lives so you may be a people who live in the assurance of Godís salvation and who are at peace in Godís time.† Amen.