Notes from Pastor Jon Anderson

“Time like an ever rolling stream, bears all our years away; they fly forgotten, as a dream, dies at the opening day” (Verse 5, “O God our Help in Ages Past”, “Evangelical Lutheran Worship”, #632)

2 Corinthians 6:2b-“See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation!”

There are two words translated “time” in the New Testament. One is chronos, from which we get our word “chronological”-in other words, “clock time”. This sort of time tells us where we are in the day-how many hours we’ve used, how many hours we have left. However, it tells us nothing about how that time should be used. Years ago there was a movie called “The Gods must be Crazy” that made fun of the way we use the clock to tell us not only what time it is, but what we should be doing with that time. The narrator of the movie said things like, “When the clock says twelve-o-o, it’s time to eat”, implying that we eat because the clock says it’s lunch time, not necessarily because we’re hungry. Now it’s true that clock time is useful, and that some things need to be done at certain times or by certain times, no matter how we might feel about the task. The clock tells us that a deadline is approaching, and we must be ready. I remember the producer of “Saturday Night Live”, Lorne Michaels, once said, “We don’t go on because we’re ready-we go on because it’s 11:30”. The same could be said for preachers who must have their sermons ready when it’s time for worship, no matter how much tinkering they think the sermon may still need. But often, the Scriptures remind us that there are tasks that need to be done regardless of what the clock might say. The word translated “time” in the verse from Second Corinthians is the other word for time in the New Testament, the word chairos. Chairos time isn’t clock time-it tells us that no matter what the clock says, the time to act is now. Paul, the author of 2 Corinthians, was convinced that Jesus would return very soon, and so the time to proclaim the Gospel is right now. Often people came to Jesus for healing on the Sabbath. According to chronos time, that was the wrong day-people should come on another day to be healed. But for Jesus, the time to heal was whenever anyone came to Him for healing, even on the Sabbath, which was to be set aside as a day of rest. The time to care for human need is when it is presented, not at some set time on the clock.

The late Walter Wangerin, one of the greatest pastors and storytellers of our era, learned this the hard way. For years he served a congregation in the South, and one Sunday a stranger showed up at church. In the Lutheran church we normally follow a set liturgy, with prescribed times to say and do everything. The visitor had never been to a Lutheran church before, and he listened to the sermon with rapt attention. At the end of the sermon, Pastor Wangerin was about to continue the service, when suddenly this man stood up and shouted, “I’m gonna pray!”-and pray he did, loudly and enthusiastically, while the congregation sat stunned-until Pastor Wangerin walked up to him and said, “It’s not time to pray now”. The visitor got quiet, and said, “I didn’t know there was a time to pray”. And he walked out of the church, putting some money in the collection plate-and he never returned. To sum it up, chronos time is clock time, useful in its place-but chairos time is God’s time, the time to do good to those around us, no matter what it might say on the clock. May God keep us alert to what time it is on God’s clock, and may God’s peace be with us.  

 ~Pastor Jon Anderson