God and Time and God's Time

June 04, 2013

God and Time and God’s Time

So, what is “Time,” anyway? To quote Einstein (sort of), “It’s relative.” It’s strange to think about, but my “clock” is slightly different than your “clock.” My reference of time is slightly different than yours. You see, the passage of time depends on how fast or slow someone is moving. The faster you move, the slower time moves for you. I’ve tried to explain this to Ken. He gets bothered when I show up late for a meeting, but I’ve tried to tell him that I move faster than he does, so on my watch, the meeting hasn’t started yet.

So, what is time exactly? Rather than going through the physics of it all, time is simply God’s way of making sure that everything doesn’t happen at once. In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, on the fourth day, God offered the lights in the heavens for the keeping of time. Genesis says, “And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for season and for days and years . . .” In order to keep track of time, you need a reference point. Time doesn’t make sense unless there is a regularly repeating something from which to measure the passing of time. Before we had atomic clocks, if we didn’t have the sun as a reference, time would make no sense, or in the words of The Doctor . . . “From a nonlinear, nonsubjective viewpoint, time is more like a whibbly whobbly, timey whimey, ball of . . . stuff.”

When we think about time, we tend to think linearly—that time is fundamentally about cause and effect—something happens which leads to something else. If you follow that logic backwards—an effect is dependent on a cause, then you eventually come to the realization that at some point, there was an uncaused effect—Let there be light . . . and the universe went “BOOM.” What does an uncaused effect look like? Well, it looks light water into wine at Cana of Galilee. It looks like 12 baskets of food left over after feeding the 5,000. It looks like Resurrection. So, when the Holy Spirit begins to meddle in your life, yes, sometimes time looks like a whibbly whobbly, timey whimey, ball of stuff. When we begin to work with the Holy Spirit, our holy imaginations explode with vision and purpose and inspiration.

Several years ago when I was in college at LSU, I attended a student ministry of a different denomination. They were having a “believer’s retreat,” and I wanted to attend. I had grown up in the church. I was baptized as an infant, confirmed as a sixth grader, considering a call into ministry, etc. When I went to sign up, I had to give them the date I was saved. I wrote down, “approximately 33 AD.” They were not amused . . . I wasn’t either because I wasn’t allowed to go. Salvation is a process, as the Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 18, “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” Yes, there is conversion. There are brothers and sisters here in worship today who have had a powerful experience of being made new. What I’m saying is that this is not an experience to have only once. Every morning (well, almost every morning) I pray Psalm 51—“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right Spirit within me.” The process of salvation can certainly have a dramatic beginning, when you turn around and for the first time realize that God had been there all along, and you say, “I choose to go where you are leading me. I choose to walk in the light.” To us who are being saved, the cross is the power of God.

When I think of the power of God I think of light. In the church we talk about Christ as the light of the world. The Gospel of John begins, “In the beginning was the Word. The Word was with God and the Word was God. In him was life and the life was light. The light shined in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.” The more I learn about light, the more I see how perfect a metaphor it is. It was the first thing God created, and appropriately so. Light is the boundary of the universe. As far as we know, nothing in the universe can travel faster, or another way of understanding it, if you travel faster than the speed of light you exit the universe. Imagine a merry-go-round. It’s all fun and games to spin around, but once the big kid in the park gives it a hefty push, it gets hard to hold on. If you keep speeding up, at some point you will be jettisoned, and that’s when parents get involved, and no one wants that. The speed of light is the boundary of the universe. When you start to approach the speed of light you begin to gain mass and time begins to slow down for you. When you reach the speed of light, theoretically, time stops. Christ is the light of the world, meaning that Christ is the boundary of the universe, as the Apostle Paul said in Colossians 1:20, “For in Christ all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Christ God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things.” When you approach the speed of light you gain mass, you gain the fullness of God, and time stops, God reconciled all things, which includes all of time.

Some have asked me, “If Jesus died in 33 AD, what about the folks who died in 32 AD? Are they just out of luck?” No, the cross works both ways. God reconciled all things, including time. That’s why throughout the Old Testament there are so many foretastes of the cross. They are like echoes from the future, in a way. On the third day Abraham saw the place where he was to sacrifice Isaac. The Ancient Israelites were at the foot of Mount Sinai and on the third day there was thunder and lightening and the sound of trumpets. The Philistines captured the Ark of the Covenant, but on the third day it was returned the Jews. That’s why I say in bible study, “Our story is the cross, and that story is told over and over again.” God reconciled all things. It is why our sins can be forgiven. God redeems the past and offers a new future. The cross works both ways. So why was Jesus born when he was? Paul said in Galatians 4, “In the fullness of time, God sent his son.” When you approach the speed of light, you gain mass and time stops. Christ is the light of the world and the closer we get to Christ we experience the fullness and timelessness of God.

Christ is understood as the light of the world also because light is the means by which we see. If our eyes couldn’t capture light, we wouldn’t see anything. When you look up at the night sky and see the stars, it’s mind-numbing to think that the light we are seeing is ancient. If a star is one million light years away, the light we are seeing is at least one million years old. It even takes the light from our sun eight minutes to reach the earth. That’s mind-blowing for me—to think that when I see the sun, I’m actually seeing the sun as it was eight minutes ago, but that’s true with everything. When you go to a fireworks show, you see the explosion, but you hear it a beat later. Think about it—you’re actually hearing something that happened in the past. In fact, the words you are hearing now happened in the past. The present is the only part of time we experience, but the moment we are aware of the experience, it is in the past. Time is certainly whibbly whobbly. We don’t experience anything as it is, except I would aruge, the presence of God.

God resides in what I would call, “The Eternal Now.” “Now,” is the only bit of time we know, and yet we can’t quite grasp it or contain it. Now is where God is. This is why now is so important. Right now. Our job as Christians is to make “now” count. If you want to walk in the light and follow Christ who is life, now is the perfect time to do it. If God is doing something in your heart and you’ve never been baptized, now, today, is the time to receive God’s grace. Now is the time to turn around and understand that God has been working on you since 33 AD. Now is the time to realize that God has reconciled all things, including you and me. I usually wait until the end of the worship service to ask if there are those who want to join the church or to be baptized, but I think it’s appropriate to do that now. In a moment we will pray together, and while we pray, if you want to be made new, and begin the process of being made new each and every day, I invite you simply to come forward and kneel. If no one comes forward, that’s ok. That’s just a sign from God saying that we have work to do out in the community. God and time and God’s time. God lives in the eternal present. Time is whibbly whobbly. God’s time is always now. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.