In the Fullness of TimePosted: February 22, 2015
In the Fullness of Time
SLIDE 3: TIMING
The time is fulfilled. How do we know when it is time? How did Jesus know? A farmer knows when the grain is ripe. We watch the blush appear on the peach to know, when it is ready for eating. We gently squeeze the tomato, thump the melon and smell the cantaloupe to try to discern if they are ready to cut and serve. A good General waits until just the right moment to commit his reserves. A long distance runner paces herself, and then pours it on in the back stretch. Some politicians have a sixth sense for knowing when the time is right to make their move. But many endeavors are ruined by moving too quickly. And then other projects fail because our nerve fails and we wait too long. So how do we know when the spiritual time has arrived? How do we know when it is God’s time?
SLIDE 4: GOD’S ETERNITY
First let us admit that God’s eternity is different from our time. We are finite creatures bound by the clocks and calendars of our lives. We measure things in seconds, minutes, hours, days and years, but creation spans billions upon billions of years measured in epochs and eons beyond our imaginations. There’s the old story about the person who prayed and asked God for a million dollars reckoning that to God that would only be chump change. God responded. “You are correct a million dollars to me is like a penny, just as a century for you is like a second to me.”
“So,” said the person, “would you give me a million dollars?”
“Sure,” God replied, “just give me a minute to go and get it.”
SLIDE 5: GALATIC AND STELLAR EVOLUTION
Creation both in space and time dwarf our imaginations. Even the time represented by the Grand Canyon is merely the blink of an eye in the long history of the Universe. And even though we are intensely interested in the story of the evolution of life on our own planet there is a much longer narrative of galactic and stellar evolution that reaches back to the very beginning. Although now the whole notion of the Big Bang has even been called into question by a new theory using what the authors call “quantum correction terms,” to claim that perhaps there was no beginning to the Universe. Now I am not qualified to comment on these calculations, I only got a D in college calculus, and that only because the professor felt sorry for me. Even if the Universe is “only” 14 billion years old, that is still far vaster than our imaginations.
SLIDE 6: HISTORY OF LIFE ON EARTH
In the relatively short history of life on earth, we can see how important the fullness of time is. For about the first billion years of earth’s history life was impossible. Conditions were too volatile to support even the most primitive life. But in time as liquid water condensed and formed shallow seas, small one celled organisms began to form and multiply. For a billion years, life consisted of one celled creatures. And there was almost a massive die off, when some of those one celled critters learned to use photosynthesis and poisoned the atmosphere with oxygen. But life found a way, and cells adapted through mitochondria to process the oxygen as part of a food supply. The introduction of oxygen into the atmosphere did not occur until about 2 billion years into the history of the earth. In other words for the first 2 billion years our planet was incapable of supporting more complex life. Talk about the fullness of time!
SLIDE 7: MULTICELLULAR LIFE
Not until a billion years ago did multi-cellular life appear on our planet. Adaptation and change were slow. Not until about half a billion years ago did the first really recognizable plants and animals emerge, jelly fish, trilobites, tube worms. And only about 50 million years later did plants and animals begin to populate the land.
SLIDE 8: REPTILES
Reptiles did not appear until about 350 million years ago. In the development of our planet, animals as complex as reptiles have only been around for about 8% of the history of the earth. Again talk about the fullness of time.
SLIDE 9: FIRST MAMMALS
The first mammals, warm blooded creatures like us did not appear until 220 million years ago about the same time as the dinosaurs, who dominated the planet until the great extinction about 65 million years ago that opened up many evolutionary niches for warm blooded furry creatures.
SLIDE 10: FLOWERS AND GRASS
We should also note not only were animals evolving but one of the important adaptions in the plant world occurred about 130 million years ago, when flowers and grasses began to cover the earth. Can you imagine our world without flowers or grass? And yet those plants have only been around for less than 3% of the history of the earth. Only in the fullness of time did our world assume a form we can even recognize.
The point is that within creation itself the process of evolution there is a sense of timeliness. Some things cannot happen until other conditions are fulfilled — in the fullness of time.
SLIDE 11: PATIENCE
So what might we learn from creation and Jesus’ sense of timing? First, Jesus was patient in a way similar to the process of evolution. How many billions of years were required before the earth was home for more than one celled organisms? Jesus was at least 30 years of age before he began his public ministry. He waited for the ministry of John the Baptist to take off before he ventured out of Nazareth. He did not begin his own ministry until John had been arrested. He didn’t put the cart before the horse or jump the gun. Jesus demonstrated the kind of patience required of us, if we want to try to make a difference in our world.
SLIDE 12: CRITICAL MASS
No matter how much we want something to happen, until the time is right, until a critical mass of support has been achieved, our efforts will fall short of our goal. The thirteenth amendment to abolish slavery required two tries in the House of Representatives before it achieved the necessary two thirds majority for passage as a constitutional amendment. And even after the passage of the thirteenth and fourteenth amendments guaranteeing “civil rights,” we would wait almost another one-hundred years for the enforcement of those “civil rights” guaranteed by the constitution. We need patience and the example of the thirteenth and fourteenth amendments to the constitution also illustrate the need for persistence.
SLIDE 13: PERSISTENCE
Jesus did not give up even though it would cost him his life. Martin Luther King did not give up right up until an assassin’s bullet cut him down. In the church we need to be persistent in sharing the gospel and United Church’s special message that, “no matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.” Persistence and repetition establish identity or branding. The average person has to be exposed to a product or slogan at least eight or nine times before they begin to remember the name of the product. According to this model persistence through repetition is essential for the message to be heard and eventually understood.
SLIDE 14: PRAYER
We can also learn from Jesus the importance of prayer in discerning the movement of events and choosing the right time to act. Before Jesus turned his head toward Jerusalem he took his disciples to Caesarea Philippi one of the most beautiful areas in Israel. Here was forest and streams and waterfalls, beautiful to behold – a place to connect with God’s natural world. We know from the Gospel of Luke while at Caesarea Philippi Jesus devoted himself to prayer and taught his disciples the Lord’s Prayer.
Then only little more than a week after his visit to Caesarea Philippi, Jesus retreated to a mountain top again for prayer and in the vision of light that accompanied the transfiguration Jesus discerned that the time for the journey to Jerusalem had come.
SLIDE 15: NON-ANXIOUS PRESENCE
The fourth lesson we can learn from Jesus about timing is to become a non-anxious presence. Jesus was not in a hurry. He embodied the question what would you do if you were not afraid? He could be patient, because he sought to align himself with God’s will – “thy kingdom come, thy will be done.” He wasn’t centered on himself or making things turn out the way he wanted them. He was content with prayerful patience, offering everything up to God including his own life. It is sort of like the poem “If,” by Rudyard Kipling.
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all people doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too. . . .
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a non-anxious presence, my child.
SLIDE 16: UNIVERSE IS AWESOME WE ARE INSIGNIFICANT
Perhaps part of knowing when the time is fulfilled is to realize how awesome is God and the creation and how insignificant is our place in the universe. We are the result of a process of evolution that has been unfolding for 14 billion years, and we are just a planet that circles a medium sized star in one of billions of galaxies. We are exceedingly, insignificant and humble, yet God loves us. As Jesus said not a sparrow falls to the earth without God’s notice, and even the hairs of our heads are all numbered in God’s infinite care for the creation.
SLIDE 17: CENTERED IN GOD’S LOVE
So, love God, be patient, be persistent, pray, center yourself in God’s love and become a non-anxious presence reflecting the love and beauty of God’s creation.