21 January 2018 – A Word in Season

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Rev’d Jonathan Gale

The appointed time.

The New Testament has two words for time, chronos and kairos.

  • Chronos refers to chronological time – i.e. normal measurable time ticking by, and
  • Kairos, which refers to a critical moment. In other words, there is in Scripture a sense that certain times are crucial.

In Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar Act 4, Scene 3, Brutus says:

There is a tide in the affairs of men, Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat. And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.

What Brutus is saying is that we are presented here with an opportunity, and if we don’t take it, it will pass us by, never to return. In other words, there’ll be no “O dear! We missed that. Let’s see if we can’t wind the clock back so that we can take the action we should have taken.”

While this is often true for some events on a human level, it is critically true when that time is an opportunity presented by God. The reason is simple. God does not hang around waiting on us. God has plans and is active in implementing them and if we don’t play our part at the right time, we are going to be wallowing in the backwash. At best we pick up a secondary ripple. At best.

It’s a bit like surfing a tidal bore. Tidal bores are the phenomenon of a wave that occurs as a result of the clash between the water flowing down a large river and the incoming tide flowing up river.  They can go on for many miles and if you jump into the river on your surf board at the right moment you can have the ride of your life. If you miss the opportunity, well, you’ll see the back of the wave disappearing into the distance. At best you may pick up a secondary ripple. At best.

Jesus came into Galilee and essentially said, “Right! Time’s up. It is now time to repent.”  Or more literally, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near;* repent, and believe in the good news.’*

You see human needs don’t change because human nature doesn’t change. Whether you are working with something like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs or whether you read the Scriptures and discern human need and the solution to it expressed there, it doesn’t change.

The human predicament is essentially one of independence from God. It’s like the surfer who was too late to catch the tidal bore, and who emerges from the froth and bubble in its wake and says, “I don’t need that anyway, I can have as much fun paddling around on the river without that fancy wave.” 

No you can’t. You might think you can but it’s not the same thing at all. Surf boards were created for catching waves, Mate, and you missed the wave.

At the very heart of our problem is a dislike of repentance because it means giving up what we had in mind and taking on God’s agenda. We think we know best.

If repentance is the first step, then following is the next.

Jesus sees two Galilean fishermen, Simon and Andrew and says ‘Follow me and I will make you fish for people.’

That was a kairos moment for those men, and they realised it. 18And immediately they left their nets and followed him.

19As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.

These men didn’t vacillate. They followed instantly. They stopped what they were doing, turned round (repentance) and followed Jesus (discipleship).

What are some of the things we evidence when we want God but on our own terms?

I’ve spoken before about those two tendencies of which we are all guilty at times, modern Pharisaism and modern Saduceeism.

Our tendency to Pharisaism (insisting our solution is the only one) keeps us in charge, not God. It is a reluctance to consider that anyone else’s revelation may have some merit. It exercises the power of influence. We are convinced we know the answer – and that answer is normally right in the middle of our comfort zones and leaves little room for having to trust (or depend upon) God, let alone turn (i.e. repent) towards something God might be doing. At its heart is fear – fear of giving up control to God.

Our tendency to Saduceeism (dressing up the status quo in order to make it more palatable) resists real change (i.e. repentance) and tries to dress up the outward form of faith without affecting its inner core.  It exercises the power of position. Position is used to hold the course and will not consider repentance or discipleship because one involves change and the other involves a giving up of power to Jesus. At its heart is fear – fear of giving up control to God.

We cannot expect the blessing of God, whether it is in our own lives or upon the life of our church if we refuse the basics of Jesus’ requirements: repentance and discipleship.

Sometimes we are provided with critical moments where if we respond, we will catch the wave, but if we don’t we find ourselves wallowing in the backwash with all sorts of self-justification as to why things are not as they should be, or worse still pointing the finger at others as to why we have missed the wave.

There is a tide in the affairs of men, Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat. And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.

In September last year I stood on the Areopagus in Athens, the spot where Paul preached his famous sermon in Athens (recorded in Acts 17), and recalled Paul’s words to the Athenian intellectuals.

30While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.’

We have spoken at length in this Parish about the need for prayer, both personal and corporate. But none of us can sustain prayer if we are unrepentant.

We have spoken in this Parish at length about the need to be obedient to the Great Commission (Jesus’ standing orders to us that we should share the Good news) but none of us will have the courage to sustain such an activity if we do not actively follow.

Repentance (turning away from our self-sufficiency) and discipleship (following in Jesus’ footsteps) are our only hope as individuals and as a church.

God is always looking for ways to draw us into life.

I’d like to put forward a suggestion this year as one way of combating unhelpful tendencies towards a debilitating independence from God. I’d like to encourage you this year to read the Scriptures daily with an open mind and an open heart. Allow the rich patina of the alternative society the Holy Spirit began developing – the community of faith – to influence the way you approach your life.

Turn to the Word and follow its ways – it points only to Jesus, and in him is our hope. This, I believe, is what both the Book of Proverbs and the prophet Isaiah call, a word in season.



Readings for the day:

Mark 1: 14-20
1 Corinthians 7: 29-31
Jonah 3: 1-5,10