God’s Time: Living Into Peace 12-6-15

On this second Sunday of Advent as we notice the time we live in moving quickly toward Christmas, I want us to pay attention as well to the time we are remembering, the time in which our scripture reading was written. Usually, when we read this passage we glaze over the first paragraph, and we hear the familiar second half about John the Baptist preaching, a voice in the wilderness, making the rough road smooth. Today, though, I’d like you to pay a little attention to that first part about when the passage was set, in the time of all these rulers. Count them, Tiberias Caesar, Philip, Lysanias – I’ll give you a clue, it’s 7 in all. Why is Luke listing all these rulers? Let’s think about that this morning, ok? Listen for the word of God for you this morning from Luke chapter 3 starting at the first verse.

Luke  3:1-6 In the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, Philip his brother tetrarch of the region of Itauraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene. In those days, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the Word of God came to John, ben-Zechariah, in the desert. John went through the entire region of the Jordan proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as written in the words of Isaiah, the prophet:  “A herald’s voice in the desert, crying, ‘Make ready the way of our God; clear a straight path. Every valley will be filled, and every mountain and hill will be leveled.  The twisted paths will be made straight, and the rough road smooth— and all humankind will see the salvation of God.’”

Dec. 6, 2015

God’s Time: Living Into Peace

It was a magical time, among many magical times at Christmas. I was sitting in the living room of my childhood home,  8 years old, just sitting. In a family of 6, you could do that, just sit, and not attract unwanted attention, because there were so many things to pay attention to. Maybe it was early in the morning and there weren’t that many other people around, I don’t remember the exact time. I just remember that I was sitting, looking at the Christmas tree in our living room, marveling at all the colors.

I remember squinting at it, and letting the lights go blurry in my vision, feeling the silence, taking in the peacefulness, feeling content. The warmth of the room, the sound of the silence, the promise of the season combined to give me, sitting on the couch, a feeling that everything could be right with the world.

Soon a brother would disrupt the scene and ask me what the heck I was doing there. Maybe I would try to explain, but that would not be likely to go well. It was just a moment – or maybe a few – of peace and quiet, within the beauty of the season, sitting in wonder.

 

In seminary we learned that there are two words in Greek for time, one is chronos from which our word chronological comes. Chronos is regular time, one thing after another, mundane, ordinary time beating on predictably and reliably. Chronos is the time of history, capturing in ‘real time’ one event after another to tell the story of the world.

The second Greek word for time is kairos, which is God’s time. Kairos means the opportune time, or supreme moment. It can be a time lapse, a moment of indeterminate time in which everything happens. In kairos time the predictable and ordinary fades and a divine presence punches through into human time. It’s a royal time, in which time can appear to go backwards or stand still. Kairos is the time of redemption, “inviting us to imagine that there is more to this life than what we see and more to our existence than what we can measure or count.” [David J. Lose, Journal for Preachers, Advent, 2015, p. 10]

It’s a wonderful word, isn’t it. It describes something that most of us who have felt some connection beyond ourselves have experienced at some time in our lives, but it’s really hard to put into words. It can also be a time as simple as staring at a Christmas tree and feeling time stand still, a time you can go back to again and again.

 

So about these 7 rulers that Luke mentions. Luke is always marking time by naming the rulers of the day. He says John the baptist was born “in the days of King Herod of Judea, and that the Mary and Joseph set out for Bethlehem because of the census ordered by Emperor Augustus, “when Quirinius was governor of Syria.”

In this way, Luke is contrasting chronological time with kairos time, historical events with the extra-historical story he is telling about a pregnant young virgin and her fiancé. He’s saying that these small, seemingly innocuous events that he’s describing have global significance. More than that, when he describes John the Baptist preceding Jesus on the world stage in the time of Tiberius, Pilate, Herod, Philip, Lysanias, Annas, and Caiaphas, Luke is not only saying that John is as important as all of these, but that he and the one who is coming after him will directly challenge their authority.

God is breaking into history through John the Baptist and Jesus of Nazareth, who come preaching God’s call to repentance and God’s gracious offer of forgiveness. Both of these prophets, John and Jesus end up dead at the hands of some of these seven named in this passage. Yet their deaths, and even more Christ’s resurrection, will shake the foundations of power these seven represent and stand upon. And this would not be lost upon the people Luke writes for. They read the words after those seven “greats” are dead, while those who followed Jesus have persisted and even flourished.

 

So look, I don’t know why you came here today or why you are listening to or reading these words. You may have been hoping against hope that you’ll hear something to lift your spirits in face of the killings in San Bernardino and Colorado, an inspiring sermon or something. I hope you have found something that helps.

The words that I say are not as important as the possibility that you too may experience a kairos moment, a moment of the in-breaking of God’s spirit, the incarnation of Christ, the presence of the Creator. Did anybody see the sunrise this morning? I saw it in my rearview mirror as I was driving out here. It was a kairos moment. Did you notice the frost on the ground this morning? My cousin in western PA experiences our weather a day ahead of us and she took a picture of the frost out there. She called it magical. I call it kairos. Same difference.

The words that I say are not as important as the truth that this is a kairos moment. We are in a Kairos moment like the one proclaimed by John the Baptist 2000+ years ago, when he invited people to repent and trust in God, to know God’s presence. We are in a kairos moment every time we remember how Jesus broke bread and gave it to us. We are in a kairos moment as we sit in silence, praying and knowing God’s presence in lights that break up the darkness. We are in a kairos moment when we hear the promise of John that the rough places will be made plain and the valleys lifted up and all flesh will see the salvation of our God.

This is God’s good news.