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Sun, Jan 21, 2018

The Time is Fulfilled


Duration:16 mins 44 secs

Our Second Reading for this morning comes from the Gospel according to Mark, chapter 1, verses 14-15. Mark’s account of Jesus’ life and ministry begins with John the Baptist in the wilderness and Jesus’ baptism. After emerging from the water, Jesus is driven by the Spirit into the wilderness for a time of testing and preparation. At least in this Gospel we get no additional details about that wilderness time. But when that the time of preparation is complete Jesus makes his first public appearance. Let us hear this Word of God.

14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”

This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, for you are our rock and our redeemer. Amen.

I had to travel this week to Richmond, VA for a Board of Trustees meeting at Union Presbyterian Seminary. It is hard to believe on this almost 70 degree day, but on Wednesday the weather forecast was for snow. I was flying out early Wednesday morning to Charlotte and then on to Richmond. Charlotte was forecast to get 1-3 inches of snow and Richmond the same, if not more. So Tuesday afternoon and evening, after scouring the weather reports in all three cities, I called the airline to check to see if my flights would be on time. The woman I spoke with was very nice and offered, due to the weather, to change my flights for free – the only catch was that I would arrive in Richmond on the day after the Board meeting. Not as helpful as I had hoped.

Then I called and texted and emailed friends in Charlotte and Raleigh and Richmond, some of whom were trying to make the same decision I was about if the weather would allow them to attend the meeting. It was a bit of anxious time.

But finally, I decided that it looked possible to go, so Sarah dropped me off at the airport just before 5 AM on Wednesday. My flight took off on time. In Charlotte as the snow fell, they boarded us on time, sent us through the deicing procedure and off we went, arriving in Richmond just 10 minutes behind schedule. I think we were the last plane to land for several hours as the snow started to fall more heavily just as our wheels touched the ground. But we got there just in time.

How do we know when we are just in time? It seemed like every two minutes in their airport I glanced at my watch trying to figure that out. But in our text for today, Jesus gives us another way to talk about time. He begins, “The time is fulfilled.” The time is fulfilled - what could that possibly mean?

We need to first recognize that there are two words in Greek that we normally translate into English as “time.” The first is chronos which means sequential time, seconds and minutes, the ordinary time by which we mark our days. It is the root of our English words chronology and chronicle, like the newspaper. Chronos time is what I worried about with my flights – watching to see if the departure would be at the scheduled time. Would there be a delay? What if I would arrive after the appointed time when the meeting began? Yes, chronos time – what you are checking when you look at your watch when it feels like a sermon seems to be running long. In this world and culture, so often we are slaves to the clock, to chronos time, and when we are we just might miss something.

But that is not the word for “time,” that Jesus uses in our text today. Instead Jesus uses the word Kairos. Yes, Kairos is the opportune moment, the appointed time, a time filled with possibility and expectation. The moment when seconds seem to stand still because you are engaged in something so meaningful or beautiful or powerful that you are just swept away. Kairos is anything but mundane. Think about the moment at a wedding when the doors swing open, the music changes, and the bride begins her procession down the aisle. It does not matter one bit what chronos time, what time the invitation said the wedding would begin. No, the wedding begins in that Kairos moment when the bride arrives. It is an indeterminate moment in which everything happens.

That is the kind of time that Jesus announces. The time is fulfilled. The moment of expectation and possibility is here. The moment in which anything and everything happens. Time is full to over flowing; it has come its intended end. It abounds with expectation. The future is now. It is a Kairos moment for the kingdom of God has drawn near, not in a way of a new administration and or revised boundaries for the realm, but in a person. As commentator James R. Edwards writes, "In Jesus of Nazareth the kingdom of God makes a personal appearance."

I believe this morning at Reid Memorial Presbyterian Church is a day of new beginnings. It is Kairos time. We have been praying and working on children’s Sunday School for many months and today we launched a new model for children accompanied by a new class for adults. We have been waiting with expectation for the day when Nadine and her husband Bill would come and join us in the life and ministry of this congregation, and look, they are here! We have commissioned a mission team this morning to go to Haiti to build homes, repair roofs, and save lives. You responded with such faith and generosity in the stewardship campaign for 2018 that we can support this trip to Haiti and begin significant new mission investments of time and treasure in our own community. Yes, Jesus of Nazareth and the kingdom of God have drawn near. This is a Kairos moment if there ever was one!

So what do we do in this moment? That is always the question, isn’t it? The time is fulfilled. The Kingdom of God has drawn near. So, what do we do? Well, Jesus gives us two imperatives for this Kairos moment – Repent and Believe. Yes, Repent and Believe. Actually the verb tenses in Greek indicate that this is not a once and done kind of event. We should really hear: Keep on Repenting! Keep on Believing! That is the life of those for whom the kingdom has made a personal appearance.

And it is important to remember that order. Keep on Repenting! Keep on Believing! Time and time again in scripture we see the people of God seek to grasp Kairos time in their hands, to set out on their own, seeking to fulfill their own plans and dreams. You might remember the Israelites worshiping the Golden Calf, or King Saul refusing the follow God’s commands, or the disciple Peter offering to build booths on the Mountain during the Transfiguration. But all of those are frustrated; they fail to understand the moment and what is truly required. My friends, when the Kairos moment comes we do not begin with doing or even believing. We begin with repenting.

Commentator Brian Stoffregen puts it this way:

Repentance properly understood is an "I can't" experience, rather than an "I can" experience. If repentance is promising God, "I can do better," then we are trying to keep ourselves in control of our lives. If we can do better, we don't need a gracious God, only a patient One who will wait long enough for us to do better.

Or in the language we are using today, we just need a little more chronos time, a few more seconds and minutes and days and months to get our act together. But that’s not repentance - that’s a self-improvement plan.

Stoffregen continues:

When we come before God confessing, "I can't do better," then we are dying to self. We are giving up control of our lives. We are throwing our sinful lives on the mercy of God. We are inviting God to do what we can't do ourselves -- namely to raise the dead -- to change and recreate us.

Yes, when the kingdom of God makes a personal appearance, we begin with “I can’t.” We are not in charge of a kairos moment in the same way that I can’t control the weather. I can’t fly an airplane or make it go any faster (thank goodness for that). And I can’t guarantee that I have complete mastery of the seconds and minutes of my life or anyone else’s.

But I know who does. For the flip side of saying I can’t is to say, “God can.” It is to keep on believing the gospel. It is to trust that Jesus has conquered sin and death, has been raised to victory, and is coming soon to make all things new. It is to live into that Kairos moment of expectation and anticipation knowing that all things are possible not because we can make them so, but because God has drawn near. We enter the Kairos moments with the declaration, “I can’t, but God can.”

I can’t, but God can. Time is not in my hands. The great 20th Century theologian Karl Barth once put it this way, preaching in a German prison on the 15th verse from Psalm 31, “My time is in your hands:”

My time does not lie around somewhere like an attaché case which someone has forgotten or lost in a tram or somewhere else. It does not roll along like a skittle-ball hurled by some unseen hand. It does not tremble like an aspen leaf in the wind. It does not stagger along like a drunk man. It is secure. It is held. It is carried. It is safeguarded. It is not secure because I am perhaps such a steadfast fellow: after all, none of us is that. It is secure because it is in God's hands.

My friends, this is a Kairos moment in the life of Reid Memorial Presbyterian Church. It is not a time for clock watching and limit making and being bound by all that has been before. It is a time for repenting. It is a time for believing the gospel. It is a time for joy and expectation and anticipation for the future is now. It is a time for trusting that our lives together are secure because our time is in God’s hands. And when we are in God’s hands, we will always be right on time.

Thanks be to God.

Let us pray:

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