|Rev. Dr. Douglas Liston|
A friend of mine posted this as their status on Facebook today… I don’t know about you, but there are times when I completely
resonate with this – living in the moment is easy – until the moment isn’t so pleasant. And then all of our energy gets consumed
with worry – and chocolate chip cookies.
This concept of the “moment” has to do with our understanding of time. As I remember back (to another “time” ?) when I was studying
Greek for seminary, we learned that in Greek, there are two understandings of “time.” The two Greek words for time are chronos and
kairos, each of which is translated as our word time in English. But there is a huge difference in the meaning of these two Greek words.
Chronos is time that continually moves from the past, through the present and into the future. It’s the time that we talk about when we
think of history. It’s the time that we measure on our clocks and calendars. It’s the time that dictates our lives. It is time on the
move that cannot be slowed or stopped.
But kairos, the other Greek term for time, describes a present moment in time. It is the now. Kairos is a moment in which something
special takes place. The Greek understanding of kairos is a special idea – we look at kairos as something that can’t be measured in
quantity, but kairos is the quality of time.
If you go on vacation – certainly the length of your vacation is important, but even more import than how long you were gone is how
enjoyable your vacation was. Yes, you were gone for an entire week – but what you will remember about your vacation are the kairos
moments – the things that gave you joy – the moments that have emblazoned themselves on your memory.
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and
the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” (Mark 1:14-15, NRSV)
This is Mark’s record of the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Mark specifically uses the word kairos here. Yes, Jesus is saying that
a specific point in chronological time has come, but, more importantly, it’s also God’s moment. By using kairos, Jesus is thinking
not so much about the movement of history to this point, but he’s speaking in terms of the now – the culmination. And not only is
it a particular moment, but it also carries with it a sense of urgency – God’s kairos takes precedent over our chronos. The time is
now to repent and believe.
I think that many of us live most of our lives in the chronos, the time that moves steadily on. We move with time, or maybe more
accurately, we allow time to move us. We race to keep to our schedules – the doctor’s visits, the kids’ soccer practice, racing
it to the bank before it closes. We let chronos dictate how we live our lives – it almost comes to the point where we allow chronos
to devour us.
Jesus, however, calls us to live in the kairos of God’s rule, in the moment – in THIS moment. Christ says that we should seek and
search for God with each and every breath we take and with each moment that passes. Living in the kairos of God carries with it an
emphasis on being in the present – and in the presence of God. And in doing so, we put away the distractions that pull us away from
God and that lead us to live selfish lives, leaving us available to be the light of Christ to those who live in darkness.
“The kairos is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” So! Where is the Kingdom
of God if it is just “come near?” If it wasn’t there yet in Jesus’ time, is it here yet? Well, as Lutherans, we believe that we
live in God’s specific time, the kairos of “The already, but not yet.” The idea is that God’s kingdom is here, but not fully here.
We live, then, between the times; the time of Jesus’ coming as the earthly Son of God, and the time of Jesus’ coming as the Son of Man.
So, as God's chronos moves on and as we live between these times, Christ calls us to live in God's kairos, modeling the life that
he lived – a life fully present to God and those in need of God’s presence.
Oh. And don’t forget the chocolate chip cookies!