In God’s Time

neurontin capsule cap 300 mg The Sunday Sermon – August 23, 2015 Psalm 90:1-6, 10, 12, 17

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August twenty-third. I noted earlier this week that I love an August that has five Sundays in it! This is the fourth Sunday and there’s one more before the Labor Day weekend that truly marks the end of summer for me and our return to Fall schedule and energies. Five Sunday’s just makes it feel like we have more time.

A couple of weeks ago, as August began, actually, I quoted C.S. Lewis in his observation on time: “It is as if (this) universal form of our experience is again and again, a novelty. It is strange,” Lewis wrote. “As strange as a fish repeatedly surprised by the wetness of water.”

All this thought about “time” go time thinking, once again, about Psalm 90. Perhaps you know why, but if not, listen to the words of the Psalmist …

Read Psalm 90. The Word of the Lord …

We are so little reconciled to time. Even with watches on every wrist, a clock in virtually every room, calendars and day planners, receptionists and scheduling services, computers, iPhones, iPads … we are so little reconciled to time that we are constantly astonished by it.

“My how you’ve grown. Why just yesterday, you weren’t as high as my hip! Sprung up like a shoot. My stars …”

“Has it been a year? Already? Seems like yesterday. One whole year?”

“My Goodness, how time flies!”

I’ve heard that last one all my life, first as a child and then as a college student and an older adult. It was never very personal, really – someone else’s perception, someone else’s surprise. I didn’t connect. Until I had children myself. I’ll go on and say it: Sam is seventeen years old next week. Annie fourteen and Gabe twelve. When did that happen?!

“My Goodness, this water is wet.”

There’s a flip side to “fleeting time,” too. That is time that seems to drag on and on and on and on and on and … As I answer people about my leg, I think I’ve had this walking cast for two or three months. It’s only been 13 days. We wait in line, we’re put on hold, we look forward to a visit with loved ones, we order a pizza when we’re starving, we interview for a job, are examined in front of an adjudicating body, sit awake at night waiting for a child to come home, sit at home waiting for a parent to understand and give permission and . dr…a…g…s.

On of my favorite images of this aspect of time comes from my teenage years. In the movie Back to the Future. Michael J. Fox is sitting in his last class of the day waiting for 3pm. He keeps staring at the clock. His expression and the camera shots let you know the last few minutes are an eternity to him. At two-fifty nine, he perks up, waiting for the big hand to click up onto the twelve. As the second hand reaches the top, the clock moves backward to two-fifty eight. Fox’s character let’s out an audible sound of disbelief and indignation as the bell finally rings. Time was going so slow, it actually started going backward. When have we felt like that?

Human life and Time: An age old skirmish into which we read this beautiful Psalm.

Psalm 90 is, in part, a “poetic meditation on the transience of human life and the problem of time.” The continual passage of time in our lives together is repeatedly called to mind in this reading with word images such as “back to dust,” “children,” “years,” “yesterday,” “morning,” “evening,” and so much more.

“The days of our life are threescore and ten or perhaps fourscore, and even then their span is only toil and trouble, they are soon gone and we fly away.” Seventy or eighty years gone (snap) like that, or so we feel at the time of passing. We’ve sure had our share of Memorial services this year that have reminded us of the fleeting nature of life together on this earth. Even Bill Herdt’s passing at the age of ninety-eight felt “too soon.” And Gin, and Ted, Margie, Adele, and Nita just two weeks ago.

The ascription of this Psalm to Moses calls to mind the problem of time. Moses’ time was too short. One of the most incredibly surprising aspects of the whole biblical story is that Moses dies before entering the promised land. What about us?

“There isn’t time,” we remind ourselves frantically. “Give me more time,” we plead. “It takes too much time,” we lament, “I’ll never get it done. I’ll never see it finished.” Tried for three years, seems like thirty.

That sounds tragic. Quite tragic indeed. A depressing message, depressingly told. And it would be, too, I suppose, if our time was the only one to measure. But it’s not. There is the time of another that must be primary in our lives. The time of one who is from everlasting to everlasting. The time of one who finds yesterday in a thousand years of our past and a thousand years in our yesterday. Our time must be measured finally in terms of God’s time. Human life and the life of the world find their origin and destiny in God.

This Psalm would not be very comforting if, after we read it, we ended with a deliberation over the brevity and the futility of human life. That’s all too easy to do, mind you. We’re very good at it, and it doesn’t take much prodding. But we need to get past ourselves (again) and find the meaning of our life not in our short span of years on earth, but in the eternity of God. Our song must be this: “O God, touch our brevity with your eternity; our weakness with your strength; our futility with your hope.”

When and as we are able to do that, this Psalm becomes a call to decision. How will we view our lives? Our days and years are not simply moments to be endured on the way to oblivion. As children of God, and more specifically as disciples of Christ, we don’t just “do what we do” because it’s the “the right thing to do,” or because “we are given so much we should give back,” or for any other earthly reason. Because the God we worship is eternal, from everlasting to everlasting, and because God is faithful in the promise we receive, our time in God’s creation becomes something meaningful, as well. Something purposeful, joyful and enduring.

So, if we don’t just “do what we do” because it’s the “the right thing to do,” or because “we are given so much we should give back,” or for any other earthly reason. Why do we do it?

In the first place, we answer God’s call to us in this life as an act of Faith. We are called to entrust ourselves and our brief time on this earth to God. And when we are able to do that, to ground ourselves in God’s work, then we become grounded in God’s time. Our lives and our labors participate in the eternal. We don’t fight for economic justice to see poverty erased in our lifetime. We don’t cry for equality to eradicate racism and sexism before we die. We don’t call for the doors of the church to be opened wide for all of God’s children to eliminate fears and prejudices for us to see. That is not why we act. We act out of our faith that it is God’s will to enhance the being and deepen the life of every human, freeing the love that they possess and that must be loosed on the world. If that happens in our short span of years (and it does, it has) that’s fantastic. But our acts are not futile if it doesn’t. We must act on the conviction that it will happen in God’s time.

Secondly, we answer God’s call in this life as an act of Hope. As we align ourselves with God’s work and God’s time, our hope to finally emerge, if not altogether from time, than at least from the oppression and the shortage of time strengthens. We may even be able to ride time and not be ridden by it. To stop dividing time into parts – my time with my wife, my time with my children, my time to myself – and to think of it all as our time. And without ever having to see it happen, we are trustful that God can and will “satisfy us in the morning,” “make us glad,” and “ prosper the works of our hands.”

And finally, we answer God’s call n this life as an act of Love. When we place ourselves in God’s time we place ourselves in communion with past generations who proclaimed, “Lord, you are our dwelling place.” But not only with the past. In God’s time, we place ourselves in communion with future generations, the children to whom God’s glorious power will be made known. Those who may profit from the prosperity of our hands. This world was not given to us by our parents. It was loaned to us by our children.

We answer God’s call in God’s time, placing ourselves in communion with those who have come before and those who will follow us. We are a part of the whole, outside of linear time, embedded in God’s eternity to participate in the eternal. Even with those convictions the questions still come: Is our faith and hope and love too thin already to really believe this? Has personal pain and individual gain shortened our sight and allowed us to see and think no further than our own particular human limitations and mortality? “What can I do? I’m only human.” Have we resigned ourselves to the toil and trouble of our own fleeting lives on this spinning ball we call earth with no hpe of change? I don’t think so.

I know too many of you to believe your faith is thinned beyond restoration. I’m too involved in the ministry and mission of this community to think our sight is shortened beyond repair. And I am immersed enough in many of your lives to know that you are involved in more than your own life. But that is a decision you and I make daily. If we are to detect a purpose for our time here with each other it must be found outside ourselves. The meaning of life must be found in the eternity of the one we call God.

Every time you feel the “realities” of your life and time closing in on you, closing you off to others and to life itself, pick up Psalm 90, read it, and remember this time this morning. Place yourself within the whole, in the company of others. Psalm 90, beginning as it may, ends by soaring to heights unattainable on our own. Our own time that begins as “toil and trouble,” something to conquer, now can be seen as part of God’s time rife with new possibilities, something to embrace. The problem isn’t that time passes so quickly. The problem is that we are continually amazed by it.

C.S. Lewis concludes his thoughts on this subject by saying that when we place ourselves in communion with God in God’s time “the Eternal meets us in what is, by our present measurements, a day, or (more likely) a minute or a second.” In other words, God meets us right here, right now. And we have touched what is not in any way commensurable with lengths of time.” We have touched God, who is from everlasting to everlasting.

Touch or brevity with your eternity, O God, and prosper the work of our hands – O proper the work of our hands! Amen.

Reverend Joel Weible, Pastor / August 23, 2015