20 Trinity 2008

The Twentieth Sunday After Trinity
October 5, 2008
Verse 15 of Ephesians 5:15-20
‘Have You The Time?’

Time! I once got into trouble for giving someone the time of day. It happened in high school during religion class. During the lecture a bored kid in the next row just a few seats ahead looked back at me and whispered, ‘Rasch, what’s the time?’ I checked my wrist watch and as soon as I thought the coast was clear, whispered the time to him. And the instructor caught me whispering. ‘Rasch, stay after class,’ he shouted. I knew that meant I would receive swats for my misconduct. The other kid spoke up in my defense and explained what had happened. Justice was meted out in this way: ‘Okay, both of you stay after for swats!’ And we got them in short time.

My grandfather used to carry a ‘time piece’ as he called it. It was a pocket watch. And he would never have called his pocket watch anything other than his ‘time piece.’ ‘Time-piece’ is probably a fairly accurate descriptive title for any time keeping device. We take such a simple device as a timepiece, be it a pocket watch, wristwatch, wall clock or alarm clock, very much for granted. We are reminded of how dependent we are upon time keeping devices when they suddenly cease to work, perhaps making us late for work or some important appointment.

Do you know how the timepiece first came into being? I’m not referring to the hour glass or the sun-dial, but rather the mechanical time device that eventually came to be known as the clock. I needn’t remind you of how necessity is often the mother of invention!

The religious orders of ancient time kept the practice of praising God at specific set times of the day (seven times a day to be precise, based on the 119th Psalm) besides gathering in community to celebrate the Holy Mysteries, the Mass. The times of prayer offered within the daylight hours could easily be reckoned by consulting an earlier invention, the sundial. But as the annual seasons changed so did the rising and setting of the sun. Hence the system of keeping certain of the ‘hours’ of prayer would have to be adjusted due to the changing seasons.

Something was needed to ‘set’ the hours of prayer so that one could rise to begin the recitation of the daily offices at the appointed hour, whether it was still dark or the beginning of daylight was visible outside. Also, the keeping of time during time of night by use of an hourglass was highly impractical and nearly impossible, as an individual would have to be posted to turn the glass throughout the night. What if he fell asleep? Something better was needed. Finally, some alert monk came up with a bright idea.

He devised a mechanical system comprised of a series of graduated gears that evenly and accurately regulated the hours of the day, that were then displayed in divided segments on a dial, thus giving the time of day independent of the seasons or the movement of the earth. Hence the first basic clock was born!

It enabled the monks to rise at the desired time each day, irrespective of the rising of the sun, to begin their morning round of prayers. Besides regulating the hours of prayer in the monastery, these new devices were soon making their appearance in a larger version on the towers of village churches, to supplement the tolling of the church bell to call the faithful to Mass and to prayers in the church.

In time they were added to newly erected clock towers in town squares, and bells with hammer strikers became an added feature to sound and help announce the hours for business and merchandizing. And event-ually smaller clock-like time devices began to appear and to make their way into the shops of the merchants and onto the mantels of the homes of the wealthy.
The driving mechanisms gradually went from being gears carved or made of wood to those made of metal, and from being driven by a complex series of weights to metal springs. Much smaller and lighter versions would soon be invented to be suspended from chains worn round the neck. What had been invented as a devise to regulate and systematize the cycle of prayer in monasteries for the worship of God, would end up as a devise to help drive and regulate the system of commerce throughout the entire world, irrespective of God.

Well, the next time you look at your time-piece, be it a Timex or a Rolex, and as a result of consulting it you are on time for that important appointment, or business lunch or day out with the girls, thank that anony-mous monk who engaged his mental gears and came up with the first mechanical clock.

When it comes to the employment of one’s precious time, one does not wish to be distracted. A couple of years ago we were all given the option of stopping or blocking those annoying telephone solicitations, made all the more annoying because they would usually come about the time you were just setting down to, or in the middle of, your evening meal. Or they would call when you were working on something important at your desk or computer.

Didn’t it kind of make your blood boil when they’d address you by your first name, as if they’d known you for years. And with the next words out of their mouths they’d inform you that this conversation was being recorded and may be monitored. Or, you’d stop what you’re doing to pick up the receiver and the voice of the spokesman on the other end was that of a recording! Such solicitations became the bane of one’s existence.

But, I’ve been speaking as if all this was something in the past! What is more annoying is that it seems to be returning in even greater force! It is an exercise in Christian patience to respond in a polite tone to the caller (who is simply doing his or her job to earn a living) and not simply hang up on them. Whether it is carpet cleaners, or loan companies, or one of a gazillion charities – the moment you lift that receiver you feel you’ve been violated. Because our ‘sacred’ privacy has one again been momentarily invaded! They want another moment of our precious time!

The interruption that we resent might have come from anything. That is, anything unwanted or unwarranted that suddenly invades that part of our lives we might term as ‘ours.’ That is to say, our space, our attention, our time. We want to think this morning about that last item – our Time.

First of all, is time really ours? Does it really belong to us? We apparently think that it does, judging by the way we spend it; which we may do either wisely or many times unwisely or often times selfishly. Considering that ALL time is a gift from God, does it belong to us solely? We need to be responsible users of the time we are given of God. For the fact is, at the end of time, we’re going to be held accountable for the way that we have used it.

Hence Saint Paul advises that we use it circumspectly. Carefully! Cautiously! We must be careful to consider all related circumstances before acting, or judging or deciding. He further suggests that we use it not as fools, but as wise individuals. Use the time prudently, judiciously, and as informed and moral individuals: as moral individuals because ‘the days are evil;’ as indeed the world is filled with evil, and we are to combat evil with good. That is to be done in the time we have here, and with the time we have here.

St. Paul speaks of ‘redeeming the time’ in which we live; the time we’ve been given here. By way of analogy, his phrase carries with it the idea of facing the violent storms of life with preparedness. Just weeks ago hurricanes began slamming into the Caribbean islands and the eastern and gulf coasts of the United States. As the hurricanes approached, people in the projected target areas were advised to use the time they still had wisely, before the storm made land, to evacuate the region and to board up their homes and businesses, and to secure their watercraft.

Everyone in the potential pathway of the hurricanes was advised to use the time remaining wisely to stock up on batteries, bottled water and canned goods. Prepare for the evil that is fast approaching by acting now, and by acting prudently and wisely. In much the same way, Saint Paul was cautioning the Christians at Ephesus to face up to the facts, and take stock now, for the days ahead are going to be evil days upon you. Make the very best use of your time so as not to be overwhelmed by the evil that is headed your way.

‘Redeeming the time!’ This phrase is translated in the Revised Standard Version of the Bible as ‘making the most of time.’ Don’t waste valuable time. Don’t misuse time. Don’t kill time, nor just fill time. Time is too precious a gift, too valuable a commodity to waste on foolishness or idleness.

Order the time in your life, so as to use it to the glory of God, and so as to prepare and live a life that is pure and acceptable and pleasing to God, in the midst of these times that are clearly evil. Because in times that are evil, it matters how you walk just as it matters where you walk. So, walk wisely. Walk circumspectly. Walk with understanding. Walk soberly, not in drunkenness. Walk prudently, not in excess. Walk in the day, not in the shadow of darkness. In these evil times, walk with uprightness. Walk with God as your guide and companion. Be filled with the Spirit of God, says Saint Paul.

In fact Paul suggests ahead of his time that we return to a principal akin to that which is found in the monastery: the cycle of prayer offered to God. ‘Speaking…in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; giving thanks always unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,’ to quote his words. That is what the essence of monastic prayer is about. Focused, regular worship of God through Jesus Christ our Lord, which is inspired by the Spirit of God.

Yes, but none of us are monks or nuns. We don’t live in a monastery or a convent, cut off from the rest of the world. We live in the ‘real’ world, albeit, an evil world. We can’t step aside from all of our duties and responsibilities seven times a day to join with others for the recitation of praise to God.

Besides, out of each 24 hour day most of us need to get 7 to 8 hours of sleep, we need from a half hour to a full hour to bathe, groom and dress ourselves, we need from 8 to10 hours to transport ourselves to and from work and to do our work once we get there, we need anything from a single hour minimum to 2 hours or more total to prepare and then eat our daily meals.

That leaves from as much as 7_ to as little as 3 hours of the remainder of the day for spending some quality time with our families, doing household chores, paying our bills, preparing for the next day and to trying to sit down for awhile to try to relax for a couple hours in front of the television. Get real! That doesn’t leave much time if any to read and recite the Psalms, or sing hymns and spiritual songs, or sing and make melody in our hearts to the Lord. There isn’t the time!

That is true! Such a busy schedule doesn’t leave much time for the Lord; but ALL time is from the Lord. He does expect us to return a portion of it to Him in praise and worship. So just maybe our ‘busy schedules’ are in need of some serious readjustment and prioritizing.

And maybe what we need to do is to offer the ENTIRE DAY to God the minute we rise from our bed. Offer the entire day to Him and thereby sanctify the entire time to Him. And we just might find that as the day becomes Holy unto the Lord, we will want to find time and begin to make time to spend some special time each day in specific praise and worship of him, and to confess our sins before him and to be refreshed by Him.

Make no mistake about it: God will hold us accountable for ALL the time he has given us. So then, time is of the essence! ‘See that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise REDEEMING the time, for the days are evil.’ If we spend this present time circumspectly, Paul believes we will spend eternity triumphantly. Is that how you are minded to spend it?