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Be Ye Doers of the Word and Not Hearers Only

Advent 3 – Year C

Philippians 4:4-7

“I don’t have enough time! Where can I find the time! There’re not enough hours in the day! My time is not my own!” How often have you heard someone talk like this? How often have you, yourself, said these words or thought these thoughts?

Or maybe you’re older, retired, or any age, bored, lethargic and thinking: “I’ve got too much time on my hands! Time moves by so slowly. I can’t wait until . . . . .!” Or, maybe, “How much time do I have left anyway?”

A few days ago a parishioner, a friend, shared with me some of Carl Sandberg’s words. They go like this:

“Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have and only you can determine how it will be spent.”

Jesus came to teach us about how we go about spending our time. Jesus’ wants us to look at what’s important about this gift from God we call life. A gift, in our humanness, we measure in units of time. That is, in Chronos time (what we think of as clock time).

Jesus came to teach us about Kairos time (God’s time). Time that has depth and meaning. Time that is measured not by the hands of the clock but by hands reaching out to each other and hearts reaching out towards God.

A minute ago I only shared with you part of Sandberg’s words. The whole quote goes like this:

“Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.”

The world, out there, wants our coin, wants our time, wants to spend it for us, wants to tell us how to spend it. And we humans are so vulnerable to listening to worldly voices telling us what to do, how to spend our time, how to spend our life. And we’re so vulnerable to our own inner voices – those oh so human and tempting ones that want to control our lives.

Jesus came to call us to listen to another voice – God’s voice. Sometimes we just have to be still so we can hear it. Sometimes we’ve just got to stop in our tracks, say “This is crazy!” and simply sit down and tell the world and our ego to shut up for a little bit. To take some time for quiet and reflection as we take stock of our lives and where they’re headed. As we sink deep into the moment, rest, search for our center and listen to the Divine, soothing, loving, cradling voice that says:

“Be calm. You’re on my time. Just listen to me now. Let me guide you in how you are to spend the coin of this life I have given you.”

Several years ago when I was still in Seminary I was on a class retreat. The theme was “Time.” It was a frustrating time for me, an anxious time in my life. I was only mid way through seminary. I was looking back at all the years of my life. How I had spent my time. How finally I had seemed to find out what God really wanted me to do with my life, or, rather, his life in me.

I had turned my back on my legal career. I was not working. I had no personal income. I was spending inheritance for school and books. And the road ahead looked long. I wanted things to hurry up. I was antsy. I was worried about the time it would take to finish seminary, finish the ordination process, find a job. And look how old I was (in my late fifties) and how old I would be when I would get to a church. Time was ticking away for me.

At break I took a walk along a short path in the woods. I was in distress, mind and heart crying out: “How long? How long? Oh, God, will I ever get there?” I looked up through the trees overhead, sun spiking through the leaves almost blinding me. Then, I heard something powerful up there and in here (my heart) say very firmly, “Torrence, you’re on my time – not yours, but mine.”

The early part of this past summer, when things started happening in my life, very unexpectedly, things that seemed Spirit driven, driving me towards a new chapter that it seemed God wanted to write in my life, I found myself resisting. Slowing down in a process that began to move clearly towards a conclusion that held major change for my life.

I started grieving. At times, I would say to God: “I don’t think I can do what is beginning to happen. It would take me away from St. James’s. It would take me away from Richmond where I’ve lived all my life. It would take me away from my family home and my church family home – a place where I love the people and I feel their love and care for me.”

“God, it’s too soon! I need more time before you move me along. And I’ve got a husband who is saying, ‘I don’t care what church you go, my dear, but I’m staying at St. James’s.’”

God listened to me, but did God’s own thing, moving me towards a new time in my life. Saying in so many ways, “Torrence, do not worry about this.” But also saying, “You’re mine and on my time, it’s time for you to go where I send you.” (And I think I remember something about, “Leave Buff to me, I’ll work on him.”)

Time to me felt like it was moving too fast but as I spent a lot of time in prayer, in contemplative silence, trying to listen, trying to open to whatever God wanted me to do, I began to feel amazing moments of peace and joy – a peace that I simply can’t describe in words.

I can only say that those amazing moments have been what have energized this old heart and soul of mine to keep on trekin’ along this road of life God has called me to travel. Every morning I wake up now, I am filled with such overwhelming thankfulness to God – for you, for your being in my life, for St. James’s being so much a part of who I am becoming in God’s hands, and for God in flesh – the Christ who keeps walking beside me even as I look back with longing.

In seminary when I wanted to hurry things up, God taught me patience – something I need if I am to live in Kairos time. In responding to a call beyond Richmond and from St. James’s, when I have wanted things to slow down God is teaching me obedience – something I need if I am to live in Kairos time. Patience and obedience. I am being molded and taught by a firm but loving Creator who is giving me a taste of a divine motivational treat to keep me going. It’s that remarkable peace that I believe Paul, this morning, in his epistle is trying to describe – to the Philippians and to us.

So, in closing, I say to you, as Paul said to the Philippians, and as I hope you will say to others as you go forth in your life in Christ:

Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7)

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