Friday, August 24, 2012

It's About Time, All the Time

Ephesians 5: 15-20
Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In the blink of an eye life can change.  A life can end or forever be altered in ways that just one second earlier never would have been imaginable or even conceivable. 

We think we have so much time.  We fool ourselves.  We procrastinate…you know what I mean.  Tomorrow I’ll give Kathryn a call to see how she’s doing.  Next week I’ll think about having  that talk with my child…we all put off things that seem either insignificant or insurmountable or that we just procrastinate because we think we have time. Name your procrastination! Unfortunately, we don’t have as much time as we think because we never know what is around
the bend in the road when we wake up in the morning.

I suppose on one hand that’s a good thing because if we were to focus only on the finite and fragility of life we would drive ourselves crazy.  We don’t want to live in the world of ‘what if’s’ that would be awful!   If that were the case then we would lose the incredible opportunities for joy, love, pleasure and thankfulness that are in the present, and that’s for what life was created. 

To be able to balance the now and the not yet, today and tomorrow, this minute and the next, wouldn’t that be wonderful?  To understand and live life, and its related counterpart death and to keep them in balance takes a mature awareness and strength.  Oh that we were all Zen Masters living the practice of mindfulness.  Thich Nhat Hanh, Vietnamese Buddhist monk and Zen Master, practices the art of mindfulness believing that mindfulness is the energy of being aware and awake to the present moment; touching life intensely, profoundly in each and every moment knowing fully that all we truly have is the present. 

Good words to live by?  Yes, of course, absolutely!  Easy to do?  No, of course not, but possibly though!  That’s why Hanh calls it the practice of mindfulness; it’s not something that comes naturally to us but it can be practiced if we put our minds to it each day.  Live in the present, that’s all we have. We would be so much better off if that could happen and practicing the art of mindfulness would be a welcomed discipline enhancing each moment and every interaction that we have with one another. 

Ephesians Context
I wonder if the author of Ephesians was ahead of his time because he also talks about living in the present.  Far removed from the hubbub of Jerusalem where stories about Jesus’ death and resurrection were circulating wildly, live the people in the cosmopolitan port city of Ephesus.  Christ-followers in a culturally pagan and gentile society, the people have been told that Jesus is coming back…soon, real soon…within their lifetime.   

Admonitions are abundant!  Be careful.  Do not be foolish.  Do not get drunk.  But so are the sanctions: be filled with the Holy Spirit, sing Psalms, make melody, give thanks.  What the author focuses on is time and the passage of it.

“Make the most of time”, he says, because the days are evil.  Evil in the sense that people, who did not accept Christ and believe in the life changing events of his life, they thought were evil.  I’m so glad that religious tolerance, thinking, and diversity has changed over 2,000 years and that we no longer believe that non-Christians are evil.  But with the expectation that Jesus was to return came the heightened need for ‘getting it all right’.  Watch, wait and be ready because he may just come back today.

He urges people to live as wise people not as unwise people do who do not make the most of their time.  Make the most of time!  That is, look and see, listen to and understand, accept and help those people around you.  Those people or maybe even you may not be around tomorrow.  Life is about time, all the time.

Ground Hog Day
In my mind there has never been a better illustration of living as an unwise person and then, finally in the end, a wise person within the framework of time than the movie, Ground Hog Day.  Bill Murray plays Phil Conners a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania TV weather reporter.  Dispatched to Punxsutawney, PA to cover Ground Hog Day he is none too pleased…been there done that!  He’s bored and tired and frankly, thinks this ground hog stuff is a bunch of hooey.  In addition, he’s not a very aware man to people around him or their feelings and sometimes, often he’s downright rude.

He covers the story, with less than an ounce of enthusiasm.  When Phil tries to return to Pittsburgh on February 2, the day after Ground Hog day, he wakes up to a blizzard that paralyzes Punxsutawney.  He is stuck. He can’t get out and no one can get in.  The roads are impassable.  The movie goes on. 

Each day you see the alarm clock awakening the dawn, which is not so unusual, however it is the same day.  Over and over again Phil wakes up to February 2.  He goes through the same routine, the same steps, the same actions each day.  The weather report and the news report are an exact replica of the day before, which, of course, was the same day.
Gradually however, because he gets another chance each day, he begins to learn how NOT to repeat his mistakes.  He begins to see beauty in the people around him and the blessing for which each encounter has the potential.  He progresses from a very unwise, unaware human being to a wise, alert and much happier one.  He gets it.  When that happens, the page on the calendar finally flips over to February 3. 

Phil was lucky because he had many chances to get his life on the right track, to learn how to do the decent thing.  We don’t quite have that same type of obvious opportunity as Phil so we must live acutely aware of God’s grace in each new dawn and at every juncture that we encounter living as wise people making the most of our time.

Living in the Moment
Living in the moment.  Being completely alert to the possibility of what life has to offer at this particular moment in time is exactly what the Epistle of Ephesians talks about and what a Christ filled life is about.  We don’t know when Christ will return so to put off serving him is not an option.  We don’t know what the next minute will lay out before us so we must be ready, emotionally and spiritually for whatever the future holds for us.

Rabbi Hillel, a Jewish sage from the century before Jesus asks the question, “If not now, when?”  Or, in context, "If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?"  

If not now, when will you reconcile a relationship that is badly in need of repair?  If not now, when will you work through your anger or hurt?  If not now, when will you show your love for someone special?  If not now, when will you help others to achieve their greatest potential?  Now is the only time that we’ve got.  It is a wonderful and beautiful gift from God. 

To live in the moment is to live a life completely fulfilled.  I believe that is what we all yearn for in life.  Fulfillment and joy.  Come on friends, let’s go…it’s about time, right now.


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