What time is it?

Apple is coming out with a new watch that is intended to make the watch accomplish so much more than just tell us the time. What do you want to know when you look at your watch, a clock, or the sun in the sky? I know I am seeking more than just an understanding of what hour, minute, and second it is at that particular time. When I look at my watch, I am often trying to remember what moment is coming up next. Am I late to pick up the kids? Are the Red Wings about to play? Do I have enough time to leave the office to go for a run around Kensington? What opportunity is next? What have I missed?

The ancient Greeks used two words to understand time. Chronos and Kairos. Chronos refers to the the sequential character of time. Kairos refers to the opportunity of a moment. Kairos is used to describe time 81 times in the New Testament. Time in the New Testament usually does not refer to simply a specific moment of time but rather a season or moment of opportunity when God has entered into our world to show us eternity.

When someone asks me what time the services are at St. Paul Lutheran Church, I quickly answer on Sunday morning at 8:30am and 11am. I also find myself thinking that simply offering a time of day is not enough of an answer. Worship in the Church reveals the promises of God. I do not find our worship services defined only by the time of the service, although are two services do have different styles of music. Sometimes I will think of people as the 8:30 crowd or the 11 o’clock crowd. In the midst of the divisions of services and styles, I hope the time of day does not define our worship service. In the Christian church the worship service is defined by finding ourselves at the appointed moments when God’s promises are delivered to us in the Word and the Sacrament.

On the first day of the week we regularly gather to receive the good news of Jesus. The theme for each week at the congregation I serve is developed by using the Christian calendar. Every year we rehearse and realize the reality of the promises of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Year by year we find our salvation in the work of Jesus Christ confirmed as we celebrated the seasons of Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost. We anticipate Christ coming to reveal the kingdom of God for us. We rejoice with the angels and the shepherds that the kingdom of God comes to us in the flesh of the infant Jesus born to the Virgin Mary. We marvel at how this good news is a beacon of light for all the nations. We reflect upon our own steps and find when we have faltered the Lord continues to set His face towards Jerusalem and our cross. At Easter I am jolted away from my self-examination and find myself exclaiming, “Alleluia! Christ is risen!” Christ is not dead, He is risen just as He promised. Then between Pentecost and Advent we hear Sunday after Sunday that God has equipped us to be His people. Every year we cycle through these promises to set the pace of our Christian life just as a pacemaker supports the rhythm of a tired heart.

This year we enter the season of Lent on Wednesday, February 18. For centuries, Lent has been a time of preparation for the Church. We gather for the special occasions of worship of this time to prepare ourselves to receive the gift of Christ dying on the cross and rising from the dead in victory. We prepare ourselves to receive the gracious gift of Christ at Easter. Ash Wednesday is a meaningful time of devotion with the ashes placed on the foreheads. The ashes call to mind our mortality and dependence on God for our life and salvation. Each following Wednesday night in Lent is a time for short services that have traditionally focused on themes circling around the cross or the catechism.

Each year we make this movement towards the cross and the tomb and the resurrection. Every time I find myself singing praises to the Lord. Thank God He has found me lost and condemned in the ashes and He has made me a new creation.

A Letter to the Church

The last book in the Bible is The Revelation of Jesus Christ. In the beginning of the book are seven letters addressed to seven churches. The letters are written to real communities of faith, but these letters also speak to the church today as we seek to serve God.

The church in Ephesus received a letter commending them for their work, toil, patient endurance, and how those who are evil have tested them. They were criticized for how they abandoned the love they first had when they have dealt with those who have fallen from the faith. I think congregations may struggle with how to treat those who have fallen. We must not forget the love by which we have been called to believe in Jesus. If you find yourself treating another by any form of love different from the love of Jesus, then you must repent.

The church in Smyrna received in their letter recognition of the troubles and poverties that they faced. Jesus warned them that they will suffer even more as the devil works to test them. The believers of Smyrna were called to be faithful, even to the point of death, and Christ will give them the crown of eternal life. I know that there are moments of terrible suffering in the lives of people. I wish I could make it all go away, but the reality is that the devil is cruelly at work seeking to divide us from God and one another. We will remain faithful because the one in whom we trust is stronger than the devil that seeks to attack us.

The church in Pergamum was cautioned about the terrible danger they were in as long as they permitted religious compromise. Ephesus had been reminded to treat those who have fallen with love. Jesus cautioned Pergamum against permitting religious infidelity. How and where compromise happens in the life of a congregation are difficult questions. The letter to Pergamum reminds me that we must not allow ourselves to hide or minimize our Lord Jesus Christ in order to keep peace.

To the church in Thyatira, a letter was sent that showed Jesus will not ignore false teachers in a congregation. Thyatira permitted a Jezebel to teach and seduce the servants of the Lord to practice sexual immorality and to eat food that has been sacrificed to idols. How was she handled by our Lord? She was given time to repent, but she refused. Jesus warned the church that he is going to punish her and all those who commit adultery with her. Jesus promises those that remain faithful that they will receive the morning star, the privilege of being with Jesus in all his glory through eternity.

The church in Sardis received the fifth letter. They had a reputation of being alive, but in their letter they were called to wake up. Sardis was known as a city of great wealth and fame. Did this church rest on its reputation and get complacent? Not one of us can sit back and relax on what has happened in the history of our congregation. We all must be awake and strengthened by the Lord.

Jesus told the city of Philadelphia that an open door has been set before them, which no one is able to shut. Please trust in your darkest moments that there is no one that can shut the door of God’s promises on you. While we may have little power and there may be those at work in this world trying to make us feel small. We are called to hold fast to the promise of Jesus as our conqueror.

The final letter was to the city of Laodicea. This city had no water supply of its own and so had water piped in from six miles away. When the water arrived in the city, it lost its chill and was lukewarm. In the letter the people of the congregation in this city were warned they are neither cold nor hot. They were indifferent or noncommittal. Jesus said to them, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.” If you are indifferent to the works of Jesus, you will miss the opportunity to see Him.

Do you see yourself in one of these letters? Each of these letters end with these words, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” It is time for us to hear the Word of God and not abandon the opportunities that God has given us to be His people.