Redeeming Time

Preached FCCW, August 19, 2018

Ephesians 5:15-20


This morning on GMA there was a segment on how parents can make the transition of back to school a little smoother by being better structured about school morning routines.

Like organizing our schedules is that easy, right?

I came across some figures recently which estimate that in a lifetime the average North American will spend:

Six months sitting at stoplights

Eight months opening junk mail

One year looking for misplaced objects

2 years unsuccessfully returning phone calls

5 years waiting in line

6 years eating

21 years watching television.

Taken together, over 36 years of our lives are spent on activities that in and of themselves are not particularly meaningful.

Small wonder then, isn’t it, that time management has become an important goal in our society?

In our efforts to manage time we have appliances like microwaves, dishwashers and Roombas to help us save time by doing our work for us while we are doing something else.

We have smart phones and apps to help us organize and manage our time.

In spite of all that, many of us still can’t escape the feeling that there aren’t enough hours in a day for us.

Little wonder then, that Stephen Covey, in Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, claims that the real challenge is not to manage time, but to manage ourselves.”

Which is more or less the same message I just read from the Epistle to the Ephesians.

The first verse of that brief passage says: “Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people, but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil.”

Based on these verses, the distinguishing difference between people who live wisely and those who do not, comes down to the use they make of their time.

The Greek language in which the New Testament was written, had two words for “time.”

The first word is chronos. Chronos refers to chronological time.

Chronos time is linear. It is measured by the clock and calendar.

There’s nothing you and I can do to add to or subtract from chronos time.

We all get 24 hours in a day to work with — no more, no less — no matter who you are.

You can’t manage chronos time by shifting a few hours from this day to another.

You can’t save time from one day to have more time to spare on another day.

All we can do is manage what we put into our allotted chronos time.

We are forced to make choices … to set priorities.

Isn’t that exactly what the author of Ephesians is telling us?

Listen to what it says in verse 18: “Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit.”

This isn’t a prohibition against drinking wine, it is a reminder that we have to make choices about what to do with our time.

It’s saying: look, you can fill your time with stuff that gives a temporary, pleasant buzz; or a momentary sense of accomplishment.

Or, you can invest your rime in something with eternal, life-altering power.

You can spend your chronos time being filled by the Holy Spirit.

You can live the life God wants for you instead of settling for less.

That is what distinguishes living as wise people from living unwisely.

Understanding God’s will for you and pursuing that.

That doesn’t mean we’re supposed to fill our time up with more and more activity to keep us busy.

We are to spend our time on the things that matter most.

Sometimes less is more.

We often live at a spirit-starved pace of life.

I remember a story about European missionaries in Africa, who hired local villagers as porters to help carry supplies to their destination.

The porters went at a slower pace than the missionaries, so that they began to fall behind schedule.

After two days of this, the missionaries had had enough and pushed the porters to go faster.

It seemed to work.

On day three of the trek, the group covered twice as much ground as on day two.

Around the campfire that evening, the missionaries congratulated themselves for their time management skills.

But as day four dawned, the porters would not budge.

“What’s wrong?” asked the missionaries.

“We cannot go any further today,” replied the villagers’ spokesman.

“Why not?  Everyone appears to be healthy enough to move on.”

“Yes,” said the African, “but we went so quickly yesterday that we must wait here for our souls to catch up with us.”

Like those porters, we need to do things that on the surface appear to be wasting time, like making time for personal prayer, worship, and sabbath rest, so that our souls can catch up with us.

We need to say “no” to some things if we are going to say “yes” to other, more important things.

Which brings us to that second word for “time” in the ancient Greek language.

The second word is kairos.

While chronos describes quantities of time, kairos is talking about a quality of time.

Kairos time is not measured by the clock.

It is measured by how we are present to the moment, to people, to the situation – most importantly, how we are present to God.

    Kairos is the word used in this passage from Ephesians.

So, when it says to make the most of our time — our kairos time — it means more like, make the most of the opportunities that you have to be fully present to God in the moment; to be present to who you are with and what is happening around you, and what is going on inside of you.

But this passage has something else to say about what we do with our time.

Where it says “making the most of the time,” it could also be translated as redeeming the time.

To redeem something implies having to buy back that which has been taken from you; or to liberate something that is held in bondage.

Redeeming the time means taking back the kairos time in our lives that has been taken hostage by all the frenzied business and by all the trivial pursuits that fill our hours and days of chronos time.

Redeeming the time means liberation from the tyranny of necessity in order to be in tune with the truly significant.

It means managing, not our time, but ourselves.

It means living not with minds that are inebriated with the pace of life; but instead living in a state of intoxication with the possibilities of God’s presence in life.

In the days when Ephesians was written, ships had to wait for high tide to provide enough depth before they could make it to port without becoming grounded.

The term for this situation in Latin was ob portu, that is, a ship standing outside a port, waiting for the moment when it could ride the turn of the tide to harbor.

That’s where we get the English word opportunity.

The captain and the crew kept ready and waiting for that one moment, because they knew that if they missed it, they would have to wait for another tide to come in.

Redeeming time means staying alert, like those captains and crews, so that those sacred moments of opportunity don’t slip by us.

Redeeming time means having the wisdom of those African porters; who knew the importance of pausing so that our souls can catch up with us.

Ephesians advises us that kairos time can be found in “singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves.”

In other words, in being gathered together in worshipping God, as we are this morning.

Kairos time can also be encountered “singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts.”

Which could be interpreted as in personal practices of cultivating a relationship with Jesus.

And, we redeem a kairos quality of time from our chronos calendars through exercising gratitude towards God at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

How about you and me?

How are we handling this precious gift of time that God has given us?

Are we redeeming time?

Do we stay alert to the opportunities God is opening up before you every day?

Are we living as wise, or as unwise?

One day, our chronos time on earth will come to an end.

And we will be asked to give an account of how we invested the gift of time that was given to us.

We will not be asked how well we did in saving time or making good time.

We will not be asked to demonstrate how well we did in managing time.

We will be asked how well we did in redeeming the time; in making the most of the opportunities that God sent our way.

We will be asked how well we did at living a Kairos life of connection to God and neighbor and self.

As that GMA moment reminds us, we are fast approaching that time of year when Summer vacations come to an end and we slip back into our regular routines.

Which means, it is the perfect time for examining our use of time and making choices that redeem the chronos time that gets hijacked by non-essential pursuits, so that there can be more frequent kairos moments in our days.

May we learn how to live in such a way that our relationship to Jesus makes a difference in who we are and how we live.

Not unwisely squandering the time we’ve been given; but with the wisdom to recognize and seize the opportunities to feed our spirits.


Copyright 2018    Raymond Medeiros