“I, God, will lead the blind by a road they do not know. By paths they have not known, I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light; the rough places into level ground. These are the things I will do, and will not forsake them.” (Isaiah 42:16)
“Now hope that is seen is not hope, for who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” (Romans 8:24-25)
“For in him, we live and move and have our being…” (Acts 17:28)
“Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, Jesus said to them, ‘come with me by yourselves to a quiet place, and get some rest.'” (Mark 6:31)
For everything there is a season,
and a time for every matter under heaven:
I’m sure a lot of you have heard this scripture before.
Since it was made more famous by the band “the Byrds” most of us can recite this scripture from memory without knowing that we knew:
(sing it with me)
To everything turn turn turn
There is season turn turn turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven
(If it’s not ringing a bell yet, listen here.)
They actually sang eight verses from Ecclesiastes 3, though not quite as written.
Since these lyrics DO come from scripture, here they are, from the Bible, and not the Byrds:
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
Lovely poetry isn’t it?
No wonder the Byrds used it.
In early Greek translations of this originally Hebrew text, there are two different words used for time and season: chronos and kairos.
Chronos is where we get our words for chronological and chronology and it means actual literal time. It’s quantitative.
(“525600 minutes to measure a year” for example)
(and you’re welcome for that song now also being in your head)
Kairos, in contrast is qualitative. It’s about time, yes, but measures moments instead of minutes. This kind of time is used for those moments when everything is just as it should be, even if it’s not perfect, it feels right, holy even. Kairos is sometimes referred to as God’s timing. I once heard someone say that kairos is those times no matter how fleeting, that make you realize there isn’t one thing you’d change in the moment.
So, going to back Ecclesiastes 3 verse 1, both words are used, so it reads:
for every thing there is a chronos, and a kairos for every matter under heaven.
I know I’m geeking out a bit but this is so cool right?
Yes, there are physical, actual times where things that are horrible and wonderful happen.
We count them by days and hours and dates that we remember and honor and even celebrate.
Like birthdays and good and bad anniversaries.
But there are kairos moments in all of those chronos moments too.
And we see this in verses 2-8, which in the text only uses the word kairos.
There is going to be good stuff and bad stuff in our lives, it’s gonna happen.
But there are moments of holiness in all of it.
Because God is in all of it.
Don’t mishear me – God isn’t orchestrating good and bad, but God is IN good and bad.
So when you are laughing and everything feels sparkly and golden for just that one moment – that’s kairos.
And when you are full on grieving, I mean heave crying lying on the floor grieving – that is kairos too.
Kairos doesn’t mean happy.
It doesn’t mean perfect.
It doesn’t even mean you love what is happening,
it simply means a recognition that no matter WHAT is happening and no matter how you feel, God is present in it with you, and somehow, even the worst moments can be holy moments.
It means God has broken in to the chronos a bit more clearly at that moment.
So then I can have a kairos moment dancing around the living room with my daughter,
and I can have another one at the doctor’s office as they tell me news I wasn’t hoping to hear.
Somehow, for me, this changes everything.
It changes how I see and feel and experience both good and bad moments.
It opens my eyes and heart to the places where God is found in them.
And they turn from just minutes ticking by,
to moments of profound holiness,
where the passing of time is not even felt.
So open your eyes this week uplifters, for those kairos moments breaking into the monotony of our chronos lives.
It’s happening right now.
There is a time for everything, and God is in it all.
How many of you have ever edited a picture before putting it online?
The way of online culture is that we are able to be selective in how we present ourselves to the world.
We post pictures of outings with our family, smiling and being generally adorable, but we don’t take pictures when everyone is tired and crabby and someone is crying.
Be honest, when is the last time you posted a picture of your kid being anything but adorable or your own life being completely put together?
Real life is more than that.
We do this off line too –
We see someone we know, either here at church or out of context, at Target or the grocery store, and conversation usually goes something like this:
Hi, how are you?
I’m good, how are you?
(sometimes we might say busy, but my thoughts on why busy is not an answer to how are you is a sermon for another day)
We just say good.
Everything is always good.
Even if everything is not good.
Even if we’re not good.
Even if things are actually bad. Falling apart. If we’re barely holding it together.
We still say – Good.
All three of today’s Bible texts had one thing in common – they were about being together.
As we’ve been planning the fall one theme has come up over and over again, and that is why church?
For me, this is answered in that word – together.
But not just being together, but being real together.
It’s about being not good together.
Because sometimes things ARE good.
But sometimes they aren’t.
And we need a place where we can be real together, be vulnerable together, and share together how our life isn’t going the way we thought it was going to go and how that’s not ok and how we don’t get it and we’re mad at God and we need people to sit with us and say yeah – me too.
“We can choose to be perfect and admired or to be real and loved. We must decide. If we choose to be perfect and admired we must send our representatives out to live our lives. If we choose to be real and loved, we must send out our true, tender selves. That’s the only way. Because to be loved, we have to be known. If we choose to introduce our true selves to anyone, we will get hurt. But we will be hurt either way. There is pain in hiding and pain outside of hiding. The pain outside is better, because nothing hurts as bad as not being known.”
To be loved, she says, we have to be known.
And, I’d venture to say that when we know each other, the real each other, and not just what we share on instagram and facebook but the “real life here’s who I am knowing” – it’s too hard to put people into categories and divide ourselves by who we agree with and who we don’t.
When we show up together, when we are real together, it makes us unique.
Because this is not how the world works anymore.
But here, in this community of faith, when we gather together, any time we gather together, something happens.
The Hebrews text was read at our last Ask the Pastors two weeks ago, and it was a good reminder of what it means to be in the community of faith.
As people who have been washed with pure water – that is, baptized – we hold fast to the promises of God, the one who keeps his promises.
And, as the Apostle Paul says, we do this by meeting with each other, provoking each other to love, and to encourage each other.
What an amazing picture of what it means to be the church.
Any time we gather, we have an opportunity to be real with each other.
In the Gospel text today, when Jesus was nearing the end of his life, when he knew what was coming in the night ahead – he gathered his friends around a table, and broke bread, and they ate together.
And then, as they left their meal together, he brought them along with him. He didn’t say I’ve got this. He didn’t say he could do it on his own, he didn’t say he was good.
He said “my soul is overwhelmed with sorrow”
He was honest.
And even though his disciples didn’t know what to say in return, and even though they didn’t handle it in the best way (I mean, some of them did fall asleep), Jesus reminds us that there isn’t anything we have to do by ourselves. Jesus breaks bread with them anyway. Jesus dies for them anyway.
This is what we get to do together here at church.
We gather around a table, all of us, old and young, black and white, republican and democrat, happy and grieving, healthy and sick… all of us, and together we break bread, share a meal, and get real.
Where else does this happen?
Where else can you go and stand side by side with someone who doesn’t agree with you and together receive this unwarranted grace?
God welcomes all of us to this table.
No matter how broken.
No matter what we believe.
Not matter what you’re going through.
No matter how real you’ve been.
God knows the real you – and invites you, the real you here.
Jesus said that where two or more come together in his name then he is present. That doesn’t mean Jesus isn’t present when we’re by ourselves but that coming together does something that being by ourselves cannot do. So we come together, and we do life together.
And God meets us there.
A little while ago, a POP member wrote a post about getting real with each other on her facebook page and with her permission I’d like to share it with you here. She said:
I had forgotten how powerful it is to witness someone’s story. Too often we just answer “fine” to “how are you?” but imagine the healing that could happen if we all started sharing a bit more of what’s really going on – the good, the bad and the painful. – Lindsey Weiler
For the last month or so, you’ve heard us talk about GroupLife in announcements.
You’ve heard both Chad and I talk about why you should sign up for a Group.
And maybe you’ve thought that you don’t have time, or that this isn’t for you, or that you don’t know anyone so it’s scary. And yes, all of those might be true.
But what I do know, is that what being a part of a Group can do for you and your faith is powerful stuff. When we bring our real, true, honest, broken selves to each other, things happen that just don’t happen anywhere else in this world.
And I want you to be a part of it.
So we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members of one another.
I want to preface what I’m about to write by saying I’m not a physicist.
That’s my husband.
Or Neil Degrasse Tyson.
That being said and clearly understood, there’s this thing in physics called Quantum Entanglement.
It’s when two particles are so entangled that when one changes, the other one also changes instantaneously.
(Watch the actual physicist Neil D-T talk about it here.)
So quantum entanglement reminds us that there are connections that cannot be broken, no matter what, and that some particles are so entangled, so tied up in each other, so bound together, that any change made in one is made in the other. Even if the particles are across the world from each other.
It’s crazy awesome.
And it’s a good reminder that we are all connected.
That our shared humanity matters.
And today I think this Uplift needs to be about our sameness.
Because over and over and over again we are told how different we are.
How someone else is better than we are.
Or how we are better than someone else.
It’s not ok.
Because we have been created by the same God.
And our differences make up one big world filled with beauty.
This verse in Romans is one of many places in Paul’s letters where he refers to humanity as the body.
Because it’s something we can understand.
Our hands and feet look different, do different things, and yet are equally important to the life of the body.
If you divide the body up into individual parts, then it is many.
But all together those parts make the body something really amazing.
This is US you guys.
All of us.
Yes. All of us.
People we agree with and not.
People who look like us and who don’t.
People who love like we do and people who don’t.
We all matter.
Each of us looking different, being different, believing different, acting different, when put together, gives us a picture of humanity that is full and vast and so so beautiful.
There’s a quote from Mother Theresa that always reminds me of our combined humanity: If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten we belong to each other.
She understood the danger of getting focused on our own problems and our own lives and issues.
She understood the tendency we have to surround ourselves with people who look like us and believe like us and agree with us.
We need to be reminded that we belong to each other.
Heck, this week, with the way the world seems to be falling apart, the way everyone seems to be picking sides, the way we have demonized the side the is different from our own,
I need this reminder.
Look at the second part of this verse from Romans:
“We are members of one another”
Not we are members of God.
But we are members of one another.
Some translations actually say “we all belong to each other” here.
We are connected.
We are entangled.
What I do and say and how I love in the world matters.
Because we belong to each other.
And we belong to God.
And if God’s love extends to me and changes me, and I’m all entangled in everyone else, then God’s love changes everyone else too.
I do not understand God’s grace and love for me unless I recognize that God’s grace and love extend to everyone.
You heard me.
Just as we are entangled in each other, God is right in there entangled with us.
And I’ll say it again, DANG if that isn’t some really good news.
When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping,
he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved.
He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.”
I’ve been doing a lot of reading on grief lately.
I’m not sure how or why this theme emerged, but I’m going to take it as a hint.
And I’m pretty sure it’s a hint that I’ve got some learning to do.
In some way or another we’ve all lost someone or something dear to us.
For a lot of us, our earliest memories of grief are losing pets or grandparents.
Sometime it’s a parent, or sibling, friend, or child.
No matter who we lose, no matter how close we are to it, it’s ours.
Grief is personal.
One of my favorites, Glennon Doyle Melton, said that “Grief is love’s souvenir. It’s our proof that we once loved. Grief is the receipt we wave in the air that says to the world: look! Love was once mine. I loved well. Here’s my proof that I paid the price.”
Grief is real.
The pain of losing someone we love is real.
It’s real and not bad.
And yet, when someone close to us is the one grieving, we don’t always handle it that well.
See, I’ve come to the conclusion that we don’t know how to grieve.
And since we don’t know how to grieve, we don’t know how to experience someone else’s grief.
It makes us uncomfortable.
I might even go so far as to say we’re afraid of it.
And instead of seeing it or acknowledging it or even feeling it,
We hide from it, push past it, ignore it, and even explain it away.
That’s the way of the world.
But it doesn’t have to be this way…
So today I’m taking the hint, and asking you Uplifters to join me in committing to learn how to be a better griever.
And I think the best place to start is with the one who experienced life in all it’s joy and sorrows.
(you know, Jesus)
Jesus comes to visit his friends Mary and Martha and Lazarus and arrives to hear that Lazarus has died.
So there He is, with people who have just lost a family member.
Jesus is literally staring grief in the face.
And what does he say?
Jesus says nothing.
He doesn’t say “He’s in a better place.” – though one might imagine that if anyone could say this and know what he’s talking about, it would be JESUS.
He doesn’t say “Everything happens for a reason” – again, if anyone could give the “reason” in this moment, it would be the Son of God.
Jesus says nothing.
He sits down and cries.
He stares grief in the face and instead of getting uncomfortable and trying to fix it or make it go away he just joins them right there in the middle of it.
What if this is how all we handled grief?
What if we actually just said to someone who is grieving: “I’m so sorry – there are no words here – this sucks- I see your pain, and you’re not alone”
In her book Love Warrior, Glennon Doyle Melton (again) said “people who are hurting don’t need avoiders, protectors or fixers. What we need are patient, loving witnesses. People to sit quietly and hold space for us. People to stand in helpless vigil to our pain.”
That can be us you guys.
We can do it.
We can commit to standing in vigil for each other when we’re hurting.
We can remind people that it’s ok.
Grief is real, and it’s ok.
Should I say it again?
Grief is real and it’s ok.
And it’s ok to not be ok.
If the Son of God can take a moment to cry with his friends before, I don’t know, raising the guy from the dead, then I think we can at least try not to say things to “make it better.”
We can sit with people in their grief.
Just like Jesus sat with those grieving friends then.
Just like God has promised to sit with us.
Whenever we need it.