What Time Is It? John 1:29-42 Rev. Dr. Donna Giver-Johnston Jan. 15, 2017
What Time Is It?
In the Gospel reading for today, it was 4:00 in the afternoon.
I’ve read this many times and never really noticed this detail. It seemed like a throw-away, meaningless verse. Oh by the way, it was 4:00, if anyone is interested. I wasn’t. I mean this story happened 2000 years ago. What does it matter what time of the day it happened? Why would the author of the Gospel include this exact detail of time?
This story is in the Gospel of John, where Incarnation is at the heart of the story. “In the beginning was the word…and the word became flesh and lived among us,… full of grace and truth.” God loved us so much that God entered our world—born to a certain person, in a certain place, at a certain time. Time matters and marking time matters.
Life happens in time and we remember life with time. Important events are not general references. Think about it: we don’t say “we were married sometime in the afternoon.” Or “our baby was born sometime in the morning.” Or “Dad died sometime in the night.” Instead, we remember these moments in time. We were married at 3:30. Our first baby was born at 7:38. Dad died at 11:06. Time helps us remember important events. Helps us feel. Helps us know that it mattered. Time anchors the event and gives it meaning.
What time is it?
It is decision time for the new disciples. Jesus asked them, “What are you looking for?” The Greek word here is not “What do you want?” But, “What do you need? Not just on the surface, but deep down--What do you really need? What is missing in your life? At this time in your life, what is your heart’s one true desire?”
They answer by calling him Rabbi, which means Teacher. Then they ask, “Where are you staying?” The Greek word here does not simply mean Jesus’ temporary address, but his permanent dwelling. They wondered, “Where do you abide? Where do you dwell? Where can we go to receive what you have to offer? Where can we be in the presence of God always--and never be alone?”
Jesus answered, “Come and See.” It was an invitation from Jesus to not just come and see, but come and be. Abide with me.
The word Abide is used by Jesus throughout the Gospel of John. To abide is to belong. To abide is to be saved (John 4:42). To abide is to be assured of a future with God (14:2). To abide is to feel a real and close and committed relationship (15:1-17). To abide is to not let our hearts be troubled or afraid (14:1). (Karoline Lewis, Working Preacher)
The disciples responded by following Jesus so that they could abide with him. At that moment in time they decided what was really important, what was missing, and what they needed to do to live a meaningful life. It was a game-changer. It was a tipping point. It was a life-changing experience. No wonder they remember that it was 4 o’clock in the afternoon.
This week I thought a lot about time:
· On Thursday at 10:00 am, I sat in a church filled with people mourning the death of Hannah Milbert, who died in the tragic fire after just 15 years of life.
· On Friday at 10:00 am, I sat in a coffee shop filled with people celebrating the birthday of Diz Fader, who has lived 103 years of life…and is still living!
· These two events, separated by just 24 hours, couldn’t be more different. As we marked death and celebrated life, I marveled at the mystery that is Time.
This week I thought a lot about time and what to say to you after this week. I don’t believe God prematurely cuts short our time on earth. Life happens. Accidents happen. Tragedies happen. Death happens. When life ends too soon, I believe that God weeps with us. Because Life is a gift…a gift to be received, not given back too soon. In the 2nd century, St. Irenaeus powerfully said, “The glory of God is the human person fully alive.” Life is a gift. We are invited—no, we are compelled—to embrace the gift of Life, cherish it, enjoy it, protect it, celebrate it. Because Time is finite. And time matters.
Over Christmas break, Rebecca and I went to see the 2:30 showing of Collateral Beauty. It is the story of a successful man, full of life, who is devastated by the death of his 6-year old daughter. His grief is so deep that he cannot work. One day, he writes letters to Time, Love, and Death, asking for answers. And his letters are answered by personifications of Time, Love, and Death played by people…or maybe they are angels. Love taught about the power of love to heal. Death taught that it is part of Life. Time taught that Time is the bridge between love and death, where our lives unfold, where we learn to love; time is where we place our hopes for a better future. Ultimately, Time is a mystery. The movie's central message: Time is a luxury we have and often throw away. Time is a gift to be treasured. In the end, the man finds the courage to make the most of the time he has, one day at a time.
Time matters in this story. Time matters in the Bible story. Time matters in our story.
Our time matters to God. And how we spend our time matters deeply to God.
In the poem Summer Day, Mary Oliver writes about time:
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
What Time is It? It is time to hear and heed Jesus’ invitation: Come and see. Abide with me.
If you want to find joy deep in your heart…Come and see.
If you want to experience the way, the truth and the life…Abide with me.
If you want to behold the light of the world…Come and see.
If you want to face the mystery of death with the promise of eternal life and know the peace the passes understanding…Abide we me.
If you want to be loved without question, without limit, without end…Come and see. Abide with me. What time is it?
Carpe Diem—it is time to seize the day. Time to drink deeply from the fountain of life.
It is time to live. It is time to love.
It is 11:07 we have come to see God’s light and abide in Jesus’ love.
Thanks be to God for this time!