This is a sermon prepared for some of the good people of Guilden Sutton and Plemstall for the end of British Summer Time.
SS Simon and Jude – Sermon for October 28th 2012.
Well done for remembering to change your clocks!
The question we ask when the clocks change is “Do we gain an hour, or do we lose it?”
Well, this time, we “gain” an hour. We have an extra hour.
What have you done with it?
The same question was raised about the Leap Day earlier this year. February 29th. We got an extra “day”. Many people spotted the opportunity and planned extra events – I finished up with three competing commitments that day. One man used the day creatively. He had lost contact with his brother. He hadn’t seen him for over 30 years. He used the Leap Day as a day for the work of reconciliation.
What have you done with the extra hour?
I hope that some of you managed an extra hour of sleep – after all so many of us are suffering from having too much to do and handle. Phrases that we hear of time and time again are “work-life balance” and “time management”. We find it so difficult to manage time. We are stressed by it – I really do hope that some of you managed to get your own back on time by stealing another hour of sleep.
What do we do with time, and what does time do with us? These are questions I want to focus on.
Firstly, what does time do to us?
The short answer is that he terrifies us. Old Father Time, the Grim Reaper, terrifies us. Change and decay in all around I see.
Time is always running away with us and with our loved ones.
Time, like an ever rolling stream,
Bears all its sons away;
They fly, forgotten, as a dream
Dies at the opening day.
The clock is ticking, and we know that there is a countdown for our last chance, whether on the TV quiz show, or the science fiction that the earth is going to be destroyed, unless the superhero manages to “beat the clock”. Wasn’t there a TV programme called “Beat the Clock”?
Time stresses us out. We race against time. Time robs us of our youth, innocence and health and we are left wondering whether there is any point. Try as we like, we can’t manage time and we are left feeling that time is managing us. We are in his hands, and in his hands many are really anxious. What if, all the time, our lives count for nothing?
So, what do we make of time?
Actually, as Christians, we make a lot of Time.
In the Eucharist, in the end, through our faith, in our practice we trust that the One “who changest not” abides with us, even though it is often only change and decay that we see all around.
Our biblical myths of time confront the despair that grips so many. I have been reading a book written in the year I was born – an old book, by Rabbi Abraham Heschel. His view was that Judaism is a religion of time, aiming at the sanctification of time. That view spans both Testaments.
This holiness of time is expressed in the story of creation. Each day is a day because God says so. There is this present moment because God is present.
The work of creation did not finish after the sixth day. The work of creation goes on. Every moment is an act of creation and a new beginning. Heschel writes: “there are no two hours alike. Every hour is unique and the only one given at the moment, exclusively and endlessly precious”. This is such a contrast to the way in which time is something just to be killed by those who see no quality time, and who are simply bored by the flatline of time.
Our story of time encourages us to see every moment as significant. But our story of time also gives us the means to survive the times of our life when there is evil, violence, suffering, pain and crying. The Bible begins at Day One. It ends with the Last Day, when, in the end, there will be Shalom, and all will cry glory.
I mentioned the six days of creation. There is also the 7th day which God called holy, and which we are commanded to call holy. This is how we are called to tell the time. Observing the Sabbath is a resistance to the powers of the world, the powers that be, our business and the things that rule our lives “Monday to Friday”. It is a breathing space with strict rules for its protection. There is no work to be done (for some even flicking a switch is too much). One rule is “ye shall kindle no fire” – applied by Heschel to also not kindling the fire of righteous indignation. Sabbath observance demands great disciplines which build up through generations.
Heschel writes: “With the Sabbath comes a miracle: the soul is resurrected.” For him “the world’s survival depends on the holiness of the Sabbath”. The task is how to convert time into eternity, how to fill our time with spirit.
As Christians, we have a different story to tell. We see two different hands on the clock. The hands of Christ crucified, the hands of Jesus risen from the dead.
For us the holy day of Sabbath becomes the holy Day of Resurrection. Each week begins with holiday of the new creation by which all our days are numbered.
The discipline of people like yourselves coming together to celebrate resurrection is making something of time and resisting a tide of hopelessness. By celebrating the Day of Resurrection, by remembering all God’s works of redemption, we make something of time for ourselves and alternative calendar for the world, which can only be good news for all those who have grown tired, or bored, or who are oppressed day by day.
The Bible is more concerned with time than space. It pays attention to generations and events. We follow that tradition. Our year is full of grace as we move from one great celebration to another. This week we celebrate all the saints. Today we celebrate Saints Simon and Jude. We don’t know much about them. We know that Jude write one of the epistles, and that he is patron saint of hospitals, hospital workers, desparate situations and forgotten, impossible and lost causes.
There are many who feel desparate in their battle against Time. They feel overwhelmed and exhausted. They fear the end. They worry they are a waste of time, and feel that time has wasted them. All of us, from time to time, have shared the same despair – but we know there is another way of telling time.
That way is made through the resurrection, through faith, hope and love, and through the practice and devotion of local communities of Christians who tell the time differently – who manage time not by months and minutes, but by eternity and a love that never dies.
The last word belongs to the patron saint of desparate situations and forgotten, impossible and lost causes. In his epistle, Jude addresses people like ourselves – inclined to anxiety and desperation in the passage of time. He writes: “Dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.”