Seasons of Life – Chronos & Kyros
Sermon by Rev. Steven McClelland on Ecclesiastes 3: 1 – 12. Focus on the concept of time and what the difference is between Chronos and Kyros. Check out Jody Sinkway and the Choir following the sermon.
Dick Cavett once asked Jack Benny what the key to comedy was and without missing a beat Jack Benny, shouted: “Timing!” Timing is critical. The difference between a good joke and a bad one is a person’s sense of timing. The right pause makes a joke and wrong one can kill it.
Timing is essential when dealing with people. You don’t ask for a raise when business is not going well or when things are tense around the office. You don’t try and correct someone who feels threatened by you. You don’t ask for a favor when someone is under a lot of stress or angry. Timing affects and effects every aspect of our lives. When to save? When to spend? When to embrace and when to let go? Timing is everything!
That’s what this passage is about. “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. What is your philosophy for looking at the world? Is it an act of Karma, Fate? Or maybe God’s providence? When different things happen to you do you call out to God like Job or do you experience life as a random, chaotic, natural phenomenon?
When life is good, is it just your turn to win life’s lottery? Or is it simply chance or choice? Yet when we look at the world and life in general we begin to recognize patterns, cycles, seasons and while not always clear to us at the time we begin to see that there are patterns in life.
And this leads us into the assumptions we make about time and life. There are two kinds of time: There is chronos, the sequential ticking of second, minutes, hours, days, weeks and months, which we can clearly see as we age. It’s the linear sense of time. The idea that time has a beginning and an end.
This sense of time is seen in our aging process. We are born and we die. Linear time – chronos time. But then there is kyros – sacred time. Time that has no beginning and no end – Time that each generation will experience as a truth that passes through our understanding of chronos. Things repeat. Things once experienced are experienced again and so forth. In kyros there is no beginning and no end.
Our passage from Ecclesiastes begins with these words: – “There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every matter under heaven.” Under heaven is the crucial phrase. Under heaven means that the world is ordained to be what it is and is watched over by God. God is not just the creator of the universe but is also the keeper of what we call time.
Time, that amazing and mysterious aspect of creation. Einstein was correct when he postulated that time was relative. In other words this idea of chronos – our attempt to bring order out of chaos must make God smile because God is the cause of time but God’s time is understood as the kyros of time. Kyros – sacred time the bending of the space-time continuum that we all have come to see in a logical chronological way is not really true of God’s time. God’s time, the creation itself is beyond time.
Have you noticed that as you age time goes faster? Can you remember back to when you were a child and you waited for Christmas, which seemed like it took forever to arrive? And how today it comes in the blink of an eye. That is because our understanding of chronos is an illusion. God is in charge of all things; all matters including time under heaven.
And the truth of this passage is self-contained. This passage is timeless! It is as true today as it was true over 3000 years ago. Every generation can read this passage and go – Yes! That is true to my life’s experience.
Our relationships have cycles and patterns and seasons. For example, people you were friends with are no longer. They have died. They have moved on. They were meant for a season or two, others for what feels like a lifetime, but not all the same.
Those who have been estranged from you may come back to you. Some of your greatest allies in life will seem like enemies later – think Judas. And people you’ve held at a distance from fear can become your dearest friends! For everything there is a season. And this is true from people as well as nations.
So what are we to make of this God who is in all things, created all things, above all things, whose being knows no time has no beginning or ending. What are we to make of this? How do we know what is good and what is bad? How are we to act in light of this? As Paul says so beautifully in Romans 8: 28 “we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” We have been given hope, in and through the cycles of life that mourning, tearing down, and weeping are not destinations. They are seasons and they will pass, which is good!
You see in Christ and because of God’s son we have been given hope that all of these seasons will not ultimately define us or stop us or keep us from God. They are reminders of both eternity and purpose. We are here to fulfill God’s purposes for creation, which is best summarized in the word agape- love for others as you would liked to be loved yourself.
What has God done asks the writer of Ecclesiastes? “He has put eternity into our hearts and minds. What this means is that we are never going to find ultimate satisfaction in anything temporary and temporal. I believe the change of seasons is designed to bring us back to God. We do not control the seasons. God is in control of them. So the seasons of estrangement and loss are designed by God to bring us back to God, or to conclude that there is no God, which I believe is absurd.
As St. Augustine so beautifully put it of God’s character – “You have us made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they can find peace in you O Lord!” So true! The best way for me to describe what this feels like for me is when I’m out west or in a great expanse of nature and I look up at night and can see the Milky Way or a horizon that is endless. Then the words of the Psalmist come to me – “What is man that thou art mindful of him?”
And that feeling of awe that comes over me. Reminding me that I am but a speck in this great creation. And yet even though I am but a speck the psalmist and Jesus himself remind me that I am still loved by God. So while we all may be hoping to get control over everything it’s good to be reminded that someone much greater than us already is!
I want to close with this beautiful statement by Frederick Buechner about God’s kingdom. If we only had the eyes to see and the ears to hear we would know that the Kingdom of God is as close as our breathing and our crying. We all hunger for God’s kingdom within ourselves and for our world for above all other things even when we don’t know its name or realize that it’s what we’re starving for we seek something beyond ourselves and our limitations.
The kingdom of God is where our greatest hopes come from. We glimpse it at those moments when we find ourselves being better than we are and wiser than we know. We catch sight of it when at some moment of crisis a strength seems to come to us that’s greater than our own strength. The Kingdom of God and God’s ability to encompass the seasons of life are where we belong. It is home and I think we are all homesick for it. Amen