Sermon Title: “Now and Forever” by Pastor Rosanna McFadden
Good morning! I am glad to see so many of you at Creekside on a holiday weekend, and trust that your Thanksgiving was what you needed to feed your body and soul: busy, relaxing, low-key, or active — or whatever combination of those met your needs. Thanksgiving, as you know, is a national holiday, but not one which is celebrated in countries around the world. The American version is rooted in a specific story — more like a national myth — of Pilgrims and Native Americans, and it certainly has an overlay of giving thanks to God for food, family and friendship. Those are things to remember and celebrate any time of year, but I am glad for the reminder — and the long weekend — to make time for that at the end of November.
This Sunday is a celebration of a somewhat different sort, and one which we don’t always have the opportunity to observe, or to observe without competition from Thanksgiving and harvest and gratitude. If you are or have been a member of the Worship Team at Creekside, you are surely aware of what I’m talking about, but if this is not a regular part of your yearly planning, here’s a little reminder about the structure of the Christian Year. The Christian Year is a bit out of synch with the calendar year. In the calendar year, the new year begins on January 1 New Year’s Day. What a coincidence, right? The Christian Year begins the Sunday that’s four Sundays before Christmas. Those four Sundays are the season called Advent, which is Latin for Coming, or He Comes, and for those four Sundays we remember God’s promises to the prophets and prepare for the birth of Christ on Christmas. This year, 2023, Advent begins on December 3, next Sunday. Happy New Year! So this Sunday, today, is the church’s New Year’s Eve, the last Sunday of the old year. And like New Year’s Eve, it’s a party (the beverages are tamer) where we celebrate time, endings and the hope of new beginnings.
Often, the Sunday before Thanksgiving and the last Sunday of the Christian year are the same Sunday. And when this happens, members of the Worship Team have to try to figure out how to plan, and especially how to decorate for Advent and Christmas during the week of Thanksgiving. This may not seem like a big deal if you’ve never done it — or maybe you have done it at your house: trying to put the turkey in the oven and bring down all the Christmas decorations at the same time. No matter how you do it, it’s a lot of work, and our Worship Team and other helpers do a terrific job. We didn’t have to do that this year, though, because we have a Sunday in between Thanksgiving and the beginning of Advent. This New Year’s Eve celebration is called Christ the King Sunday, or Eternity Sunday.
This text from the first chapter of Ephesians which Stephen read for us captures the cosmic scope of the end of time and Christ’s reign: the immeasurable power of his greatness, authority, and dominion above every name that is named. This text also captures the sense of time and infinity: this power and dominion is not only in this age but in the age to come. Not just now, but forever — for eternity.
Talking about time and eternity can get complicated in a hurry, as in “today is the tomorrow we dreamed about yesterday,” or “today is the first day of the rest of your life.” Time can be both the instant of this moment and the never-ending time of eternity. Greek, the language of the New Testament, the language of the letter to the Ephesians, includes two different words for time. The first is chronos: this is the root word for chronology, or anachronism. Chronos is clock time: it is measured and quantified; and it is relentless. Chronos is the same for everyone, and it ticks along regardless of circumstances. Whether we are having the best day of our lives and want that time to last forever, or we are in a surgery waiting room and it seems like the waiting will never end, those minutes are ticking by at the same rate. Chronos is mentioned fifty-three times in the New Testament, and is often paired a number: Jesus fasted in the wilderness for forty days. That is chronos time.
The other Greek word for time is Kairos: this word is used 86 times in the New Testament. It is a more fluid understanding of time. Instead of quantity. Karios is quality: it is lived time rather than measured time. Kairos is the opportune time, the right moment, a season, or harvest time. Kairos is flexible enough to be a moment or to be forever. This Sunday, Eternity Sunday, is an invitation to remember that for God, those may be the same thing. If we offer God our moments and our days, we end up offering God our lives, and when we offer God our lives, we spend eternity with God. Eternity is made from an endless series of moments: when now lasts forever. it is that place where chronos and kairos are indistinguishable, because every moment is under the dominion of Jesus Christ, the name above all other names.
Chronos time can be represented in a number of ways: again, usually paired with numbers: hands moving around a clock face, or that 20th century movie device where the numbered pages fly off a calendar. Kairos time is more difficult to picture, but it is wonderful material for poetry and creative writing: a description of a fleeting moment, or the instant you realize you’re falling in love. I want to give you another image of eternity. This one come from Revelation chapter 1 verses 7 and 8 and it’s a description of Christ’s coming again to redeem the earth:
Look! He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him
Even those who pierced him; and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail.
So be it. Amen.
I am the Alpha and the Omega, says the Lord God, who was and is and is to come, the Almighty.
Just in case you didn’t go to a college or university with a fraternity and sorority system, or you haven’t studied Greek, Alpha and Omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. In The Message paraphrase of the end of this passage reads, “I’m A to Z. I’m the God who is and was and the God about to arrive. I’m the Sovereign Strong.” The letters Alpha (alphabet) and Omega are on the worship table this morning. Anyone who knows me at all can imagine why alphabet imagery resonates with me: I love letters, and I deal in words. A lot. This saying by an unknown author is a good reminder for any writer, but it also describes the Alpha and Omega of Christ and eternity:
The greatest thing in the world is the alphabet, as all wisdom is contained it in — except the wisdom of putting the words together.
Jesus Christ, the Alpha and Omega, is the greatest name in the world; the name above all other names. But we still have to figure out what that means for us and our lives and how we live. We still have to put it together for ourselves. It is great to have this Christ the King Sunday to proclaim that Christ is the Almighty, who was and is and is to be. It is great to imagine ourselves in the company of saints, secure forever. But forever happens when we dedicate this season, this opportunity, this moment to the work of Jesus Christ. Eternity may seem very far away, but eternity starts now — today — the tomorrow we dreamed about yesterday. Because we never get to tomorrow: the only day we have to dedicate to Christ the King is today. If we put off that Kairos moment of experiencing Jesus as Lord, we’re never going to experience eternity. If we don’t do now, we won’t have forever.
I have had visitors or guests to Creekside ask if we — and that really means I — ever do altar calls. My answer is, not very often. I know that many people, including me, have experienced the pressure of being invited to come forward and make a public commitment to Christ as being manipulative. Maybe you had the experience, as I have had, of watching someone go forward during an altar call or at a campfire, or a youth conference, or whatever — someone who made a public commitment to Christ and was just as ill-behaved and profane afterward as they were before. I don’t want to take away from that Kairos moment of commitment, but you’d hope it would last at least until the end of camp.
So I am not going to invite anyone to come forward this morning — except Steve Barton, when it’s time to lead the final song. But I am going to offer a short prayer, and invite you to consider the phrase, Jesus is Lord, and what that means to you. Is it something you claim is true? If so, how do you put that together in your life? What difference does it make? If you don’t believe that Jesus is Lord, where is your loyalty? Who or what is Lord for you? What does that mean for now and for forever?
I invite you to pray with me:
Let the same mind be in us that was in Christ Jesus, who, though has was in the form of God did not regard equality with You as something to be exploited. But he emptied himself taking the form of a slave and became obedient to the point of death — even death on a cross.
Therefore You highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name. So that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.This is the day, now is the moment. Glory be to Christ Jesus, who was and is and is to be. Amen.