Time can seem to drag on while we "wait out" a long winter, or it can seem in short supply as we hurry from one to-do to another. In this Epiphany sermon from January 2, 2022, Rev. Jane offers up the idea of understanding time on God's clock rather than our usual ones.
In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” – Matthew 2:1-2
Many years ago, I was working in a church in Boston, teaching Sunday School. I showed the children a new material that we had in our classroom, a liturgical calendar puzzle like the one above. I asked the children: "I wonder what this looks like to you? What could this be?"
One three year old boy, looked up at me with big eyes and solemnly said, “It looks like God’s clock.” I have never forgotten his wisdom.
This puzzle is actually known as the Circle of the Church Year and is a kind of liturgical calendar, marking the seasons of the church, seasons that are circular, because God’s time is not linear but often feels like a circle, the rhythm of life, lived inside of a story that is bigger than any of our individual stories.
Understanding time on a different scale
We are part of the unfolding reality that much of what happens is outside of our control. That things occur when it is time, spring arrives not just as a date on the calendar but as the earth itself becomes new again. The seasons both in nature and in our church year, invite us to accept our place in the order of things. They remind us that we are part of this bigger story.
The magi, these wise ones, were watching for signs of God’s manifestation in their lives. They paid attention to what time it was – in observing the stars and the sky and the culture and society around them, made a decision to go in search of a new king. A child has been born, and his coming changed everything.
In order to be aware of these moments of transformation, we have to pay attention, not just to what hour of the day it is or what we need to accomplish but to a deeper understanding of time. A kind of understanding that knows when something is finished, or when it is time to rest, or when it is time to start something new.
The magi pay attention to the signs around, they listen to the words of the prophets from the past, they know when to move into the future, and when to linger in the present moment in awe. It is this ability to honor the sacredness of each moment, that reveals God to them.
Seekers of the divine presence
We too are called to be seekers of the divine presence. As Paul said, it is through God’s grace that we have been given, “a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him [Christ], so that with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe.”
That we may see with the eyes of our heart. That’s beautiful…to be able to see and know when God draws near to us. It is a kind of inner knowing that calls us to see everything else through new eyes.
Often, time makes us feel like we are running behind or reflects a kind of scarcity thinking, wishing always for more hours in the day.
But when we begin to live by the seasons, we see that things are cyclical. We know that this season will circle back around again and we will be invited to enter in with more depth and awareness. We will see the new possibilities emerging. We realize that we aren’t late and we haven’t missed anything, we will arrive at just the right moment.
The cycles of sacred time
The (liturgical) seasons invite us to rituals, that mark these holy moments, immerse us in liminal space and time where we can touch that which is eternal.
Sometimes it’s easy to think that only holy people experience these moments. But this kind of sacred time is available to all of us, it just requires that we pause and shift our perspective.
This kind of seeing is a kind of wealth, not of money, but “existential richness.” I wonder if this is the wealth that the magi brought, this wisdom and knowledge about how to enter into sacred time.
Through prayer, and silence, ritual and celebration we too can open ourselves to the possibility that the eternal dwells with us now, that God is made manifest among us.
As we cultivate this other way of understanding time, living by God’s clock and not our clocks, I wonder what we might observe? What is the star that is rising? How can we pray together for God to be revealed to us? How can we savor this moment without rushing on to the next?
Let us focus on embracing this different way of understanding time. Time as unfolding rather than always running away from us. Time as offering invitations rather than demands that we keep up. Sacred time is devoted to the heart, to things that matter, to wonder and beauty, to catching glimpses of eternity.
May this season be one of paying attention, of slowing down to notice what is emerging, what signs are being revealed. May you be faithful to God’s nudges and realize that we are formed as God’s people not in accomplishing a list of things but in the process of creating them and sharing our lives together.
May Christ – God with us, be revealed to you in this time. Amen.
 Sacred Time: Embracing an Intentional Way of Life by Christine Valters Paintener, Introduction, pgs. xvi-xix