After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. "The time has come," he said. "The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!" As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. "Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will send you out to fish for people." At once they left their nets and followed him. When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him. -Mark 1:14-20 (NIV) Read the whole chapter.
So there is a term that is used to describe in-between places, the word is liminal. Particularly from a spiritual standpoint, people talk about a liminal space being somewhere where we haven't quite fully left where we are at, nor have we fully entered into where we are going. Another way of describing it is the almost not yet, that we're somewhere in between. That the old has passed, the new hasn't quite come. What do we do and make of this place, but more specifically, this time that we find ourselves in? Franciscan friar Richard Rohr says that “These liminal spaces are where we are, betwixt and in between the familiar and the completely unknown, there alone is our old world left behind while we are not yet sure of the new existence.” Now, he says, “That's a good space where genuine newness can begin,” he says, “get there often and stay there as long as you can by whatever means possible. It's the realm where God can best get at us because our false certainties are finally out of the way. This is a sacred space where the old world is able to fall apart and a bigger world is revealed. If we don't encounter liminal spaces in our lives, we start to ideal normalcy.”
Now, he says a lot in there, but as I read that passage, what I thought of was this liminal space of pandemic that we're all experiencing. That our old world is falling away and there's a new world somewhere out there that we're starting to get a glimpse of. But what do we do at this time? What do we do in this space that it is created? Because for some, we hear that phrase, “I just want things to go back to normal”. But we also, I think have in the back of our minds that... Is that normal that we knew still possible? It doesn't mean that what is going to be the new normal is bad or wrong, it's just going to be different. But as he says, if we get stuck at that point of idealized normalcy, we miss out on the opportunity to be what God is calling us to be in these times.
Now, in our passage this morning, Jesus began by saying, “The time is now fulfilled.” And the word that Jesus used is a word from Greek, that's kairos. Kairos is a word that we find often in the New Testament. 86 times in the New Testament, that refers to God's time, an appointed time, a special time where there is a convergence of things coming together, and it is the right moment for things to happen. It was in that fullness of time that God sent His Son to be born of flesh and blood. That the stage was set, the world was right, Mary was willing, people were receptive, and God entered into this world in Jesus Christ. And Jesus, in the fullness of time or when the time had been fulfilled, began to preach that message of God's good news. Come near. Repent, believe the good news. The Kingdom of God is at hand. That Kairos time was God's time saying, ‘Get ready for your world to be turned upside down, that that old is gonna pass away, and there is something new coming’ and yet the people who probably didn't know exactly what that meant.
Because we live in the other type of time that Greeks talk about more often or most often, and that's Chronos time. Chronos time is that time that you hear taking away on the clock when you're in a quiet room with one of those old fashioned clocks, we hear that tick. It's that measured, metered passage of time. It's a time that we all experience. It's a time that just kind of moves and carries us along with it. In some ways, we could say that the pandemic has felt like that, of being just kind of moved along slowly and methodically through this. But it's not a real hopeful or an optimistic way of looking at life. There's that soap opera that I remember hearing about growing up, I never watched it, but Days of Our Lives. It's been around since 1965 with 14,000 episodes, I understand. But it always begins with that phrase, “Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.” Well, how hopeful or optimistic is that? Because you just see those grains falling and falling and falling until there aren’t any left. There's a rhythm, there's a pattern, there's a sequence to it, but it doesn't seem special or meaningful.
That Chronos time is that passage of time. It's easy to get caught up in. But Kairos time is where God intervenes and steps into our time. This God who isn't some far off distant God who created everything wounded up and set it off to say... Let's see what happens. We've got a God who rolled up his sleeves, who came down to earth to live among us as one of us, and to change our time forever. This Kairos time, in the Greek understanding of that, apart from religious things, would be used to describe a weaving loom where they have all of those shuttles going back and forth, and the Kairos time and weaving would have been when it's at that right moment for them to pass that next thread through so that it catches and fills in the pattern as it should.
As I was thinking about this, it reminded me of gym class in elementary school. Our gym teacher had all the different activities we do, but there was a jump-roping segment that we would do each year. He'd have a long jump rope that would be tied off to the end of the bleachers. He'd be sitting there swinging it, and part of it was having to know and understand when it was your time to go. Sometimes he would be spinning it and the goal was just to run under it and not get tangled up. Other times you'd run out there and stop and start jumping. As we spent more time doing this, he'd add a second rope and he'd have one going in each hand and these double ropes, and you'd get out there and... Boy. Talk about a Kairos moment of needing to know when that perfect moment was to enter into that and not get all tangled up in it.
Well, in the New Testament, they began using this idea of kairos, of appointed time to reflect God's time. God's time of when it was right to step forward and say, ‘Yes.’ And to realize that maybe the world is crumbling around you, but God has that time at that moment when things, things will change. But we'll begin to see the hand of God guiding the direction of our lives. Jesus began His message by saying, ‘The time is fulfilled. The Kairos is here. The kingdom of God has come near. So repent and believe the good news.’ In God's time, it's ready. It's time for you to move out of that old world and get ready to step into the next, whatever that means.
Now, for some of us, we are living this collective liminal time of pandemic. And we could sit back and just say, ‘Okay, if we wait this out long enough, surely things are gonna get better.’ But maybe this is a liminal time in which, God didn’t bring about the pandemic, but because our lives have been shaken up a little bit because that old world that we were comfortable and familiar with is kind of crumbling and falling away, what is God revealing in this time? What is God may be leading us to, that we wouldn't have considered before? What opportunities are on the horizon? What direction is God calling and leading you right now?
For the disciples that Jesus called, that calling was definitely an earth-shaking life-shattering moment. It says that he came to Andrew and Simon, they were casting their nets. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me.” And it says, “Immediately, they left their nets and followed Him.” Talk about stepping out of one world and into the next. They go from being fishermen to being disciples of this itinerant traveling Rabbi. And he comes to the next set of fisherman, says they were repairing their nets. And it says immediately he called to them and they left their father and the hired men and followed him. The call of Jesus to follow is an invitation to leave the old behind and to step into the new, to step into something that maybe we could not have ever envisioned before.
In our Bible study this week, we've looked at a second passage that kind of parallels this a little bit. It's Paul speaking in 1 Corinthians 7-29, he says, “I mean this, brothers and sisters, the appointed time has grown short from now, and let even those who have wives be as though they had none. And those who mourn as though they were not morning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no possessions, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.” Paul says that Kairos time has grown short. I don't think he means that God's time is running out or about to expire. I think he says that ‘Folks, the world is changing. We can sit around and wait, but you know what, maybe you need to be as if you weren't connected to the world anymore.’ Because he says, ‘This present form of the world is passing away.’ I don't know what that means or looks like for us right now, but I do know that our world has and continues to change. I know that there are a lot of things that have been unsettling for so many people: the political landscape, the economic landscape, even what this vaccine and the months ahead look like as maybe...we don't have to be as concerned about it.
But in the midst of this, the bigger question is, what is God doing? Or more specifically, what is God calling you to be and to do at this moment? Maybe it's a reorientation of priorities. Maybe it's a valuing of things that we took for granted. Maybe it's realizing that the time that we have is limited and valuable and precious, and to make the most of it. Whatever it is that God is calling us to as a congregation or as individuals, trust that God has a plan, that God has a vision for what you can be and what you can do to participate in the work of His kingdom. God's Kairos time isn't always easy to see, but when we're there, we'll know it. Our lives have many moments that we experience, where we move from one stage into the next. Sometimes we have a plan, sometimes we have clarity, and sometimes we don't. But through all of it, may we trust in the God who invites, who calls and gives us the opportunity to be a part of his work. May we discover the blessings. Friends, it's about the time. It's about the time that God gives us, but more importantly, it is about time that we commit ourselves to Him once again and trust in His plan.