[Chancel Drama Opening]
“Excuse me? Do you have the time?” “What? It’s 10:45 already? I’ve got places to go, people to see, errands to run and a TV show to catch this evening. I need to get all these things done so I can relax tonight. But first, first, I need to get to lunch though! Oh, if I wait another hour there’s going to be a wait at the Olive Garden! Can this thing take any longer? I’m on a schedule! Time is short!”
“What’s that?” “Oh, really? When did it happen? Yeah, yeah I knew him well. We talked a lot. He was such a nice man, always took time to talk to me before worship. I just talked to him last week. You said, last night right? His family was there right? Good. I can’t believe he’s gone so fast. I mean to think one moment I was talking with him about the Super-Bowl and our plans and a week later he’s gone, I mean wow! Time is short!” [Pause, slowly walk as if in thought over to the pulpit].
The grace of Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
Do you have the time? Paul writes in our Epistle lesson this morning, “the appointed time has grown very short!” Last week we meditated on how God’s Word talked about two popular topics, food and sex and how our appetites grow out of control! This week we read about another subject that’s always on our minds, time! Having enough of it, what we are doing with it, how we are spending it, and how slow or how fast it goes by. Needless to say that just as our appetites can grow out of control; time is one more thing we lose control of.
Paul said the “appointed time has grown very short.” Let me ask you, did you pick the appointed time? Have you said a special prayer to God and said, “Lord, the appointed time should be on this date, at this time, when I’m done doing this, this, and this and I have seen this and this and purchased this.”? The fact of the matter is we cannot control time and that is what Paul is bringing up. We cannot postpone the appointed time of our Lord’s return and we cannot convince God otherwise by giving Him a list of our priorities. Instead, God through His Word is calling us to look at His priorities and change our perspective about our time. He’s asking us, “Do you have the time?”
One would first think by reading our Epistle lesson this morning that Paul is telling us to forsake anything that would take our time away from God. He says, “Let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those that buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it.” Was there anything that Paul left out? No spouse, ok that means no children either. No mourning, ok that means not to get too worked about loss and on that note we shouldn’t even get worked up about sin in the world. No rejoicing, ooh that means no music or entertainment or birthdays and even no worship. No, buying? What am I going to eat? No dealings with the world. I guess I’ll have to quit my job then.
I guess we can see that if we take Paul’s words to their extreme we’d all be in a heap of trouble. Is Paul calling us to this kind of extreme in our lives? Some would say so. Some say that being unmarried is a holier and more righteous state than being married. Yet, just before this Paul says, “If you do marry, you have not sinned.” In fact, he urges Christians to marry if they can’t control their desire for a spouse. Marriage is a much better state than to be sinfully joining oneself to lust or even worse prostitutes like someone in the Corinthian church did. In the beginning of this chapter he urges husbands and wives to fulfill all their responsibilities to their spouses. Likewise, Paul makes it very clear that remaining in the unmarried state is good since one has more time to devote to the Lord, but this does not make the unmarried person in less of a sinner than the married one. So, why in our text does Paul come to say such extreme things like telling married people to act as if they are unmarried or people who are spending time rejoicing to act is if they have nothing to rejoice over? Paul, is driving in these points to get us to think about our time and priorities. What takes priority in your time? Do you have the time?
Marriages take time. Families take time. Yet, God’s Word makes it very clear that spouses, children, and grandchildren and all our relationships are a gift from God. We can appreciate them as gifts from God, we devote time to our spouse, to our children, to our parents and to our grandchildren. It’s necessary to do so. God has called us to reflect His love and compassion within our families, but what God warns is that our families can become our top priority over and against the appointed time when our Lord Jesus will return.
In the gospel of Matthew a young man approaches Jesus to follow Him, but first says, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus responded to the man and said, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.” You see, this young man’s father likely hadn’t died yet, but rather the young man was more concerned about his obligation to his father than he was to his obligation to God in Jesus Christ. His priorities said, “I don’t yet have the time Jesus.” Jesus is asking him, “Do you have the time?” The time is short; the dead will bury their own dead. That is those who die without Christ will also be spiritually dead. “The appointed time has grown very short.” You could be gone tomorrow. Did you spend time to follow Jesus or did your priorities take up your time?”
Paul also warns us about our possessions and our dealings with the world. He’s asking the tough question of what we spend our time worrying about. Do we worry about our possessions and how we are going to afford them? Do we worry about all our chores and errands and work over against our standing with God? By necessity we have many things that attach us to this world. We need to work for food, clothing, shelter and to provide for our children. We have bills to pay and promises to keep, but do these things get in the way of the one thing that is needful?
Most of us can recall the story of Mary and Martha. Poor Martha running about the house trying to tidy up and cook while her lazy sister just sits there and socializes with their guest. Can’t even the Lord Jesus see her laziness Martha thinks. “Lord make her help me!” she demands. But Jesus answers, “Martha, Martha, you worry about so many things, but only one thing is needful. Mary will receive her reward.” There is only one thing that is needful when in the presence of Jesus, to sit at our Master’s feet and receive from Him.
When we think about these things we can get a little frustrated. Look at all the things that we’re giving up. Maybe following Jesus means I should buy less or maybe it means taking time out of my week and weekend to pray and bring my wife and children to church when I could be sleeping or watching TV. It also means that I have to take a good look at myself and recognize that I’m a sinner, that my priorities aren’t God’s priorities and my life needs some serious rearranging. This life of a Jesus follower, this life of repentance and expecting the appointed time that is near means turning our back on some of our priorities. When we think of it that way though no wonder we get so frustrated, because we haven’t thought about what it is God is turning us toward. Do you have the time? The time to think about it? The time to learn about it? The time to receive it? Or is the clutter of priorities in your life getting in the way.
When I was growing up I collected baseball cards. I loved opening up packs to look for a gem of a rookie card or to get that last card I needed for a set. I also liked to value them. Looking up in the card magazines the prices of my collection so I knew which values to trade and sell them at with my friends.
Once, I was visiting a close family friend’s home with may parents and they were cleaning out their garage. As I was helping and rummaging through some of the clutter I found a few old shoe boxes. Each of them was filled with old dust covered baseball cards. Our friend said, “Oh, those are my old cards. I didn’t realize I still had them.” I asked if I could take a look at them and he said, “Sure, go ahead, keep what you want I was just going to throw them away.” Most of the cards were valueless, players who no one would remember. Some of them were tattered and torn and even bent from being placed in the spokes of his bicycle when he was a kid. I went through them until finally I pulled out one card with a familiar picture and name on it. It was a Roger Maris card from his second season. It was a little dirty, but I was able to clean it off and excited I ran inside to look up its value in one of my magazines I had brought along. It was valued at about $80 to $100! Now it may not seem like much, but if I told you a bunch of old shoe boxes you were throwing out contained $100 I’m sure you’d go diving in to find it! My friend was pleased to give me what I had found and I still have it to this day. If I hadn’t taken the time to look at those boxes it would have just been thrown away to waste away in a dump.
We Christians have been given something far more valuable than any baseball card or possession. We’ve been given a glorious gospel. The forgiveness of sins and the promise of eternal life! Jesus alone is our salvation! You are the priority of His time! He came down and spent time in this world to make you know that you are His top priority and for that reason he died on the cross to forgive you all your sins. This is the most glorious thing we posses. God has given it to us freely and we ought never to get so busy with the other priorities in our life that we neglect it and throw it away with all the clutter of our lives. Just before this passage and as he did last Sunday Paul reminds the Corinthians that they were bought for a price. You also have been bought for a price. The price was the blood of our Lord Jesus. And Jesus is not going to throw you aside or neglect you for other priorities, but He will keep you, His treasured possession that He purchased by his death and resurrection. Even when our priorities get mixed up Jesus says you are my priority and I have the time to save you. I have the time to listen to your needs and to forgive your sins! God has the time and the appointed time is drawing near when He will return and redeem you forever!
[Chancel Drama Closing]
“What’s that? Yeah, you’re right I was saying that I have somewhere to be. I’m just taking in the news. It’s hard to think about; I mean he had more life to live! What’s that? I know we’ll see him again! I guess its times like these that I’m so glad I’m here. I mean every week I’m here and it doesn’t seem like much, sometime I’m so rushed, I’m always racing against the clock; I take what God gives us for granted you know? We’ll see our friend again! With Jesus! That’s awesome to think about isn’t it? That’s awesome to really know. You know? When it’s my time Jesus is going to be there and one day He’ll return and raise all of us. You know, that appointed time that is drawing near thing that Pastor was talking about the other day! We’ll see Jesus together, because He has saved us! What’s that? Oh, yeah lunch? Let’s not worry about that right now, there’s plenty of time to eat. [Sit down on steps of chancel]. I’m going to take some time to listen to what Jesus has to say! Do you have the time?”
Now may the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
SDG-Rev. Eric M. Estes (Epiphany 3-B 2009)