Published 10/25/17 in the November edition of Grace Notes.
I am a fan of various forms of science fiction literature, television, and movies. One important part of the genre is the science of time. Some franchises call it temporal mechanics, others a form of physics’ string theory, while others just ignore scientific terminology completely and call it a day. Naming conventions aside, almost all science fiction understands that there are consequences that result from messing with time. The butterfly effect, temporal paradoxes, alternative realities, parallel universes, they are all generally considered dangerous and, as a result, the timeline is best regarded from a safe and hands-off distance.
But time, the string of individual moments that bring us to the present and will propel us into the future, is not a fictional construct on the page or screen. Time is a part of every aspect of our lives. Our bodies physically change over time. Cultures shift over time. Traditions are traditions because they stand the test of time. Change is sometimes difficult because we can remember a time when things were easier. We don’t have enough time. We have too much time. I didn’t get there in time. We find ourselves echoing something like Martha’s plea in John 11:21 perhaps more often than we care to admit. If only you had been here…in time…things would be different.
I was again reminded of the flow of time as I listened to Pastor Sherman Hicks’ presentation on racism in October. When speaking about the nefarious structures of culture and society that undergird systematic racism he reminded listeners that we did not get to this point in a day, and that it would take more than a day to undo. A salient point. Racism did not just pop into existence one day. Likewise, it will take more than a single rally or protest for social justice and equality to be the norm. So, what are we to do? What is anyone to do?
We are gifted with continued opportunities to live into our baptismal calls to work for justice and peace.
Keep on keeping on. Use time as an ally. Use time as an advantage. If the march of time is going to keep ticking by as it always has, then we are gifted with continued opportunities to live into our baptismal calls to work for justice and peace. We have the time to strive for unity and understanding even when brokenness and blame seems easier. We have the time to say to those elected to represent us that their jobs are to work for the best for all people under their care, not just the privileged few. We have the time to reach out to those who look different from us and remind one another of that which is the same between us – a shared humanity, a shared creator. There is always time.
Protestants around the world have, are, and will continue to mark a point in time 500 years ago. What took Luther only a few seconds, nailing paper to a church door, has had lasting repercussions for the wider church – some positive and, indeed, some negative. The fact that we still celebrate and mark our specifically Lutheran heritage in this way reminds us that re-formation is always a part of our lives. God is constantly reforming our hearts and minds, consistently reorienting us towards Kingdom goals and away from worldly ones, lovingly shepherding us through the valleys of the shadows of death into the marvelous light of grace, truth, unity, and hope. Thanks be to God, there is always time for that, too.
The -isms of the world did not magically appear one day. They will take more than a day to disappear. But still we try. We fight the good fight – and fighting racism, sexism, ageism, ableism, and every other -ism is a good fight – secure in the sure and certain hope that time is on our side.
Isaac Watts wrote it well, “O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come, still be our guard while troubles last and our eternal home.”