Time to reflect on time

JamesC July 29, 2020 0

Time is a strange concept at the moment. For some of us it has run very fast lived at a frantic pace for the last several months. For many of us these have been some of the slowest months of our lives. For others time has been stopped altogether by heartbreak, loss of employment or grief. For most of us perhaps life through lockdown has been a mix of all three.

Time has not just gone in a straight line either. Sometimes we have found the change in our routines have made us rewind to a different, perhaps simpler time. Or we have been fast forwarding to a transformed future, utopian or dystopian depending on the day. If time can go sideways it has done that too giving us a glimpse of alternative realities: socially, economically and ecologically.

Time has definitely been strange at the moment. But time itself is pretty strange at the best of times. According to physicists like Carlo Rovelli our experience of feeling time pass is more down to how we process reality than an external objective universal ‘time’ that flows at the same rate for everyone. Apparently when you look at the very big picture of general relativity or the microscopic picture of quantum theory there isn’t a straightforward constant ‘time’. It’s mind melting stuff I only have the faintest grasp on.

We live life in one direction but that’s because we are on the tracks — not in the signal box or  at the depot or looking down at the whole space-time route map. Our theme this past month Best Laid Plans has sought to explore what we do when life doesn’t go how we expected it to (to continue the metaphor: when the train gets delayed, derailed, or decommissioned) and how that affects our relationship with God. Our month concludes with these words from Romans 8: 38-29:

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Nothing in where we have come from or where we are going can separate us from the Love of God. The invitation stands open. God is outside of time but in time to meet us. Our Creator weaves space-time in the realm of general relativity and the Spirit is a mechanic through the quanta of subatomic reality and the Son sits with us here in this moment right now, experiencing time as we do from breathtaking moment to breathtaking moment.

When we participate in Communion we step out of the usual run of time and join with others who have been, and who are yet to be, in a heavenly feast that doesn’t recognise limits: temporal, geographical or otherwise. Baptism is another moment outside the usual order of time when we embrace a deeper reality that we glimpse through a moment of time but is timeless.

Sometimes time feels like a mess — stretching listless into the horizon before abruptly running out when a deadline approaches. We can feel ahead of our time, out of time and timed out. Sometimes we long for a past that never was or a future that can never be.

But time is also beautiful; it is the stuff of language and music and love — the soup we swim in right now as we muddle through together as our hearts race and soar and skip and beat. We are left trusting time to the timekeeper and not borrowing tomorrow’s concerns for today.

Whatever plans have been cancelled, postponed, shelved, abandoned, reworked or adapted in this crazy year — nothing can separate you from the love of God. 

And so we pray:

Lord of all time and all times
we come before you to marvel at your grace
which is somehow
just in time
and yet 
has time enough
may your name be honoured and blessed.

Creator of all, it is hard for us to grasp
but from first to last
you stand outside of time
and yet you are in time to love us.

It is time to synchronise watches
setting ourselves to your time
In your presence
whenever we gather to worship
wherever we are
we are making time
not marking time.

In these strange times
we are finding
more than ever
that time is fluid
it rushes
it stops
it spools forward and back
as we remember days before
and anticipate days to come
but in each second
you are near
you can be felt
you can be heard —
a timeless Word
a timely Word
and the Word
that was in the beginning…

and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
The Word
that was and is a moment of time
waves in a moment
over in an instant
and never ending
reaching ever out
ever laudable 
the first Word of the universe still audible.

So we draw close to you
in the midst of this strange time
of latency and glitches
missed moments and dropped stitches
where time is down, 
time is sideways
time is all around
Time is up.
time is narrow in a single breath
and infinitely wide
Because time is on our side.


James Cathcart