Time is strange. Really strange. Surely the march of time is completely universal, a grand equaliser, no matter what it passes for everybody at the same rate. Of course it doesn’t feel like that — in any given moment it can fly, drag, leap, stand still, spool backwards, and skip forward… Our experience of time passing is so fluid and subjective, dependent on our circumstances…
But then, maybe in our experiences we are on to something as it turns out that physicists like Carlo Rovelli suggest that actually time isn’t a fixed external constant in the first place. It’s not the same everywhere and for everyone. For instance Rovelli explains in his book The Order of Time that time goes faster at high altitude than at sea level: “Two friends separate, with one of them living in the plains and the other going to live in the mountains. They meet up again years later: the one who has stayed down has lived less, aged less, the mechanism of his cuckoo clock has oscillated fewer times. He has had less time to do things, his plants have grown less, his thoughts have had less time to unfold … Lower down, there is simply less time than at altitude.” Time is affected by gravity! Oh and also by the speed we are moving as precise measurements have shown it slows down the faster we go.
So time is pretty strange concept at the best of times. But then it gets weirder. Our whole experience of feeling time pass, of it flowing, could be more down to how we ourselves process reality than an external, objective ‘time’. What is ‘now’ for each of us is determined by how we interpret what is coming at us and that takes time for us to process. It turns out there is a lot we still don’t know about how time works.
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Part 1: Mornings
Are you a morning person or a night person? Lark or night owl? Or neither? Maybe you’re a midday person!
What time of day do you tend to pray? Do you pray about different things in the morning and in the evening?
Read Genesis 1: 14-19
Day after day after day…
Why not 24/7 dazzling light? Why have days and nights with different light levels?
Read Mark 5: 21-43
Waking up the next day…
What happened next do you think for the suffering girl and the suffering woman after their encounters with Jesus? What was their first thought on waking up the next day do you think?
Read Lamentations 3: 22-33
What are the mercies, the little things, that are new each morning that you are grateful for in your life?
Part 2: Year on year
Our phones and social media accounts often have a startling feature when they send you a notification out of the blue to show you a picture from this very date X numbers of years ago. Suddenly in the middle of your day you are confronted with where you were and what you were doing in yesteryear however profound or mundane. How does it make you feel? And how do you feel generally when looking at old pictures?
Read Ezekiel 2: 1-5
A prophet for this generation…
Who are the prophets speaking to the years we are living through now? What are the timeless messages God’s people need to year and what are the timely messages that we need to hear in 2021?
Read Mark 6: 1-6
Time doesn’t stand still…
…and neither did Jesus’s ministry. When he came to Nazareth Jesus didn’t have a hometown advantage, he was in fact undermined by the folk who had known him before, who wanted to put limits on who he could be in their mind.
What’s your relationship like with your hometown? Is it where you live now, or do you now live somewhere else? How have you, and it, changed over the years?
What is your prayer for your hometown?
Read Philippians 3: 7-16
Whatever the years have brung…
We can learn from our experiences but we are not bound by them. Reflection can be helpful but our God of mercy and love does not want us to be trapped under the weight of the past. Our God has a better prize in mind than melancholy or nostalgia. In God’s tender love there is a home for all of us no matter where we have come or what we have been through.
What does the prize that Paul talks about here — the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus — mean to you today?
Part 3: Seconds
As a group, or individually, start a stopwatch running and look away. Then look back when you think exactly 60 seconds have passed… How close did you get?
What is your relationship like with time? Always too much or never enough? How good are you generally at judging it? Do you tend to lose track or are you someone who generally has a good idea what time it is even when you haven’t looked at a clock recently? Do you tend to run late or early?
Read 2 Samuel 6: 12-19
In the moment…
David was entirely in the zone — completely present, second to second, worshipping God. He was in his flow state dancing with all his might.
When do you feel completely in the zone and immersed? A flow state where everything seems to click. It could be on the pitch, up a mountain, on the dance floor, or mortar and pestle in hand in the kitchen. It doesn’t have to be ‘worship’ in a conventional sense — but is there a way in which God is present with you in that activity or that you could invite God to join you in appreciating it?
Read Ephesians 1: 3-14
This very instant…
Right here, right now, in the seconds passing this instance we are connected to the great span of eternity through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit! What do you make of that? How does it make you feel about the rest of your day?
Read Matthew 26: 47-56
Let’s try and get into the mindset of Jesus. With divine knowledge and human vulnerability he experienced the passage of time as we do, second by second, knowing he couldn’t just summon angels to rescue him in the blink of an eye. What on earth must that have been like for him?
Part 4: All History
In the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth — divinity burst into history in a moment of extraordinary love that stands outside of time… resonating forever…. and ever… and ever…
Before we carry on — what do you think are some of the other most significant events in history?
Read Colossians 1: 15-20
What does it mean, do you reckon, that ‘all things’ hold together through Jesus?
Read Ecclesiastes 3: 9-15
Nothing new under the sun…
These ancient words give us an interesting perspective on time. We tend to think of time in a straightforward line but God is outside of the constrains of time as we know it. The poetic phrase in verse 15: “That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already is; and God seeks out what has gone by.” gives us a glimpse of an alternative way of looking at history as God might, from above rather than in the midst of it. It also sounds eerily like how contemporary physicists sometimes talk about the uncanny nature of time!
What’s it like to have a relationship with God, with someone who is outside of our conception of time?
Read John 1: 1-5, Luke 6: 27-31, John 19: 28-30 and Hebrews 13: 8
Yesterday / today / forever
The Word at the heart of the universe as it was spoken into being, the vagabond teacher turning the world upside down, the beloved friend who gave up his life in the ultimate gesture of love and sacrifice, the person we can speak to now… Jesus has always been, and always will be, there for us.
What do you like most about Jesus?
Part 5: Time’s Gonna Tell
They say time is a healer and they also say that laughter is the best medicine! Are there times in your life that were stressful and hard as you were going through them but that you can now look back at and laugh, or smile with fondness for who you used to be and what you have come through? How has God been with you through the laughter and the tears?
Read Ephesians 3: 14-21
God’s love isn’t available for a trial period, there isn’t an initial offer window, there isn’t an expiry date, there isn’t a cancellation fee, there isn’t a fair usage limit. It’s huge. It’s truly, truly huge. We’re used to looking for a catch, for the rug that will get pulled from under our feet. But Paul’s saying no, this love is bigger than our fear, our doubt, our suspicion.
There’s a funny bit in the text where he urges that the reader might comprehend and know what he then says is beyond knowledge! Why then should we strive to know something that’s unknowable? (And what’s the ‘fullness of God’ anyway?)
Read Psalm 14 and John 6: 1-15
Fast food vs. slow food…
Eugene Peterson’s The Message renders verse 4 like so:
“Don’t they know anything,
all these predators?
Don’t they know
they can’t get away with this—
Treating people like a fast-food meal
over which they’re too busy to pray?"
Contrasting with the callous ‘fast-food’ of the predators in Psalm 14, we read in John’s gospel about some nourishing ‘slow food’. Thanks is thoughtfully given for the food and it is painstakingly shared out until all are full and there are even leftovers.
What can we do to work together towards a society and economy where other people are seen as a blessing able to nourish us, rather than as something expendable to use up and cast aside?
Read Mark 1: 14-15
The very Kingdom of God has drawn near and it is Good News!
How can we share this Good News today?
In the introduction video above Laura suggests that saying, meaning, and living the Lord's Prayer is a great way to share the Good News. You may choose to end your Connect time by speaking the words of The Lord's Prayer aloud.