Telling Time (July)

James Cathcart June 27, 2021 0

July 2021 (27 June - 31 July). See the Resource Pack PDF for information on the weekly subthemes and the daily prompts and Bible readings which shape our Daily Worship. See the Discussion Group Questions PDF to see the material adapted for small Connect groups or personal Bible study.

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.

Apparently when you look at the big picture of general relativity or the microscopic picture of quantum theory there isn’t a straightforward universal ‘time’ like we tend to think of it, time is richer and weirder than that. At one point Rovelli describes time beautifully and confusingly like so: “It has a different rhythm in every different place and passes here differently from there. The things of this world interweave dances made to different rhythms.”

It’s fair to say it’s mind melting stuff…

But this past year and a half has given each of us new insights into the mysteries of time. For some of us it has run very fast lived at a frenetic pace, while for many 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 lockdowns has been a mix of all three, racing, freezing and dawdling.

Time has not always gone in a straight line either. Sometimes the changes 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.

Each month at Sanctuary First we come to the Bible with our questions, our longings and our hopes. We open ourselves up anew to what these ancient words are saying to us today in the very midst of our lives now (whenever that is…). This month we want to tackle time itself. It’s that gap that lies between how the Bible came about and now. Between the creation of everything and the end of this sentence. Between Christ’s ultimate gesture of love and sacrifice and our heartfelt prayers today. These gaps can seem colossal… but our God is outside of time. God can reach through our experience of time unfolding and find us right here, right now. The Bible is a whirlwind, a library of books that bursts into history and reverberates continually. The Cross is a profound event that resonates for all time. In the passing of an instant we can brush close to eternity. The Kingdom is at hand.

So over these summer days, which stretch out longer up in Scotland, we are going to be meditating on time. We will be thinking about what it means to live through time, how we can begin to access a reality beyond time, and what our experience of time can tell us about the wonder and generosity of God.

As they say, time will tell.


Each week of the five week theme runs Sunday-Saturday and has its own subtheme, which contains daily Bible readings and thought triggers (see the Resource Pack PDF for more information). See the Discussion Group Questions PDF to see the material adapted for personal Bible study or small Connect groups.

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