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Walking in Newness
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August 29, 2014

September 2014
Sharon Gallagher

Each fall when daylight savings time ends, the evening darkness seems to come too early. Last year I said something about this to a friend who said, “This is God’s time.”  He meant that Daylight Savings Time is somehow unnatural and Standard Time is closer to the natural order of things. This was surprising to me. I've always considered clocks, months, the 40- hour workweek, time zones, etc., to be human constructs. We're time-bound in a way God is not.

My thoughts about “God’s time” have been strongly influenced by Madeleine L’Engle. In her book Walking on Water, L’Engle writes about the difference between Chronos and Kairos time. Chronos is our human time, ordinary time. Kairos is something beyond that, a connection with the eternal, or we might say “God’s time.” L’Engle often found that when her writing was going especially well, she experienced Kairos.

Prayer, worship, and meditation are other ways we may enter Kairos.Many people experience it in nature. We may also enter Kairos through experiencing art: by looking at a painting or listening to music.

A few years ago I was traveling with my mother through New England and the east coast of Canada.We were on a “Fall Color” tour but that year it was too early for color: There were no red and gold trees, but we did see some interesting little towns. In one of them, Sydney, Nova Scotia, we were walking through a neighborhood where old houses had been preserved, not grand, but little working class houses. Women and men dressed in Colonial garb served as tour guides.

As we walked toward a picturesque church, a docent invited us inside where we joined a few other tourists. There was an old piano near the front of the church and one of the tourists sat down and began to play. We settled in a pew to listen and then, of course, my mother started singing along, so I did too. And moments later I could hear the docent and her husband singing in the pew behind us. The woman’s playing wasn’t great and her repertoire was limited. After she’d played the few hymns she knew she began playing Christmas carols and we sang them too. When she finished playing, the docent walked up and said “thank you” and hugged her.

Then I turned around and saw that while we’d been singing, the church had filled with people, there must have been 30 of us. Most were sitting in the pews and some were kneeling in prayer.

I realized how drawn people are to worship and what a gift it is to offer it, whatever our limitations may be. We had been transformed from slightly bored tourists poking around another old building to a community, united in worship, entering Kairos together.

These moments can’t be scheduled. But when we do find ourselves experiencing Kairos at New College Berkeley gatherings, we are grateful. Our fall programs are beginning now, and you are invited to join us as we open our hearts in God’s time. 

 

Posted on August 29, 2014 at 9:21 PM
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August 1, 2014

Russell Yee

Recently a friend told me he no longer considered himself a Christian. His reasons were understandable--deep disappointments with God and heartbreakingly unanswered prayers, but meanwhile he’s in a busy and fulfilling season of grad school and work. His plan was to try to do good in the world without churchgoing or his former faith commitments.

As a bumper sign I saw put it: “Doing good is my religion.” The world is full of ways to be community-minded and neighborly, to be kind and generous to the needy, to create beauty, to care for the environment, and to do professional and volunteer work that promotes the common good. We indeed don’t need God to tell us the good we can do. So why do we need God?

Last week I went to a memorial service for a Christian friend who passed away in his 50’s, of cancer. The stories were fully heartwarming and inspiring: an admirable and winsome life as a caring family man, beloved dentist (patients invited him to their birthday parties), respected community leader, and tireless church volunteer. Strikingly, he had several truly close men friends who shared at the service, with tear-filled memories going back to childhood.

I thought to myself: If such a man needed a Savior from his sins, surely the rest of us do too.

One of my favorite G. K. Chesterton quotes is, unfortunately, probably apocryphal. It’s said a British newspaper posed the question, “What’s wrong with the world?” and Chesterton replied simply, “I am.” Chesterton specialists with digitized archives have searched in vain for the exchange (though Chesterton does have a 1910 book with that title, which I borrow for this essay). Regardless, I can simply state it myself: What’s wrong the world? I am.

What’s wrong with the world is not just “out there” and fixable with better schools and more jobs. Bernie Madoff had a fine education and a great job. He defrauded others of billions seemingly for nothing more than his own ego needs for admiration. Guess what—I have those same ego needs. Foibles differ from criminality more by degree than by kind, more by circumstance and opportunities than by inner substance. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked—who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) As one of C. S. Lewis’ poems confesses, “All this is flashy rhetoric about loving you / I never had a selfless thought since I was born.”

So what’s wrong with the world is also wrong with me. What’s is wrong with organized religion at its worst, Vladimir Putin, the pimps and drug dealers in my church’s neighborhood, identity thieves, environmental criminals, and people who don’t use their turn signals is also wrong with me. I am a carbon emitter with every breath. There is no escape via private spirituality, philanthropy (Madoff was a charitable work titan), new tech stuff, or good government. There is no escape from the human condition.

I am thankful for people who, like my post-Christian friend, try to do good in the world. I wish there were more people like him. A real measure of suffering and evil can be obviated by good works. Nevertheless, I hope for him the same thing I hope for myself: to come to the end of oneself, to have somewhere to turn when we fail to do the good we know to do, to find grace after we hurt those we love, to have someone who can face the darkest parts of our hearts, and to have a meaningful hope that our longing for a different, better world is not in vain.

Russell Yee is the author of Worship on the Way. He teaches at Fuller Northern California and St. Mary’s College, and has taught at New College Berkeley on approaches to worship. An Oakland native and resident, he is a member of New Hope Covenant Church.

Posted on August 1, 2014 at 10:44 AM
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