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Getting Along with Time

Getting Along with Time

Mar 03, 2019

Preacher: The Reverend Andrew Van Kirk


Growing up, my grandparents, on my mom’s side, lived in a white two story house on a cul-de-sac in a 1970’s era subdivision on the outskirts of a small town in northeastern Maryland. To the back of their house were woods; not quite as big a Christopher Robin’s, but big enough. To the left of their house was — well, another house, but then on the other side of that there was a cornfield. The subdivision only had two roads; they intersected at a ‘T’. And there at the ‘T’ there was an empty lot. During daytime of the warm summers I spent there, the lot didn’t look like much: low brush, weeds, and tall grasses — like Mother Nature had gotten a cheap haircut and now was having a bad hair day.

But at night in the summers, just after the sun went down, this little open space lit up with thousands of fireflies. They were like the stars of heaven, twinkling on and off against the blackness of the empty lot. And if you looked from just the right angle, you couldn’t even see the rest of the subdivision — just the darkness, lit up with a million points of light. It felt magical.

As a kid, of course, my response was to capture the fireflies; to save the moment somehow. My sister and brother and I would say something to the effect of, “It is good for us to be here; let us capture three fireflies, one for me, one for her, and one of him.” But of course, capturing fireflies never works the way you want. For a little while it’s kind of neat; and then they stop flashing. Or they die. It was impossible to capture the brilliance, the awe inspiring magnificence of that vision in the lot. Today, I cherish the memory of the field of fireflies, not the moments they met their mortal end in my mason jars.

Maybe you’ve had a similar firefly experience; but even if not I’m sure you can think of some moment in your life that you wanted to capture; to make last forever. Some moment when you wished nothing more than for time to stop slippin, slippin, slippin into the future.

Fields of fireflies are really table stakes in this game. What about the first time you held your spouse; the time you felt God’s love wash over you in prayer; the perfect Christmas morning; the sunrise at the beach; when your three year old crawled into your bed at dawn just to tell you she loved you; that moment in high school where your body was strong and anything was possible. When you thought if I could just bottle this moment, I’d be happy for ever.

The disciples had such a moment on the mountain of the Transfiguration. But their lightning bugs they were a little big for a mason jar. So instead Peter offered to capture them in dwellings, in tents. Jesus, glowing brightly with the dazzlingly white divine light; Moses and Elijah next to him in their heavenly robes.

I wish we had a record of Moses’ and Elijah’s reaction to Peter’s suggestion, “Master, it is good for us to be here...let us construct three makeshift tents.” Moses and Elijah live in the heavenly abodes, right!? Maybe we have no record because they didn’t say anything. Just looked at him real funny. “Ummm...no.”

Peter doesn’t speak up until Moses and Elijah are starting to leave leaving. It is then, just as the moment begins to pass, just as time moves on, that Peter reaches out to try to capture it, to stop it from going away. And of course he does. Think about this moment: Jesus is revealed before Peter and James and John in all his heavenly glory. There is, for this moment, no doubt in their minds that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God. Moses is there; Elijah is there — the law and the prophets. All their tradition, all their faith, their history is represented before them, in person, visible to the naked eye. The light of God is shining into their eyes.

This magic moment. Outside of maybe seeing the resurrected Jesus, is there any Biblical story you’d rather have the chance to be an eyewitness of? This answers — at least for the moment — all the questions, every nagging doubt. It’s beautiful, it’s awe inspiring, it’s good. It is good for them to be there.

But it’s not good to try fight time. We have to learn to get along with time. Now I am going to go ahead and acknowledge that I am not super great about getting along with time. I’ve been noticing that I’m getting less young lately. I am neither asking nor expecting your sympathy. Maybe you’ve noticed a similar “getting less young” phenomenon happen in your own life? And, I also can’t say I’m totally thrilled about the gray hair.

We can’t pause time; we can’t go back in time; we can’t resurrect our youth. And Peter, James and John never got to go back to the mountain of the Transfiguration.

And good thing too, because that mountain was not the mountain of our salvation. Had Peter gotten his wish, had he somehow been able to stop things there, we would all be lost. For the world wasn’t saved on that mountain, the world was saved on another mountain. One called Golgotha. And on that mountain there were no dazzling clothes. There was no Moses on one side of Jesus and Elijah on the other. There was just a cross and a criminal on one side of Jesus and a criminal on the other.

Actually, if you pay close attention to the Transfiguration story, this event, the Cross, this the thing Jesus and Moses and Elijah were talking about. Verse 31: they “were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish in Jerusalem.” His departure in Jerusalem: the one where he departs through the gate in the city walls with a cross laid on his back to save the world.

Jesus didn’t bring Peter and James and John up the top of that mountain with him so that they could dwell there forever. He brought them to fill them up for what was to come, to feed them what they’d need to get the work of salvation yet to be done.

Every gift of God, every good moment like this, is meant in some way to to help bring us ever closer to our salvation, to give us what we need to take the next step, to get along with time, to keep going where we’re going, to the ultimate gift God gives us, the fullness of ourselves in him. These moments are meant to remind us of the greatness of God’s glory and love, when later the present in which find ourselves at some later point offers us no glimpse. Peter, James and John had the light of God shine into their hearts that day so that when they found themselves in darkness, that light was still in their hearts. The bright peaks along the path of life provide encouragement to keep going when we’re trudging through the valleys of shadow.

For Peter and James and John, the glory of vision of the Transfiguration gave way to the harrowing vision of the suffering savior on the Cross. And don’t we also know, all too well, how those perfect moments in our own life give way to other moments. The first time you held your spouse gives way to the first time you have a fight. The time you felt God’s love wash over you in prayer passes, and then you come to the time where you can’t seem to find God anywhere. The perfect Christmas morning gives way to the Christmas morning when all the family is elsewhere and the only present you get is a vacuum. The sunrise at the beach gives way to the hurricane. The three year old who came into your bed just to tell you she loved you becomes the seventeen year-old that slams the door yelling, “I hate you.” And that moment in high school where your body was strong and anything in life was possible becomes that moment in the hospital when you body is weak and you can’t even get up.

Time though, is not the enemy. Cause we’re going somewhere. With each passing moment, each march step of time, the good and the bad, we are brought ever nearer the fullness of our own salvation, the eternal state where we see Christ as he is, as he appeared in that moment up on the mountain before Peter, James and John. So we press on. Rather than the enemy, time is the highway to our home. So try to get along with time.

Yes. There are moments where we say, “it is good for us to be here.” That far, Peter was right. But our life is not made up of moments to be captured in a mason jar, but out of the time we spend living it, and, eternally speaking, the end we make of it. Go ahead and get along with time; be grateful for your mountain top moments, but then come on down and into the world where each next step is one closer to your heavenly home.