Enticed: By Hurry - Rev. Louis Timberlake

Enticed: By Hurry
Luke 13:31-33
Louis Timberlake
February 21, 2016

31 At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” 32 He said to them, “Go and tell that fox for me,[a] ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. 33 Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.’

During the holidays, growing up, one of my family’s rituals was to set out a puzzle. We’d find a super difficult, 1000+ piece jigsaw puzzle and work on it throughout the holidays. I love puzzles. I’ve always loved puzzles. I can sit and work on a puzzle for hours. I particularly love the 3D puzzles. Have you seen those? The foam ones of a castle or the Titanic or the Eiffel Tower? Those are the best. The problem is, they’re so expensive. I mean, who can justify spending over $30 on a puzzle!? But, I’d get them as presents from time to time as a kid and then disappear for a day. I also love riddles, which are basically just mental puzzles. One of my favorite riddles, which I heard for the first time on a mission trip in Juarez, Mexico, goes like this.

There are two places on the surface of the earth where you can walk a mile south, a mile east, and a mile north and end up at the same place you started. For the sake of the riddle, forget geography. And pretend you’re Jesus and can walk on the ocean. Two places. A mile south, a mile east, and a mile north and you end up at your starting point. The first one is pretty easy. The second one--not so much.

Of course, now that I’ve begun the sermon with a riddle, you’re going to be thinking about the riddle the rest of the time, instead of the sermon.

If you’ve read The Hobbit or seen the movie, you may remember that scene when Bilbo meets Gollum and they have an exchange of riddles. I know that Bilbo is the good guy, but I love Gollum’s riddles. There’s a poetry to them. His last one is just awesome. It goes like this:

This thing all things devours:
Birds, beasts, trees, flowers;
Gnaws iron, bites steel;
Grinds hard stones to meal;
Slays king, ruins town,

And beats high mountain down.

If you’ve read it, seen it, or are just plain smart, you know the answer. Time. Which is our topic for today. Time. We’re talking about time today. The ironic thing is that many of us probably feel like we don’t have enough time to talk about time. Some of us might feel like we’re in a constant struggle against time. It just keeps slipping away, and before we know it, it’s gone. There’s never enough time.

This is a fascinating passage. It’s basically a riddle. This morning, we want to try to unpack the riddle, at least as it relates to time. Let me read for you again a part of the passage. “He said to them, “Go and tell that fox for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.’”

I love Jesus’ response. The Pharisees, who are not His friends, come to tell Him that Herod is out to kill Him and He responds, “go tell him that I’ve got stuff to do, I’m not worried about him yet. I’ll get there when I get there.” He’s saying here, “Herod doesn’t set my schedule. Herod doesn’t control the way I use my time.”

What sets your schedule? What controls the way you use your time?

We have an interesting relationship with time. Sometimes, we fight it. We do whatever we can to stave it off. We try to limit its effects on us. On our minds. On our bodies. On our abilities. You know, the strange thing is that, when we struggle against time, we end up more focused on the past and on the future than on the present. When we become too caught up in what was and what might be, we lose sight of what is. We stop living in the present moment.

My favorite set of poems is TS Eliot’s Four Quartets. There’s a stanza from the first poem in the Quartets, Burnt Norton, that goes like this:

Time past and time future
Allow but a little consciousness.

To be conscious is not to be in time
But only in time can the moment in the rose-garden,
The moment in the arbour where the rain beat,

The moment in the draughty church at smokefall
Be remembered; involved with past and future.
Only through time time is conquered.

Now, I’m sure some physicists would argue with me, but what is time but a collection of moments? What are our lives but a series of moments? “Time past and time future allow but little consciousness. To be conscious is not to be in time.”  And the invisible line there, the hanging implication is, to be conscious is to be in the moment. To live is to be in the moment.

The poem mentions the moment in the rose garden. How often do we slow down enough to pay attention to things like the smell and beauty of flowers?

It mentions the moment in the arbour where the rain beat.

Have you ever been outdoors in a summer rain? There’s a simple joy in that moment. Or, in a building with a tin roof, where the sound of raindrops is amplified. There’s a certain peace to it.

It mentions the moment in the draughty church at smokefall. Or, in 21st century English, the drafty church at nightfall. Have you ever had the chance to sit in a quiet, still sanctuary at dusk, as the light slowly wanes? Stillness is not something we experience much these days.

There’s a difference in existing in the present moment and truly being in the present moment. You know what I mean, don’t you? When you are truly present, you have this heightened awareness. There’s a sense of gratitude. A depth of being.

What is life but a series of moments? And yet, if we live in the moments that have been and the moments that might be, we cease to be present in the moment that is. All we have, right now, is this moment. And yet, we live as if the present is simply the bridge between the past and the future.

Let’s read a part of that passage again:

He said to them, “Go and tell that fox for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.’

There’s a lot going on in that passage, but did you listen to what Jesus is saying about time? “Today, this is where I am. Today, this is what I am doing. This is the present moment. What will come, will come. I cannot avoid it. Today, tomorrow, or the next day, the time is irrelevant, because the moment will come. The moment of trial will come. The moment of the cross will come. The moment of the tomb will come. And, the moment of resurrection will come. But, this is the present moment. With these people, in this place.”

How do you cherish this moment?

And, how do you cherish every present moment that will come after this one?

We talk about stewardship in church, which is the idea that we have all been given things by God–abilities, blessings, opportunities. And, we talk about stewardship of our time. But, maybe we should talk about stewardship of the moment. There’s a difference. Stewardship of time makes us think of time as a commodity, as something we allocate, based upon our priorities. But, what is different about stewardship of the moment? You don’t allocate a moment; you exist within it, you feel it, you struggle with it, you cherish it. How might our experience of the world change? How might our relationships with others change? How might our relationship with God change, if we were stewards of the moment?

If our lives are but a series of moments, then each moment has value. Each moment is not just something to be used. It’s not just a bridge between the moments that were and the moments that might be. Each moment has value. It’s a gift, a blessing. So, as we continue through this season of Lent, a season during which we pay attention to those things in our lives that aren’t right, that separate us from God and from each other. As we continue through this season, may we consider the moments. May we recognize their value. May we be good stewards of them. And may we be present.

Discussion Questions

  • Did you figure out the answer to the riddle?
  • What influences the way you use time?
  • Do you ever feel like you’re locked in a struggle against time? In what ways?
  • Do you ever find yourself dwelling more on the past and the future than on the present? Explain.
  • What does it mean to live in the moment or to be fully present?
  • What does it mean to be stewards of the moment?
  • How could you become a better steward of the moment?