Sunday, November 4, 2012

Fall back Sunday sermon

I haven't had a sermon I wanted to post in a while.  I think this one is good.

Mark 12:28-34
(The Greatest Commandment)
Nov. 4, 2012

Daylight Savings Time is over.   Did you enjoy your extra hour of time?  I spent most of mine trying to figure out how to set the clock in my car.  Poof.  Gone. 

Switching between daylight savings and regular old Central Standard Time is kind of a great thing - in that it reminds us that how we measure time is something that we can decide.

I got to thinking about how humans measure time and found out some pretty great stuff:

Treating time as malleable - something we can stretch or shorten or shift around to suit us - is not new by any means.  Daylight Savings Time is relatively new.  Some people say that Benjamin Franklin “invented” it.  That turns out not to be true.  He did  write an article about getting up earlier - as you might expect from a man who said “Early to bed, Early to Rise, Makes a Man Healthy, Wealthy and Wise”  According to Wikipedia (how did I live before Wikipedia?) Franklin was living in Paris, and was kinda disgusted to notice that Parisians wasted what he considered a good part of the morning by staying in bed.  He published a satirical letter, anonymously, suggesting that they economize on candle wax if they got up early and suggesting that shutters (to keep the morning light out) be taxed.  I don’t know why he gets the credit. 

Daylight Savings Time actually was seriously proposed by a guy from New Zealand whose very serious hobby was collecting and studying insect specimens.  His day job kept him from enjoying his hobby as much as he’d like - and he thought it would be great to have a few more bug collecting hours in the evening before the sun went down.  That was in 1895.  In 1905, in England, another serious proposal was made by a prominent business man who hated how sunset so often ruined his rounds of golf.  He had a friend in Parliament who introduced a law and all of England changed its time so that this guy could play more golf.  (Maybe you thought lobbyists pushing rich guys agendas was new.  Not so!)  The United States adopted DST for the first time during WWI - to help improve production for the war effort.  And after the war was over, Congress repealed it, but Woodrow Wilson, a great Presbyterian and an avid golfer, vetoed the bill twice.  Congress overrode him the second time. 

But way before Daylight Savings Time, the ancients had ways of measuring time that made it sort of elastic, too.  One was that the hours themselves were shortened or lengthened according to the season.  Daylight was always divided into 12 hours, so they were longer in summer, shorter in winter.  They even made clocks, which had different size weights or springs or something on them.  One Roman clock that archeologists have found measured hours that ranged from 44 minutes to 75 minutes in length.  Apparently, from my reading, there are still monasteries which use this flexible length of hour schedule to order their lives (and life in a monastery is ordered around regular, around the clock prayer times - so that makes some sense.)

All in all, it seems rather marvelous to ponder how time, which we think of as so regular and immutable - atomic clocks measure it to the accuracy of a second every 1000000 years or so - can be measured and thought of in quite different ways.  And human beings can and do decide how we are going to measure time.

Let’s “zoom out” from thinking of the possibilities for measuring time, and think about how we measure the times of our lives.

What units of measurement do we use to mark and measure our lives?  
Some people measure good days and bad days by how much money they made or spent. 
For others, the day’s measurement is what they see on the bathroom scale. 
People in recovery measure how many days since they quit using.  And they celebrate milestones like 30 days of sobriety.  1 year of sobriety.  I think that’s cool.
There was a guy on the radio last week who measures his days and years out in books he reads.  His best year he read 220 books. 
And there was an article in the paper not long ago about a sheriff’s deputy who had an incredible number of arrests for DUI.  He said, “I don’t keep track.”  But somebody did!

How do you measure the hours, the days, the years of your life?

Well - this is where I’m finally going to talk about the Bible, in case you were wondering - this little conversation between Jesus and the scribe is all about that.  You see, the scribe quizzes Jesus on the Jewish law.  And that law was a way to measure, a way to mark, a way to evaluate - people’s lives.  It gave them a way to mark and measure the rightness of each moment of the day and night.  Waking up, did I fulfill this law about what to say and how to wash?  Eating?  Clothing?  Washing clothes or dishes?  Each of these laws - and there were 613 of them - were a tiny tick of the life clock, moving in the right direction.  The right-ness of life was measured in this way.  People kept track of their lives in terms of the laws they managed to obey.  Some folks did very well and they were honored.  Some did not so well and they were shamed.  But everyone had their clock set on Law Standard Time. 

Jesus’ answer to the scribe resets the clock.  That’s why it is important.  Because it resets for us and forever how we understand the measure of our days.  Jesus said, I probably don’t need to remind you - that there were two laws which mattered.  On these two, he said, all the rest were dependent.  The way to measure the right- ness - the goodness, the worth, or a person’s life - the Way God measures life - is by love.

It is love of God and love of neighbor and love of self that Jesus says is to be the way we measure our days.  This is God Standard Time.  No other measure tells the truth about whether a human life is worth hydrogen and oxygen and carbon and nitrogen that make up our bodies. 
It isn’t our fame, it isn’t our popularity, it isn’t our grade point average, it isn’t our I.Q, it isn’t our shoe size or our hat size or our pants size.  It isn’t our bank account, or our acreage, or our portfolio.  It isn’t the number of marriages we have, or the number of kids we have, or the number of friends we have on Facebook. 

You can measure your life that way if you want.  Lots of folks do.  But Jesus says that the true measure of a life is how much LOVE that life shows and shares with God and with others. 

How did love for God figure into your last week?  Were your days filled with thoughts of his Grace and Love for you or appreciation of the majesty of His creation?  Were you aware that every day began and ended with you in God’s presence?  God was there.  Did you think of it?  Did you acknowledge it?  Did the week contain a moment or more when you grasped something that made you pray, “Thanks.” or even “Wow”?  Did the challenges that you face - I know so many of us are facing challenges - did they cause you to turn for mercy to your divine counselor and friend?  How would you measure your last week in Love with God? 

Maybe that’s not the right thing to even ask.  Because if last week didn’t measure up, by God’s grace we have a new week ahead.  So think about how Love with God might mark those days.  Can you put him on your calendar?  Your schedule?  Can you plan to spend the minutes it takes to strengthen your relationship to God?  The hours when we need him most, God is always there.  How will your heart and soul and mind and strength reflect a loving relationship with God this week?

Ask yourself the same questions about other people.  And yourself.  Will your days include loving thoughts and actions toward those you know?  And, will your love stretch to those who need your acceptance, your help, your advocacy - even if you don’t know them?

Here's the big musical finish - which I will be merciful and not sing.  It is from the musical "Rent" and works on the idea that there are 525,600 minutes in every year.  It is called "Seasons of Love":

Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes
How do you measure, measure a year?

Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes!
Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Journeys to plan.

Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes
How do you measure the life
Of a woman or a man?

You know that love is a gift from up above
Share love, give love spread love
Measure measure your life in love.

Our call as followers of Jesus Christ is to reset our clocks, our days, our minutes our lives to God Standard Time.  May it be so. 

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