Worship In Real Time

Featuring John Chisum Posted on June 21, 2008

“Is it not late? A late time to be living? Are not our generations the crucial ones? For we have changed the world. Are not our heightened times the important ones? For we have nuclear bombs.  Are we not especially significant because our century is? Our century and its unique Holocaust, its refugee populations, its serial totalitarian exterminations; our century and its antibiotics, silicon chips, men on the moon, and spliced genes? No, we are not and it is not. These times of ours are ordinary times, a slice of life like any other.  Annie Dillard in "For the Time Being"

We humans suffer from “terminal uniqueness". It is difficult for us to imagine God alive in other times and places, apart from us, the important ones. Our universe so exclusively focuses on us in this moment that history past or future seems a blur, something unimportant, something of a trifle, at best. Time, for us, is like the unreeling of a film, sometimes fast-paced, sometimes moving in slow motion. But God is the Great Film Maker. He stands apart from the production and sees it all from beginning to End. God has declared himself “the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End"(Revelation 21:6) and He alone has the power to create the characters, plot, and setting. He alone is charge of the budget, the hiring and firing of actors, and the end quality of the production itself.

Authentic worship, in one way, is our supernatural step off the screen, just like some have depicted in the movies. One minute the actors are in character on screen, and then they turn and step off the screen into the audience! When we engage in genuine worship of God, we step out of the confinements of our day to enter God’s time  - kairos  - and experience something of eternity. The ancient Greeks had two words for time. One is kronos, or chronological time. This is the daily ticking of our clocks, the schedules we keep, the births, deaths, and all in-between that we experience as humans. Then there is kairos, or God’s time (if you can even call it such). It is an intersection with Eternity, as Wikipedia.com explains in its definition of the word: In the Eastern Orthodox Church, before the Divine Liturgy begins, the Deacon exclaims to the Priest, "Kairos tou poiesai to Kyrio" ("It is time [kairos] for the Lord to act"), indicating that the time of the Liturgy is an intersection with Eternity.

God certainly meets with us and acts in kronos. The coming of Christ was God’s intervention in earth’s time, not to mention the myriad of angelic, prophetic, and pre-Incarnate visitations to such people as Abraham, Moses, and Isaiah. God interrupting kronos is the basis of our entire faith, from ancient Hebrew days forward. That He will one day create a “new heavens and a new earth" (Revelation 21:1) is as much kairos meets kronos as anything else we could say - God’s ultimate goal is that we fully enter into His time, eternal life. We taste a little of it each time we worship from the heart. This is the essence of communion, regardless of your tradition’s theology - the table is the place where we celebrate the fact that we “drink of the same cup" with Christ. You may or may not believe in the full doctrine of transubstantiation (that the bread and wine become the literal Body and Blood of Christ) to taste its benefit.  He meets us at the table in what is, at least, the most tactile and tangible symbols of His sacrifice for us and continuing communion with us.

Star Trek (the First Generation with Captain James T. Kirk) gives us a terrific way to think about God’s position outside the realm of created time. If you remember, Captain Kirk, ever in a predicament that he must solve or else lose the Starship Enterprise and its entire crew, often spoke of the “time and space continuum"  In their sci-fi world, some interruption may occur that thrust them into a time warp and they had just one hour to resolve this problem. In this way, time can be thought of as a line, a continuum that has a beginning, middle, and an end. God, the Creator of time as we know it, stands outside or apart from this continuum and can see it all. He is equally “present" to us, to the people of centuries past, and to all peoples and time in the centuries to come. Hebrews 13:8 declares that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever." A few delicious quotes from A.W. Tozer in his chapter on The Eternity of God (from The Knowledge of the Holy) might be helpful here: “Because God lives in an everlasting now, He has no past and no future. When time words occur in the Scriptures they refer to our time, not to His, since God is uncreated, He is not Himself affected by that succession of consecutive changes we call time - God dwells in eternity but time dwells in God. He has already lived our tomorrows as He has lived all our yesterdays."

That God dwells in eternity and time in God is Good News. It means that He reigns supremely over creaturely time and all that inhabits it  - nations, kings and presidents, billions of human beings, animals, plants, oceans, weather, disease, you and me, and even death. Nothing is outside of His ultimate control. This is good. My answer to Annie Dillard is that the weight of importance is not on living late, early, or anywhere else in-between on “the time and space continuum". The important thing to realize is that we are an expression of God and of His goodness no matter when or where we live. We exist for His pleasure and not the other way around. Worship in real time is the intersecting of God’s presence in eternity with our hearts as we kneel, sing, dance, pray, or otherwise honor Him in this temporal existence. To worship Him “in Spirit and in truth" (John 4) is to worship in the full knowledge of His eternal nature, humbling ourselves to love and serve Him now and forevermore (whatever that means!).