Below is a DRAFT text of the homily. It may vary considerably from the recorded version. Please excuse typos and grammatical errors, and do not cite without permission.
Isaiah says: “In the days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established …”The time is coming…
Paul says: “You know what time it is… the night is far gone, and the day is near.” The time is near…
But Jesus says: “But about that day and hour no one knows…”
Time. We live in linear…chronological time. Yesterday…today…tomorrow…In the days to come…someday……the night is far gone…it’s getting closer…but about that…no one really knows…only God knows.
We live with linear time…and tend to focus on the past—remembering or ruminating—or the future—planning or fretting…and where we mostly are not…is here and now. Which is where God is…where God’s realm is…Where the reign of God can break in at any time…God’s reign is always in the present. Where we mostly are not.
God’s time works very differently from the way we perceive time, and that’s why worship is important. Ok, one of the reasons why worship is important, but certainly why it’s important as a practice in the Way of Love. Our weekly worship…the Eucharist…is exquisitely designed to open us up to a different kind of time. Not chronological—or chronos—time, but eternal—kairos time. Time that encompasses past, present and future all at once. The kind of time hinted at in the Psalm…
“I was glad when they said to me, Let us go to the house of the Lord.” There’s both remembrance and expectation…I was glad (past), “we are going” (future)…Then…”Now our feet are standing” (present). There’s a liminal space here…a once upon a time right now…and already but not yet sense. We were glad…we are going…and we are here…all at once. That’s kairos time. Eternity isn’t really endless time…it’s timeless time…it’s not horizontal time…it’s vertical time…it is the joining of all things in the ever-present…the ever-here and the ever-now…where God is…
Worship encompasses and enacts all of the Way of Love practices: We literally have to “turn” into the building…but then we confess and turn back to God. We learn by hearing scripture…We pray by opening ourselves to the movement of the Holy Spirit and placing our own needs in the context of the world’s needs. We are blessed and Go to be a blessing to others, and we get some rest and rejuvenation to go back out and do the work God gives us to do.
I sometimes think of worship as part of the respiratory and circulatory system of the Body of Christ. We are breathed in to this space where we are refreshed and renewed and then breathed back out into the world to spread God’s love and grace, and then are breathed back into this space for renewal…the rhythm of exchange…of encounter and response…
And at the heart of it all is the Eucharist…the heart and mystery of it all…a mystery of kairos time in this midst of chronological time.
There are libraries full of writings about the Eucharist…about what things mean…what they symbolize…where they came from…what’s happening at various points…and I don’t want to get into debating certain points of Reformation theology…(whether or how Christ is really and fully present in the breaking of the bread…I’m glad to talk to any of you about that)…but for right now, I’ll say that for me…one of the most important things about worship…about the Eucharist…is how it disrupts time.
When we shift our focus to the altar, and the priest begins to pray the Eucharistic prayer on behalf of the whole community…time changes…the priest says things that Jesus said…and does things that Jesus did (takes bread, blesses it, breaks it, and gives it to the community)…and we respond by remembering that act, and receiving that bread. But we’re not simply remembering something…nor are we recreating it, or reenacting it…there is a very real sense in the Eucharist that there is one meal…one sacrifice…one Christ that exists always and eternally…and when we gather we are not remembering or reenacting we are actually participating in that one meal…that one sacrifice…with that one Christ…Time stops being linear and horizontal, and becomes something else…vertical maybe…eternal certainly…connecting this altar and every other altar throughout history to that one table in Jerusalem on that one night when he was betrayed and to that one table at the end of time in eternity that we all gather around…we even say, this is a foretaste of that. The Eucharist disrupts time and space…so that this altar becomes every other altar around the globe, in every time and place…this table becomes that one table…And every table therefore has the potential to be that table…Where Christ is present…Where Christ presides. It’s why when we proclaim the mystery of faith… we say: ”Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.” Notice those verbs? Has died. Is risen. Will come again. Past. Present. Future. It’s all happening here and now.And we participate in it.
Worship is probably the practice that most people think about when they think about Christian practices…going to church. It’s also probably the one that most people have issue with…I can read the bible on my own, I can pray on my own, I can go out and do good work and be a blessing on my own, I can certainly rest on my own…why do I need to go to church? Why do I need to worship? I’d suggest two answers: One is: you simply cannot be a Christian on your own…Christianity requires community…Following Jesus requires that we commit to being part of the body of Christ. Two: it is especially in communal worship where our own hopes and fears, our needs and longings can be reoriented and placed in a wider context…a global and eternal context…it’s where our hopes and longings are honored…where you can can put your needs and fears into a bigger container which often makes them easier to hold and bear…and worship is not only where needs and hopes and fears are reoriented, but where the relentless tic, tic, tic of linear time is disrupted…and we get to experience for just a few moments the spaciousness of eternal time…where we can get a glimpse of the reign of God which is always near…where we have a foretaste of that heavenly banquet to which all are invited…where we can lay all of our defensiveness and need to be in control aside and become like children…eager to receive the gift that God so generously offers…where we can viscerally remember what it was like to know that you are a beloved child of God…that God will provide…that God is with you, has been with you, and always will be with you no matter what.
The time is coming…the time is near…but we don’t know when…but we do know that God is always present in the here and now…and in worship…in the Eucharist…we can experience…in real time…in eternal time…what it’s like to be in the presence of God…to be in God’s present. And that’s a place I will always be glad to go with you to see.