Its About Time

Wrapped up in God’s creation of the world in Genesis chapter one, is God’s creation and ordering of time.  Theologian Adolf Adam notes, “time is itself a gift of the Creator, and Christians must accept it, live in it and shape it to their own purposes.”[1] In one sense time is the canvas upon which God paints the universe.  God has given his creatures no other way of encountering him except through the medium of time.

We can know God because God has acted in the same real history, the same flow of time, in which we exist.  Orthodox theologian Alexander Schmemann calls to mind this connection between God’s creation of time and the goodness of physical existence: “God blessed the world, blessed man, blessed the seventh day (that is, time), and this means that He filled all that exists with His love and goodness, made all this ‘very good’.” [2]

This emphasis on time is supported in prayer book spirituality.  The Book of Common Prayer opens with instructions regarding the place of time in the worship life of the Church.  The prayer book’s introduction to the calendar points out that the “Church Year consists of two cycles of feasts and holy days: one is dependant on the movable date of the Sunday of the Resurrection or Easter Day; the other, upon the fixed date of December 25, the Feast of Our Lord’s Nativity or Christmas Day.”[3]

This means that the Christian life is directly connected to the annual cycles of the solar and lunar

calendars.  The lunar calendar is used to determine the date for Pascha (i.e., Easter), which “is always the first Sunday after the full moon that falls on or after March 21.”[4]  On the other hand, Christmas Day is independent of the lunar calendar and is fixed to the solar calendar.  In fact the preaching of St. Leo the Great (circa 450 a.d.) apparently embraced the connection between the Nativity and the winter solstice.[5]  Thus the earth’s progression around the sun and the monthly lunar cycle provide the astronomical benchmarks that communicate the critical events of salvation history throughout the year.

Now these observations seem pretty obvious.  So why make them?  They are necessary reminders that followers of Jesus cannot escape the fact that God entered into creation in a particular time at a particular place.  The incarnation happened under the reign of Caesar Augustus (Luke 2).  Luke also firmly dates the start of John the Baptist’s ministry in a way that firmly fixes the beginning of Christ’s ministry in

…the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas….[6]

In the same way Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection are not ideas distilled from philosophical or mystical reflections, but historical events that happened in the same real world inhabited by every succeeding generation of Christian disciples.  Biblical Christian spirituality is inextricably founded on the gritty reality of the created universe.

In my next post we’ll take a look at how the Daily Office (Morning and Evening Prayer), and some prayers of the Christian year help us connect Christian discipleship with God’s very good creation.

Ben+

[1] Adolf Adam. The liturgical year : its history & its meaning after the reform of the liturgy (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1990), vii.

[2] Alexander Schmemann, For the Life of the World (Crestwood, N.Y: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2004), 15.

[3] Book of Common Prayer, 1979, 15.  Hereafter the 1979 Book of Common Prayer shall be cited as “BCP.”

[4] Ibid.

[5] I am referring to the preaching of St Leo as cited in Thomas J. Talley, The Origins of the Liturgical Year, 100.

[6] Luke 3:1-2 ESV.

The Rev Ben Sharpe is Rector of Christ Church in Winston Salem an Anglican Mission church that was planted a few years ago.

Ben has been married to his childhood sweetheart, Lisa, for 29 years. They are the parents of three lovely young women.

The Rev. Ben Sharpe has served in pastoral and church planting ministry for over 20 years. In 1995 he planted Cornerstone United Methodist Church in Fayetteville NC. In 2004 he and his family “came home” to the Anglican Mission in America. Ben received his undergraduate degree from the University of NC – Chapel Hill. He is a 1991 magna cum laude graduate (MDiv) from The Divinity School of Duke University.

Ben is deeply interested in early church history and sees our post-modern culture as significantly similar to the world the Church experienced for the first 400 years of the Christian era. He believes these connections offer direction for evangelism and discipleship in the 21st century.

Ben is an avid “section hiker” of the Appalachian Trail and claims his one athletic ability is carrying heavy objects over long distances. He also brews his own beer.

Most of all, Ben loves Jesus Christ, is passionate about the Gospel of salvation, and authentic Christian discipleship.

you can read more from his blog here

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