God's Infinite Time
One of Christ Church's members, Rev. Chaplain. David Reid led today's service, reminding us that God is, and was, and is to come...
So, the last shall be first and the first shall be last.
This is a perplexing statement when taken in the context of the human concept of time, but when we translate this into God’s concept of infinite time, it really begins to make sense. In the parable of the Laborers; Jesus was explaining the spiritual time clock of God’s love. This is a different concept of time when compared to the way that we think and experience time. When we say the words the last shall be first and the first shall be last in that context, we can see that Jesus was explaining that in God’s infinite time the idea of first and last is immaterial. Why is that? Perhaps it is a matter of scale, infinite time is just that; it is infinite. There is no beginning – there is no end. But, in our human scale of time we have a limited snapshot of time. In many ways our quantum of time is but a grain of sand on a vast expanse of beach.
You all know that, we live our lives by measuring time, celebrating birthdays, anniversaries and we know even if we do not always want to admit it that we are born to die. This is very different from the infinite. In the infinite realm of time there is no beginning – there is no end, God is infinite and therefore we accept the principle that the love and intelligence of God is omnipresent throughout the timeline of the past the present and the future. This is the very special part; the love of God is truly infinite and as we say it passes all understanding.
In the parable about the laborers in the vineyard Jesus illustrates that under the collective labor agreement negotiated by God – everyone gets the same payment irrespective of the hours worked. This is hard for us to understand because we spend much of our life searching for material equity. Our path through education and into the workplace is all measured and quantified. I remember one executive at British Steel who told me that you could tell how important an executive manager was by counting the number of ceiling tiles in their private office.
Growing up in London, I remember the semi-detached suburbia of John Betjeman’s Metroland and how each home was differentiated by what type of car sat in the driveway. In 1963, when the UK initiated license plates with letters to indicate the year of manufacture; they did so to expand the number of unique alpha-numeric identifications. But this created another status symbol which still exists today, and neighbors and friends now watch to see who has the newest car in the neighborhood. During the 2008 economic downturn, I was working for Tata Steel in the UK and the steel industry was literally melting down financially, our managing director had imposed severe cutbacks on overtime and company spending. In the midst of this austerity program he took delivery of his new company car with the latest license plate. He did not see the message that this created in the minds of the several thousand workers who were feeling the pinch. I took him aside and discussed this with him and suggested that he keep the new car at home, his response was that he was entitled to a new car – showing a clear lack of compassion for everyone else. In his case he had decided that he should be first, and everyone would be last.
Time is a steady tick of the clock, a human invention that has made it possible to run railways and more recently our GPS satellite navigation systems. Imagine for a moment the life during the time of Jesus of Nazareth when there was no watch or clock. It would be in the 14th century before a mechanical clock would come to dominate the rhythm of human life. In biblical times you had to observe the sun or consult a stationary sun dial provided that it was not a cloudy day. Even now when we read the stories in the Bible; we have difficulty looking through the lens of those who wrote the stories and those who are being written about. In the scripture from Mathew it refers to those hired about five o’clock, there were no clocks, and this is most likely a quirk of many translations to assist the reader’s understanding. We live in a very different world where time management governs the direction and flow of our lives in ways which were very different when Jesus walked the shores of lake Galilee with his team of fisherman.
Many of us have probably participated in Time Management training courses designed to make us all smart users of time. Time has a constant velocity, but our sense of time can be very different, there are times in our life when we feel that our experience of time has slowed. As a teenager my fifteenth year went on forever, I was so eager to reach my 16th birthday. I wanted to ride my Lambretta scooter. I had purchased the used scooter for ten pounds when I was 15 in anticipation of being street legal at 16, so for a whole year I could only ride it up and down the driveway. On my 16th birthday I wheeled my Lambretta out to the street, ready for my first real ride. Tragedy struck at that moment and despite having run perfectly for the year in my driveway – the transmission seized, and I could go nowhere. My whole 15th year had been spent waiting for this moment and it collapsed into an experience of feeling that time had stalled on me.
In the parable of the laborers; Jesus uses the vineyard as a venue with the owner recruiting laborers at different times to work the vines. At the end of the day the owner rewards them equally. If we attempt to reconcile this story using human measurement; we struggle because the concept of equal payment for unequal work fails, our test of equity. However, if we step back and look at the story in a spiritual way, we can view the message in a different light. The vineyard represents our earthly world, the owner of the vineyard is God and we are all the laborers. Some of us find our faith and our spiritual awakening early in our lives, some only attain this in the final chapter of their lives. Some of us may drift in and out during our lives as we journey along influenced by the life experiences that affect our consciousness. Because God is infinite it makes absolute sense that the first shall be last and the last shall be first, God’s love is infinite and as in the story of the laborer’s wages, we will be loved even if we only find our moment of spiritual connection at the latter part of our human life.
The music I have chosen to close todays’ service is the 1967 hit by the British group The Troggs, the lyrics are about Love and they sing that; there’s no beginning and there’ll be no end.
As we all journey through our limited life the most important thing to remember is that God’s love is unlimited, and it is infinite and even if you are the last you will still be first because God loves without exception. In the case of my 16th birthday, my father sensed my devastation and without saying anything, the next week he took me to a shop where he had arranged a replacement Lambretta – He paid for it and I paid him back from the wages that I earned on Saturdays working at Woolworth’s. I was the first to have a Lambretta at 15 but it did not last. My father showed me that the last can still come first.
Blessings to you this Sunday.
Rev. Chaplain. David Reid
· I feel it in my fingers, I feel it in my toes Love is all around me and so the feeling grows It's written on the wind, it's everywhere I go So if you really love me, come on and let it show You know I love you, I always will My mind's made up by the way that I feel There's no beginning, there'll be no end 'Cause on my love you can depend I see your face before me, as I lay on my bed I kinda get to thinking of all the things you said You gave a promise to me, and I gave mine to you I need someone beside me in everything I do You know I love you, I always will My mind's made up by the way that I feel There's no beginning, there'll be no end 'Cause on my love you can depend It's written on the wind, it's everywhere I go So if you really love me, come on and let it show Come on and let it show Come on and let it show Come on and let it show Come on and let it show Come on and let it show