The Fourth Sunday in Lent

I remember visiting the Mezquita in Cordoba, Spain, having heard what a magnificent building it was. (And it is … well, worth a visit.) I had heard about the altar and was keen to see it only to discover that it was hidden behind a wall of plastic and scaffolding. There was cleaning and restoration work being done. I asked the guide how long it would take. He nonchalantly replied ‘About 10 years’. That’s when I knew I wasn’t in Australia that measures ‘old’ by the decade because I was in a place that measured ‘old’ by the century or maybe even the millennia!

My racquet sport of choice is squash. And I read re-cently a year in review (2013) of the sport around the world and the World Squash Federation’s lament at yet another refusal by the International Olympic Committee to add squash to the sports at the Olympics. The bid for inclusion in the 2020 Games in Tokyo failed. So had the bid in 2009. And the one in 2005. Some people might think squash should take the hint but squash players are a determined group and I hope they’re successful in their next bid.

I once read a book by a Christian mother who spoke about daily things – children, hopes, dreams, laughs, tears – and I’ve forgotten the author’s name but I remember a sentence – or at least the sen-timent – she quoted: Being a parent is having your heart walking on the outside of your body. You want what’s best for your children, no harm to come to them but of course you can’t be with them all the time. And it doesn’t matter whether they are small or adults, your children are your children. So Christians parents know that there comes a point when the only thing to do is to pray – Lord, they’re in your hands – all the time. And I’m reminded of Augustine’s mother, Monica, who hoped and prayed for her son to come to faith and lived to see his baptism … at age 32 … but not his service to the church as one of its eminent teachers.

We were talking in our Bible Study about Jesus’ death on the cross as an intersecting point between God and human beings, between Heaven and Earth, and also, in a mysterious way, between now and eternity for in those hours of beatings, whipping, and crucifixion, Jesus somehow experienced the full force of the eternal separation from God. Somehow time doesn’t work on the cross.

We have a sense of time related to the seasons and the time it takes for the Earth to rotate around the sun. This sense of time helps us live. We can change how we count it (‘lose’ an hour as we did last night) but it doesn’t really change. Our perceptions of time are a different matter. It can drag or it can fly. We can notice it in passing but can’t see past ‘now’. Nevertheless the passing of time can be one of the greatest traumas for people as it presents a litany or many examples of a life – often our life! – that isn’t what we wanted or chose – ‘why did that happen?’ – ‘why isn’t it working out?’. Isn’t a ‘mid life crisis’ really about telling the time?

God’s sense of time – a day and 1,000 years (2 Peter 3:8,9) doesn’t really help us – but God isn’t slow to help. Jesus gave us a time reference that does help us live and plan and look back. It’s the little word ‘always’ (‘I am with you always, to the end of the age’ – Matthew 28:20b). It fills all of time and takes control of our use and even sense of time. It helps us persevere, get up after being knocked down, be faithful and not give up hope – always.  — GS