Occasionally I conduct a live BBC Radio Devon service on Sunday mornings and recently did one where I spoke about ‘time’ in the context of Pentecost, looking at the significant difference between ‘chronos’ time and ‘kairos’ time. A few people have asked for my notes, so here they are.
“We’re not at Pentecost yet as far as the calendar goes, but this morning I want to give us a foretaste, that reminds us of God’s right time.
“Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. 2 And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. 3 Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. 4 And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” 5 And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. 6 But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” 7 And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. 8 And leaping up he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. 9 And all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.”
I took this picture at a YWAM training base in the UK whilst teaching on the School of Biblical Studies
I have been struck at the incidental comment in the first verse of our reading, that Peter and John were going to the Temple “at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour.” Blink and that seeming insignificant detail would be lost. This is a very deliberate inclusion by the author. The hour of prayer was the ninth hour, that is 3pm in our currency.
The first century Jerusalem Temple had different prayer times:
• The third hour (or 9am) was the first time. The emphasis here was prayer for power to live the day well. Not without significance, this third hour was the time the first Pentecost occurred, when the Spirit of God was poured out (Acts 2).
• The sixth hour (or 12pm) was the second time of prayer: The emphasis here was prayer for seeing what God wants. It was a prayer for vision. Later in the Book of Acts, Peter has a strange but profound vision that changed the course of history – this happened at the sixth hour!
• And the ninth hour (or 3pm). The prayer focus here was for healing. This is the time Peter and John see and respond to this poor beggar, a beggar lame from birth who desperately needed healing. It was also the time when the sacrifices for forgiveness of sin, through the burnt offerings, were made in the Temple courtyard.
o It should therefore come as no surprise that the third hour is similarly significant because this was the ‘time’ when Jesus died on the Cross. A death that brings healing and salvation to any who put their trust in him. A death that brings forgiveness of sin through the sacrifice and offering of Jesus the Son of God.
So we see a real display of biblical insight into time.
Many of us I’m sure are very busy or at least used to be. Time was another commodity for us, something to be exploited and manipulated. Time was chronological, something dictated by diaries and watches.
This is ‘chronos’ time, and it can be a hard task-master.
Just in this short story of Peter and John, we see another kind of time, a biblical use of time, called ‘Kairos’ time: A time of opportunity, of listening, of even wasting, a time that is respected.
God through the pages of Scripture is showing humanity a better way. If Peter and John kept to Chronos time, they would have ignored the beggar yet again.
But now, filled with the Holy Spirit of God, they were keeping a different time, a different rhythm, ‘Kairos’ time.
And in Kairos time, people’s lives are changed when other people are paying attention to what God is doing and saying; and are lovingly alert to those who are on the outside of temple worship, outside of society, outside of humanity, outside, full stop. But Pentecost brings a different time.
The New Testament later goes on to say that followers of Jesus as individuals are the ‘Temple of the Holy Spirit.’ The promise of Pentecost is God’s dwelling with man. We become his house of worship.
The New Testament also tells us that corporately we are the temple of the Holy Spirit. The Church is the collected, gathered, Temple of the Holy Spirit.
Here’s a thought.
Peter and John were going to the Temple.
But because of Pentecost, they had just been made the Temple.
The promise to all Christians who trust Jesus, is that they are the Temple of God.
Question: Where and who are the people on the edge of our Temple, those who are lame or outcast, in one way or another?
This lameness can be physical, emotional or spiritual.
We see them every day and every week. On the edges of our lives.
We pass by, most of the time seeing without seeing, or hearing without hearing.
Is this because we are being dictated to by ‘Chronos’ time – a dictator of time that can make us blind to those on the edges of humanity all around us?
Just as Peter and John fulfilled the roles of prayer and temple by giving this man the presence and power of God in Jesus Christ, how will we be, as followers of this same Lord Jesus Christ, as church communities, the gateway to the Temple of God to all on the edges where they can meet with the Living God?
This lame man received Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, and went into the Temple to worship for the first time in his life. Set free to be human; set free to join the human race, a race not run by the dictator of ‘Chronos’ time, but the liberator of God’s time, of salvation time, of ‘Kairos’ time.
It is no wonder that Paul would later write: “At the right time, Christ died for the ungodly.”
And here we see God’s heart for the world: God was no longer contained by a mere temple. His Spirit was now poured out on all flesh. His promise is to be with people. God comes to us when we are lame and helpless.
In Peter and John, God came to that lame man. And he was set free.
Their new found sensitivity to what God was doing in God’s time, speaks powerfully to us today to look at the areas of our lives that we have made ‘normal’ or ‘mundane’ because of the routine of ‘Chronos’ time. And often, even though we have watches strapped to our wrists 24-7, we still struggle to know the time of day.
The Gospel helps us to see and hear and know the time of day.
When we learn to pay God-attention to God-time, we begin to notice what God wants us to notice, the lame, the outcast, the marginalized, the beggars.
Especially in our day, just this week with the man-made horror of hundreds of refugees drowning in the Mediterranean Sea just because they want to live better lives – outcasts, undesirables, people we would easily forget or ignore –
Or yesterday with a natural disaster, the big earthquake in Nepal killing hundreds. Let us not merely walk by on our way to prayer…..
People everywhere are seeking silver and gold, but what we really need is Jesus of Nazareth, the One who makes us rise up and walk.
“Send your Word, O Lord, like the rain, falling down upon the earth.
We seek your endless grace, with souls that hunger and thirst, sorrow and agonise.
We would all be lost in dark without your guiding light.
Send your Word, O Lord, like the wind, blowing down upon the earth.
We seek your wondrous power, pureness that rejects all sins, though they persist and cling.
Bring us to complete victory; set us all free indeed.
Send your Word, O Lord, like the dew, resting gently upon the hills.
We seek your endless love.
For life that suffers in strife with adversities and hurts, oh send your healing power of love;
We long for your new world – where we rise up and walk with you ”