Some of you know that I have long been fascinated by and enjoy wrist watches. Recently, I read a story about watch making that really struck me and that stuck with me. The article was about the fact that in the late 1960s, the Swiss dominated the world of wrist watches. At that time, 65 percent of all watches made and 90 percent of profit in the watch industry was tied to Swiss watch production. This was certainly with good reason too for the Swiss gave the world both the minute hand, the second hand, the idea of water proofing and the innovation of self-winding watches.
By 1980, however, only 11 years later, things had dramatically changed with the Swiss down to 20 percent of the market and the numbers of Swiss watchmakers having decreased from over sixty thousand to just over ten thousand. The reason for the dramatic shift was the fact that the once forward thinking Swiss watchmakers reached a point where they refused to consider new ideas and new ways of doing things. During that 11 year period, the major innovation in watches was the coming of the quartz movement. Because quartz movement had no main spring or knob the Swiss were unwilling to adapt while companies like Seiko and others were. This unwillingness to change or to see watches in a new way was the proverbial straw that broke the Swiss back. The Swiss who were once so willing to see with new eyes and be innovators no longer had the same vision. (James E. White, Rethinking the Church, Baker, 1998, pg. 20)
This is a good lesson for us too. We must constantly be willing to see age old aspects of life with new eyes. Even more specifically, we must regularly allow Holy Scripture to help us see common elements of life in new ways so that we may live better, more meaningful and more robust lives.
Over the next few weeks, I invite us into this dialogue between scripture and life. How do these texts that we will consider help us to see basic elements of our lives – what we do with time, how we look at our work, how we interact with family and what we do with our possessions – in new, better and more Christ like ways? If we are willing to risk new ways of seeing things, we may be able to find better and more meaningful ways of experiencing this gift called life that God has given to us.
The place I want to focus our attention today is on the subject of time and on the statement that Paul makes in our text from Ephesians 5 verses 15 and 16. There Paul says this, “be careful how you live, not as unwise people, but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil.”
There are a few things to know about this rich text that I want to mention very briefly that will help with two points that I quickly want to make. First, this text is part of a letter from Paul to the early believers in Ephesus. Paul wanted these early followers to experience the joy of salvation and the joy of a good life so he writes about what this looks like from God’s perspective. Second, it is important to know that we believe that these early followers, read these letters that they received from Paul over and over again. Not once or twice but over and over until another letter came that was also read and reread and dissected too. So imagine these early believers dealing with this statement over and over, week after week as they gathered, “make the most of time… make the most of time…make the most of time”. Third, it is important to know that the real emphasis of the Greek being used here is both the idea of “buying up” or “redemption” and the idea of time not in the sense of telling time but in the sense of time that is holy, special or sacred. And, so, what Paul was literally saying to them was don’t pass up or miss out on the holy, special moments that life gives you. When they come your way, gobble them up, buy every minute, purchase and redeem them.
Having said that about the text, let me make two applications. First, life is quick, fleeting and precious and thus we must savor and gobble up the holy moments that life gives us and see them for the precious gifts they are which cannot be ignored or missed. This past Thursday was High School graduation in Laurens. Of course, that took on a special meaning in our family as our daughter Callie graduated. What I have been thinking about all week is the question, “where did the time go?” It seems like it was just yesterday that she was born in Kentucky or that she was in the 5th grade when we moved to Laurens. I have been constantly told that my children’s lives at home would go by in an instant and so I had better grab hold of them while I could but I am not sure I every really believed this wisdom as I should have. Paul was saying the same thing to the Ephesisans – gobble up the holy, meaningful moments of life. Buy them by the bunches any time they are for sale because they will come and they will go quickly. If you don’t redeem them while you can, another chance may never come.
Second, not only does time go by quickly but time and life also change very, very quickly too. Without question, this is a lesson not only of Paul but also of these days we are living through. How many of us on March the 1st, had any clue this is where we would be in these first days of June? I’ll bet if we had known how April and May would play out we would have lived January, February and early March a whole lot differently. We live with this idea that things are always going to be as they are and that is never the case.
And, so, while we have the time, the health, the chance, the ability we must gobble up the holy, special moments of life.
I recently heard Chuck Bugg, a retired figure in Baptist life, tell about his young son who was unexpectedly diagnosed with a brain tumor at the age of ten. In telling that story, what Chuck was so honest about was the fact that he never saw it coming and also the fact that it totally changed how he looked at life. In a moment, everything was different.
What decision do you need to make in your relationship with Christ? Now is the holy moment. What opportunity is God offering you to join God in God’s work? Today is the fleeting opportunity to say “yes”. What special occasion or opportunity has come your way in life that other things are crowding out? Do you realize that this chance may never come your way again?
We have to look at time with a new vision that comes with the help of Paul who calls us to see clearly and fully the holy moments in our lives. When they come, we must buy them, gobble them up, redeem them for life will quickly go by and life will change in a hurry. Amen.