There’s a poem called “86,400 Seconds” by a man named Jim Yerman
It’s become one of my favorites as of recently:
“If we were given 86,400 dollars every day to spend any way we could
Whatever time we lose today is time that's lost forever.
That when we wake the next morning- each day we start anew.
The 86,400 seconds are less important- than how we choose to spend them.”
We wouldn't have to think too hard, or engage in a long discourse.
We would take that money, go right out and spend it all, of course!
Each day we are given 86,400 seconds, it's been this way for centuries.
86,400 seconds every day- to do with as we please.
There is one limitation, you might say, this gift comes with a hidden cost
Whatever time we don't use wisely, at the end of the day is lost.
Yes, it's free and it's ours to spend, no strings attached...however
Yet such is the nature of this gift- true our daily seconds don't accrue
I believe the lesson we are shown here- since there's no way to extend them."
Our first text this morning comes from Genesis 1:1-5:
This is the Creation story, the beginning of Scripture as a whole.
Every story needs has to start somewhere- this is it.
This is the story of how God brought the Universe into existence.
And it starts very simply: “In the beginning…”
God begins to create the heavens and the earth
In other words, God is starting to do something new, something big, something awesome.
Something is coming into existence that wasn’t there before.
God is acting.
In v. 2 the Earth is described as a “formless void,” with darkness all around it.
There’s nothing really there yet, except that “a wind from God,” or, as other translations put it “the spirit of God” swept over the face of the waters.
So right away, we’re only two verses into Scripture, and we already see the presence of God the Father, and God the Holy Spirit, two of the three persons of the Trinity.
And while the word "Trinity" never appears anywhere in Scripture, texts like these remind us of our need for theology- for making sense of God, Scripture, ourselves & the world around us.
Next, in v. 3-5 God finally starts speaking things into existence:
“Then God said: “let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening, and there was morning, the first day.”
The first thing God does- He makes time.
And all in these three short verses, we have three different “sets” of time:
Light & Darkness, Day & Night, and Evening & Morning.
Before God creates any living thing- be it plants or animals or people or anything- God establishes order: Light & Darkness
And it’s called time: Day & Night.
It’s a way to arrange things- to structure things in an orderly way.
It’s also a way to denote the passing of time: Evening & Morning.
By the way, it’s interesting to note here the word order: Evening & Morning, as opposed to Morning & Evening.
The Hebrews thought that the new day starts in the evening, rather than in the morning.
It makes sense if you think about it.
Before technology and computers and cell phones and watches, people told time by looking outside, observing the position of the Sun, and when it got dark out, they knew it was night time.
And all these “sets” of things represent one bigger thing:
The start of something new:
A new day, A new evening, A new week, A new month, A new year, etc.
The list goes on and on.
In a lot of ways, I think time is one of the greatest gifts that God has given to us.
Think about it: We’re all given the same amount of time during the course of a day, like we heard in the opening poem.
God even ordered it so we would know when it’s time to do different things:
Like working & resting, eating & drinking and sleeping & waking up
Genesis 1 really seems like a fitting text in light of the Calendar New Year.
Especially when our culture is rolling out its “New Year, New You 20- whatever year it is” ad campaigns to make us buy more stuff.
And pushing to make changes in our lives from our New Year’s Resolutions.
But maybe, instead of trying to keep resolutions,
What if we recognize what’s already here?
What if we recognize that while seeking to change & better ourselves is a good thing- part of that process means paying greater attention to what’s around us?
Psalm 29 says this:
“Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory of his name;
worship the Lord in holy splendor.
The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the Lord, over mighty waters.
The voice of the Lord is powerful;
the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.
The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon.
He makes Lebanon skip like a calf,
and Sirion like a young wild ox.
The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire.
The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;
the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
The voice of the Lord causes the oaks to whirl,
and strips the forest bare;
and in his temple all say, “Glory!”
The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
the Lord sits enthroned as king forever.
May the Lord give strength to his people!
May the Lord bless his people with peace!”
Clearly, this is one of those Psalms that offers perspective- especially between man & God.
The first two verses command the singer/ reader to “Ascribe to the Lord,” or, in other words, recognize what God is, which, in this Psalm have a lot to do with God’s glory.
And in v. 3-11, almost all start with the phrase “The voice of the Lord…”
In other words, God’s voice.
Which is described, both in the Genesis story of creation, and here in Psalm 29 as well, as being able to create & destroy things as God seeks fit.
Granted, most of what is described here is destruction, except for v. 3: “The voice of the Lord is over the waters,” which is very similar to the “Let there be light,” that we heard a moment ago in Genesis 1.
In both cases, God is present, and God is speaking.
It’s clear to see when we read the story & hear the poetry.
But come on, let’s face it, we don’t hear God’s booming voice in our daily lives, do we?
Or is it that we’re just not listening hard enough?
Think about it:
How many of us have laptops?Cell phones? TVs? Internet? Jobs? Families?
Life can be busy, I get that.But are we too busy for God?
If we ever hope to become true followers of Jesus, we need to have time to mute some of the distractions in our lives
This month, we’re focusing as a church on Spiritual growth, specifically growing through Scripture.Our banner over the Communion Table says “Grow in the Word”.
Simply put, that’s what we’re called to do.And in reality, we can’t live for God if we can’t hear him speak, can we?
And the first place you go to hear from Him is- you guessed it- ScriptureBut it’s not about how much you read in a day, or even how fast you read itIt’s more about the process, the journey of it.
Thomas Merton once said to: “Cover less ground more slowly,” in terms of ScriptureI think that this really speaks to the heart of how we should read Scripture.
For those who follow our Facebook page, you know that we post daily devotional readings from Seedbed, the publishing arm of Asbury Seminary.
J.D.Walt, the “Sower-in-Chief” for Seedbed, writes the Daily Text, and he made a lot of helpful suggestions with this in mind:
Here’s a few I want to leave you with for more effective Scripture reading:Instead of “extracting” what we think is relevant for us, he suggests an “immersion” approach
Further, he adds that:
“It’s not about leaving our world to go into the bible to get something to take back to our world. It’s about a fusion of the horizon of Scripture with the horizon of our own lives and communities. As we read our way into the Word, the Spirit will lead our path into the World.”
On a practical level, he suggests taking one verse, and sitting with it for a month or two
His example was from Psalm 119:105:
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” and to quietly recite it out loud to yourself in the morning when you reach for the light as you’re waking up in the morning."
Again, the idea is to be immersed, to let it master us instead of trying to master whatever it is we’re reading.
I know what you’re thinking: one verse?That means it would take me a lifetime to get through all of it!
Because the point is to have our lives changed so radically that we see the world as God sees it.
And that doesn't happen overnight.
The author, Leighton Ford, in his book The Attentive Life states that: “God wants us to be attentive people, as He is an attentive God.”
Let’s strive to be attentive people today, church
Attentive to God by being attentive to Scripture.
This post is one of my sermons, preached at the Alexandria First Free Methodist Church, on 1/11/15.
(All Scripture texts used from the NRSV translation of the Bible).