On September 12, 1962, President John F. Kennedy took the podium at Rice University to speak to a crowd of 40,000 people. It was a hard time: Our nation was struggling. Viet Nam was escalating. The Bay of Pigs incident had taken place the year prior. The cold war was heating up, and our nation, which had always taken pride in innovation and creativity, had been beaten into space by the Soviets. The government, and the public, were beginning to doubt our technological advancement and our moral leadership.
President Kennedy knew he had to do something. He wanted to draw us together…to create a common cause…to get the nation all moving in the same direction. This is what he said:
“Not because it is easy…but because it is hard.” It was a moment. And what a moment. This speech inspired a nation, and on July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong stepped from the ladder of the lunar module to the moon’s surface and spoke those immortal words: “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
In that speech, President Kennedy basically planted a flag and said: “It is time.” It is time for us, as a nation, to be who we were intended to be…to be who God has called us to be….to fulfill what we were capable of. John Kennedy, in his speech that day, created a “Kairos moment.”
Kairos is a Greek word. In ancient days, there were two different ways of looking at time: chronos, and kairos. Chronos refers to the kind of time that we are most used to: Linear, consecutive time. It is the kind of time that my calendar pays attention to. It is the kind of time where my watch beeps and alerts me to what’s next.
But Kairos is something completely different. Kairos refers to time that is special. Kairos is time that breaks through and interrupts Chronos. Kairos is a time of fulfillment. It is a time of God’s involvement in human affairs. Chronos is all about our “to-do” list. But Kairos is all about our “to be” list.
Now, you may be familiar with today’s Gospel story. If you went to Sunday school as a child, I can pretty much guarantee that you heard it.
It all takes place right after John the Baptist’s arrest, also a time of social and political challenge. Jesus begins his ministry of traveling and teaching, and he makes this extraordinary claim. He says: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe in the good news.”
When we hear the word repent, our mind immediately goes to “ask forgiveness,” or “make amends.” But that’s not really how people during Jesus’ day understood that word. Repent really meant “change your heart.”
Jesus was calling out for a Kairos moment. He was saying “It is time. Right now. Change your heart and believe what I am telling you.”
If you understand this, what happens next in the story makes a whole lot more sense. Because after Jesus says this, he goes walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, and he encounters these two brothers, Simon and Andrew, and he says to them “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” And the scripture says that “immediately,” they dropped their nets and followed him. Immediately. Right at that moment. And then the story repeats, and 2 other brothers, James and John do the exact same thing.
I always thought this was a little strange. The planner in me; the guy with lists and a calendar, wonders wouldn’t they want to go home to pack? To say goodbye to their families? To prepare for a journey? (to get your snacks ready?) No, it says immediately, they went.
But it makes sense when you frame this story not in “chronos” time, like we’re used to, but rather in “Kairos” time. The time is fulfilled…the Kingdom of God has come near. Change your heart. Believe, and follow…
We don’t know for sure, but I’m guessing that these four fisherpeople were probably at least a little bit familiar with who Jesus was. Maybe they’d even heard him before. That area, Galilee, was not an especially large region. People knew each other and knew what was going on. Jesus had credibility; he was a known quantity.
And this Jesus proclaimed that “the time is fulfilled,” the opportunity was ripe. The Holy Spirit was within him. He had heard God’s calling and affirmation in his baptism. With angelic help, he had passed the tests of the temptation in the wilderness, and he was ready to begin his ministry! Now! Let’s go!
Dr. Matthew Skinner, from Luther Seminary, writes of this story that it was time. “Time to move from preparation to action. Time to stop hoping for change and start <working> for it. Time to enlist help in a ministry that was about proclaiming repentance, urging people to adopt a new outlook on their world and their place in it. That new outlook acknowledged a gracious God’s authority over the things that never stop enabling death and oppression.”
Simon and Andrew, James and John heard Jesus. They heard his words. And they entered Jesus’ “Kairos time.” They were in the moment, and they believed; they believed the Lord was calling to them. Of course, they would just drop everything and follow. How could they do anything different? That is Kairos.
I believe that just like Jesus called to those disciples on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, 2,000 years ago, Jesus is calling to you and me today. I believe that it is time for a Kairos moment. It is time.
We live in a world where kindness has been depleted. We live in a world where scorn, and ridicule, have replaced conversation and dialog.
We live in a world where kids in our own community are hungry, and don’t even have a bed in which to sleep.
We live in a world where racism, overt and systemic is real. I’ve heard the stories of people of color here in our own community, and the experiences many of them have had are hard to hear, and cannot be justified.
We live in a world where just two weeks ago, political conflict boiled over into an attempted coup. And we discovered that maybe our nation is not all that we thought it was.
It is time. It is time. Hear again the words of Jesus, but this time hear them like he is speaking them directly to you: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; change your heart and believe in the good news. Follow me.”
My friends, you have been called. Just like Simon and Peter, James and John. You have been called. And part of your calling is to know when it is time.
- It is time to be the hands and feet of God
- It is time to be the Word of hope that the world desperately needs
- It’s time to be the ones who provide the food, and the beds, and the care and the compassion
- It’s time to be the voice that stands up for what we know is right: for justice, for equity, and for peace for all of God’s people
- It’s time to be the voice of calm that speaks into a world that seems more interested in chaos and craziness
- And it is time to be the voice that speaks up for physical health, and for emotional wellness.
Today, Jesus calls you, and he says “it’s time.” He does this because he loves you so much…and he knows the incredible love and care that you are capable of. And he loves all those around us as well. Jesus knows that you have each been given all that you need to make a difference in the world around you. And you have been put here, in this time and in this place for a purpose. And Jesus knows that with an open heart, and empowered by the Holy Spirit, you will fulfill that purpose.
This is our Kairos moment. It is time. And Jesus calls. Together, lets drop what we are doing, and let’s follow.
Thanks be to God!