The bible is full of examples where special things happen at special times. The Greek word kairos is used repeatedly to define these types of circumstances - times of fulfillment (Eph. 1:10), times of suffering (Rom. 8:18), and times when God’s presence is clearly evident in the world (Mk. 1:15). And for a group that believes strongly that God works in history - a God “of the times” so to speak - Christians shouldn’t ignore important times in our lives.
But it can be difficult to know exactly how a specific time is important. And so we look for signs: a dream, a consensus, a bible verse, a prophecy - anything to bring clarity to the time.
My denomination is gathering in Winnipeg this week for its’ annual convention - Gathering 2012. There is a strong sense, through a period of discernment, discussion, prayer and reflection that this is a kairos moment for Mennonite Brethren (MB) in Canada - a time of opportunity as God moves in this current moment of our history. And while I’m unable to attend the meetings this week, I’m following along from afar.
I appreciate how Laura Kalmar defines the dynamic of this kairos moment as she reflects on one of the sessions:
Kairos signifies that something amazing is about to happen. In the midst of ordinary, tick-tock (chronos) time, extraordinary (kairos) time happens. Kairos refers to “the right time, opportune time, or seasonable time. Kairos is the right moment of opportunity which requires proactivity to achieve success. It is significant and decisive.”But the challenge remains: how do we (Canadian MB’s) discern the times? And in a world often referred to as “post-denominational” (to say people don’t value denominations as they used to is an understatement), the role of denominations for this time is a question all groups of Christians need to be asking. Again, how do we discern the times?
We need to be asking, is this a special time for denominations? And I mean “special” in the positive sense (for some, “special” would mean the demise of denominations - not me!). And personally, is this a kairos moment for MB’s in Canada? As one who still values denominations, especially my own, I surely hope this is an important time for MB’s. So long as we mean kairos in the right way.
Any discussion of kairos needs to remember the breadth of God’s timing in our midst - a view of God and history that reflects Jesus’ view of timing for his followers. For Jesus, kairos definitely communicated urgency and importance - his very presence was the defining moment in history. But we often wonder, joining his followers in asking, when is this special time?
It was now in the 1st Century; now in each moment of subsequent history; and it’s now, well, right now.
Ever since Jesus’ proclamation that “the time has come” (Mk. 1:15), all time has been important for his followers - a time of living in the reality of God’s kingdom; a time empowered by God’s Spirit to join together in unity; a time to love God and love others throughout history and throughout the world whatever the cost.
In many ways, this reminder should alleviate the pressure of making any one moment in history bigger than it is - all moments are “big” to God after all. Yet Jesus’ words don’t let us off the hook either. There is no room for complacency if all time is kairos time. We are simply instructed to be faithful in whatever time we find ourselves. We don’t look for the signs we want, as if faithfulness is akin to predicting the weather. Rather, we look to The Sign (Jesus!) as our guide for the times (Mt. 16:1-4).
For Canadian Mennonite Brethren, then - and all Christians for that matter - may Jesus’s word on kairos inspire us to live faithfully whatever time and place we’re in.
Now is the time...
“The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near.
Repent and believe the good news!” Mark 1:15