Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Time and Eternity

Someone should invent a "Lifetime Clock" that begins on the day you take your first breath (or maybe the day you were conceived in the womb) and stops at the second you take your last breath. At any moment, on my hypethetical Lifetime Clock, you would be able to read exactly how old you were in years, months, days, hours, minutes and even seconds. I googled "lifetime clock" and discovered there is such a thing, a Life Clock, (see the picture at right) with this comment added,

"There's nothing more depressing than seeing your entire lifetime condensed down into something as small and contained as a clock." (Life Clock on Gizmodo)

With an insight into time, the LORD God told a youthful Jeremiah, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart..." (Jeremiah 1.5 NIV) Before we were even born, God took a note of each one of us and decided what we were going to be!

I was reading Christopher Dewdney's interesting book about time called "Soul of the World" (from Harper Collins) and was thinking about time as a kind of fourth dimension. You don't notice that it is gradually moving on, tick by tick, until you come back from a holiday. Everything seems to be the same in the house until you see an apple left on the counter top by mistake three weeks before. It was perfect when you left it but now is shrunken and wizzened. In fact, everything around the house has changed too, even minutely, but only the apple shows it.

The great hymn writer, Isaac Watts, (1678 - 1727) captured this thought in the fourth verse of his famous hymn, "O God, our help in ages past..." which he wrote as a paraphrase of Psalm 90. "Time like an ever rolling stream, Bears all its sons away, They fly forgotten as a dream, Dies at the opening day." The ever rolling stream of time bears all sons and daughters away and stops for nothing and no one. Like a dream, which is so real while we are asleep, it evaporates and slips our memory when we wake.

Time has to be set in its context of eternity. The Creation is the beginning of time and the New Heaven and New Earth is its close but before and beyond that there is eternity. Jesus is called the Alpha and the Omega (the first and last letters in the Greek alphabet) because he was in eternity before the Creation and will be in eternity once time is no more. The Beginning and the End, we speak about, does not refer to the period of time only but way before and way beyond that in eternity.

I remember taking relatives from England to Niagara Falls and looking over the wall, as we all do, at the tremendous amount of water churning over the edge of the Falls. Like time, nothing can stop it, it just keeps on going. Also at that moment, the skin on my hand is imperceptibly flaking off, oh so gently. Time moves on and we all change.

There was one moment for me when time stood still. I was on a motorcycle trip to Birmingham from Liverpool on a very wet September evening. Time stopped for an instant. God pushed his finger through the curtain of eternity into my time and asked, "Why did Jesus die on the cross?" Before I could answer, "for me" God was gone."From everlasting to everlasting you are God." (Psalm 90.2)

That's what I think, anyhow.

Rev Ron