Not all time is equal.
I am sure that most of you have heard a sermon from one of your pastors on the difference between chronos time and Kairos time. Chronos is the Greek word for the sequence of quantitative time, whereas Kairos is the Greek word for the right or opportune moment—qualitative time. The first is linear where one second is the same as the next second. The latter speaks to the experience of time. Presbyterian author, Frederick Buechner, has a way of searing these definitions into our brains. He reminds us that not all time is the equal such as experiencing your first kiss or touching a hot stove with your finger.
Kairos time is about the right or opportune moment. In the church we often call it “God time.” As I look back over my life, it seems that so much of my life can be captured in a sequence of events, chronos time. I can give a chronological account of my life telling you what I did during each year as if I was writing an outline for a biography. But it wouldn’t tell the real story.
Since becoming an adult, I have lived approximately 22,750,000 minutes of chronological time. But I can distinctly remember about 31 minutes of Kairos time, God time. Thirty minutes of that was watching a half hour program highlighting the bicycle racer, George Mount, as he trained for the 1980 Olympics. I was in my first year of college in Idaho at the time. Upon watching that program I immediately began setting in motion the plans to withdraw from college after the winter term, return to Colorado and spend the next few years racing bicycles. It was a Kairos moment. I knew immediately upon watching that program that I was witnessing my future.
The second time was a brief flash of inspiration that probably lasted no more than one minute. My best friend and I were driving back from a trip exploring colleges when I looked over at her while she was driving and realized that I wanted this woman to be my wife.
Those 31 minutes of Kairos time have dictated much of my life. Bicycling has continued to be a major theme in my life and the source of many adventures—cycling 4,000 miles through the West, a seven-week pilgrimage from Rome to Konya, Turkey and an expedition up to Everest Base Camp by mountain bike. The one minute of inspiration when I looked over at my best friend resulted in 25 years of marriage, two amazing children, and another two delightful grandchildren.
Not all time is equal.
Kairos time or opportune time is what shapes history. The Christian scriptures are a testament to this. Thirteen of the letters attributed to Paul are the result of a very brief Kairos moment on the Road to Damascus from Jerusalem when Jesus showed up in a vision, convicted Saul of his former life persecuting Christians, and set him on a new path as the most powerful evangelist for our early faith. How long did the encounter take place? It’s hard to know for sure, but based on the dialogue it appears that it was somewhere between a few seconds and a few minutes.
Kairos time—those brief moments that set the direction of our lives for years to come.
I write this to you because I believe we in the Presbytery of the Cascades are in a Kairos moment. I believe that our futures are going to be dependent on being open to the face of God showing up in visions. I believe that we have largely abandoned chronos time this past year. This is Kairos time, God time, an opportune time. This is time when our futures will be less shaped by careful, deliberative planning and more by responding to visions from the heavenly realm.
Two of the best decisions I ever made were made in Kairos time when a vision for my future just showed up, changed my direction and called me into a new life.
Those 31 minutes have dictated the most important aspects of my life.
The Road to Damascus requires about 20,000 minutes of walking.
But not all minutes are equal.
Just ask the Apostle Paul.
By Rev. Brian Heron, Presbyter for Vision and Mission, Presbytery of the Cascades