15 Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, 16 making the most of the time, because the days are evil. 17 So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, 19 as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, 20 giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 5:15-20 NRSV)
Summer isn’t over. That will occur on September 22 this year with the autumnal equinox. Meteorologists call the end of summer on August 31st. Frankly, summer is over when school begins. It’s the beginning of a new year, so to speak. Our kids return to school and new classrooms and new teachers. And the rest of us tend to follow suit. Vacation season comes to an end and we get serious about fall activities.
How timely that we read this passage today. The author of Ephesians tells us to make the most of time; the days are evil; be wise; don’t get drunk; worship and sing; give thanks for everything. That’s a tall order! Perhaps it’s also strange. As we begin a fresh new year, perhaps this passage is timely.
How do we redeem time? The word, redeem, has so many meanings and we Christians throw it around as if we understand it’s meaning. Jesus went to the cross to “redeem” us from sin. He traded his life for yours and mine. He freed us up to make better lives for ourselves and others.
Redeeming time, in this sense, is about what we do with the time we’re given. When we awaken each day, we have the opportunity to open ourselves up to our very existence. We can receive this new day that God has made because we know that God is in it. What might that look like?
We begin by understanding that not everyone awakens to a beautiful world. Some choose not to see the beauty. Sadly, some are surrounded by really bad stuff. All of us are capable are seeing the fresh possibilities in a new day.
We redeem time when we recognize that we have choices. As my friend and colleague is fond of saying, “Life has choices. Choices have consequences. Make good choices.” We redeem time when we rescue the time we have from loss or inappropriate practices. Notice that the author says, “Don’t get drunk with wine…” (vs 18) Certainly alcohol abuse is a waste of time and energy. But, don’t we get drunk on other things?
The risks exist: to get drunk worrying about the future; to get drunk on overspending money; to get drunk on anger. We get drunk when that which gets in the way of our relationship with God takes over our lives. We lose time. We lose ourselves. We’re unable to worship God. We’re unable to be thankful.
We get drunk when we choose to lose ourselves in anything that kills our spirit and our soul. Over drinking and abusing drugs come to mind. Overeating is the drug of choice for others. Getting drunk relieves anxiety and we can avoid both God and the problem. Until we sober up and all sorts of other emotions step in to drive us back to our addiction.
Our author suggests being thankful. In everything.
Have you ever noticed that it’s easier to be thankful when things are going wrong? First we see all the bad stuff. Then if it gets bad enough, we begin to see glimpses of God’s presence: a friend saying the right thing at the right time; a good night’s rest after many a restless night; a sense of God’s peace just when you need it most. Soon you’re noticing that the rain let up at just the right moment. That the evening news reported somebody performing an act of kindness. You see life differently and, though life is not all good, it’s also not all bad.
Give thanks for the right timing of events; for green lights; for smiles and sunshine. Dare to turn to the evilness of our days. Give thanks that, though evil exists, life isn’t evil. God is the one who gives and sustains life and intends good for God’s creation.
That’s when time takes on a new aspect. There is an example used in training classes that expresses this best. The facilitator jams rocks of all sizes and shapes into a jar and then tries to pour sand around it. Each rock is an item on our to-do list. Predictably, it all doesn’t fit. Then the facilitator empties the jar and begins again. This time she identifies priorities and puts the largest rocks in first. Next come the secondary priorities and she puts the smaller stones into the jar and watches them settle around the largest rocks. Finally, she adds sand and it slips over the rocks and stones into the tiny crevices. These are the less important things, but still things that need to be completed. The jar is filled and all the items on the to-do list fit in the jar perfectly.
The point is this: what’s most important in your life? Do it first? I tried meditating in the evening and guess what? I never got to it. I had to move it to first thing in the morning. I discovered that it got my day off to a good start. Some of my biggest rocks include physical exercise, caring for my disabled husband and for the congregation I serve. Once I identified those, everything else fell into place.
Redeeming time requires wisdom. It’s part time management, part boundary setting. It’s all prayerful and prayer-filled.
We redeem time when we use it wisely. We redeem time when we use it to change the world. We redeem time when we seek the leading of the Holy Spirit and grab it while it while we can
All glory ad honor be to God.