God's Gift of Time and Place
"And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day. . .And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years. . .By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. . .Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. . .The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. . ." (Genesis 1:3-5, 14; 2:2-3, 8, 15)
Life can be crazy. Even just this week I have experienced the upending of plans and the rearranging of calendars. It seems no matter how well we plan, sooner or later the unexpected strikes. We buy gadgets to make our life more convenient and they just seem to make us more busy. Our phones, which allow us to communicate with others wherever we are, become digital leashes. "I know she got my text. Why isn't she texting me back? I'll call her." We become used to life moving at a certain pace. We stand in front of our microwaves and wonder why the minute it takes to heat up our food is going so slow. Waiting three minutes for a drink at the coffee stand feels like an injustice.
And how often have I said, or heard people say, "Oh, Vashon!" We roll our eyes at the people around us, get mad at the ferry system, and become bored with all the same places - at least if we've lived on the island long enough. I look at my house and see all the work that has to be done. I look at this church and lament living in a community so uninterested in the things of God, or so wealthy it doesn't think twice before going off island to a "better" church somewhere in the city. I wonder if a bridge to the island would grow the congregation or kill it - our potential reach would be larger, but the bigger and more resourced churches would also be easier for islanders to attend, possibly making little VICC obsolete.
But then I return to the Scriptures and read Genesis 1 and 2. These two chapters our packed with so much to explore - raising many questions along the way, but also exposing us to God's gifts of time and place. All of Genesis 1 is built on a rhythm. The first thing God creates is light. Then he separates light from dark and a rhythm appears: evening, morning, evening, morning, evening, morning. On the fourth day, God is creates the signs that mark our "days, months, seasons, and years," or as our NIV text says: sacred times, and days and years. And then God settles down on the seventh day to rest from his work. He blesses that day and creates the weekend. Time is all over the place in Genesis 1. It is one of God's creations, and as days 4 and 7 show us, it is one of God's gifts.
And Genesis 2 is all about place. God has created the whole world, sure. But then he makes Eden. Eden is a place. It has a location - right among a few rivers. It is a place for Adam, the first man, to tend and care for. It is where Adam names the animals, and it is where Adam meets Eve. Not only has God given humanity time, God has given them place. And as anyone familiar with the rest of the Old Testament knows, place remains a big deal throughout.
Now, of course, sin has made a mess of things. The rose has thorns. Life has problems. Adam and Eve aren't in the Garden anymore, and we sometimes get called in to work on our days off. The gifts of time and place have suffered some damage along the way. We have scratched them up. More importantly, though, we have also forgotten how to use them. To appreciate them. Only God knows how many times the sun is going to rise or set this side of eternity for any one of us. Only God knows how many days we have with family and friends. And only God knows how long we will be where God has put us. But our lives are still gift. Where we live is still gift. Not just our house, apartment, or room, but our neighborhood. Our neighbors. This island. This county, state, and nation. Whatever our opinion about this or that, let's not lose sight of what we have been given. And let's not lose sight of the privilege we have to wake up, work, eat, rest, and worship. We have been given "sacred times, and days, and years" by our creator. We have been given Sunday worship and Monday work. We have been given evening and we have been given morning. We have been given time and we have been given place. We have been given life.