It is my father's belief that people understand history best if they know how they are connected to it. Thus, he used to explain that he knew his grandparents who had been born near the turn of the 20th century. The oldest people they would have known would have remembered the time before the American Civil War. The oldest people they knew when they were children might have remembered the presidency of Andrew Jackson or the War of 1812.
At confirmation, the other day, the kids and I did a little math.
Let's say Paul's letter to the Galatians (the frontrunner for being the oldest text in the New Testament) is circa 50 A.D./C.E.
2018 - 50 = 1968 (so that many years separate us from the letter's estimated writing)
1968/50 = 39.36 (Per my 50-year story model, we are slightly less than 40 units from the writing of Galatians.)
I had the confirmands set out a row of 40 M&Ms or Skittles from them across a table. Those 40 M&Ms are forty life stories that are between us and Paul's letter to the Galatians. While there might not actually be a straight line between any of us and that group, there is a direct line of narrative and spiritual inheritance from the Galatians to us (contemporary travelers on the Way of Christ).
I find that amazing to consider. We are 40 generations from Paul, 40 M&Ms between us and the birth of people wrestling with what it meant to be counter-cultural in the Roman Empire. (In Christ, there is no Jew nor Greek, slave nor free...) There's less than a full Skittle between the Galatians and the life of Jesus. We are 10 Skittles from Martin Luther and he's 30 M&Ms from Paul.
And all of this is a blip when we consider that we are contained within the kairos of Divine, Eternal Love. Chronos means chronological or sequential time, whereas kairos is a reference to an open space in time that create opportunity and right moments. All our M&Ms are provided contained within God's own self and God's own time.
I realize that this way of thinking about time is a little abstract. Yet, it was moving to see 7th and 8th graders contemplate the reality that there are 40 life stories (and more) between them and the writing of the oldest book (a letter) in the New Testament. They reported thinking of everything in the Bible, including, Jesus as long, long ago and far, far away.
The truth is the brown-skinned Jew from Palestine is closer than we think. And his first witnesses are only 40 candies away.