If God had a clock, what would it look like? What would God’s desk calendar look like? I’m not just thinking about marking the passing of time; I’m thinking more about the scope of time. Most of us are familiar with a 24-hour clock. We’ve seen or we’ve been people with five-year-journals or planners. 2ndPeter says that for God, one thousand years is like a day and a day is like one thousand years.
God’s concept of time is what I would call the “Long Now”. When humans talk about the Long Now, they are discussing time in ten thousand year increments. They work to think on a grand scale about time, about people, about medicine, about the care of the earth. The Long Now is a shift toward thinking that’s not just about investing or retirement, but for a reality that we cannot even imagine, for a time and a people or a planet, long after we are forgotten on this plane of existence.
I find the Long Now fascinating, but I’m even more intrigued by the idea of a Divine Long Now. It pulls at my spirit to think that God’s sense of time is so high, so deep, and so broad, that God’s sense of now puts us in the same time frame as Abraham and Sarah, as King David, as Jesus, at the women at the tomb, as Cleopas and his friend. God’s now already encompasses our own descendants, ten, twenty, and thirty generations out from us. God’s Long Now is a horizon we can barely grasp, and yet its scenery is so replete with holy grace and healing that we cannot ignore it.
Why am I thinking about God’s Long Now and God’s sense of time?
I think the Emmaus story contains what is possibly the most painful statement for humans to utter. We had hoped. Cleopas and his friend are probably drained. They witnessed the crucifixion. They stayed in Jerusalem until the sabbath was complete and then headed back to Emmaus. They heard the witness of the women, but were unsure how to understand it.
So they say those words, “We had hoped.” I think “we had hoped” is exactly the opposite of the Long Now. We had hoped says we wanted to see this, we wanted to witness God’s glory in our lifetime, we had expectations that were not met, we do not know how to understand what has happened. We had hoped that the good old days would last forever. We had hoped that we would hold onto power. We had hoped that it would be our turn to be on top and maybe get to do a little oppressing of our own.
We had hoped.
Where people say, “We had hoped”, God says, “The story isn’t finished. In fact, we’ve only just begun. I’ve been keeping promises for generations. I’ve upheld every covenant I’ve made. I’ve worked to heal creation again and again and again. I’m pouring out love and mercy and grace, even to the extent of walking among you. And you think we’re finished?”
In my holy imagination, God sighs, with compassion, as Jesus walks down that road, explaining the scriptures, revealing God’s nature, character, and faithfulness… again. As this goes on, the Spirit is on the move- shoring up the witness of the women, bringing new life to bear in plants and animals, inspiring faith in people who were witnesses to the crucifixion at the margins of the story. Even as Jesus focuses on a pair of followers, God’s view of the Long Now is on the move.
God’s planner is eternal. And I don’t mean like our perpetual calendars, where you just shift the numbers to show a new date. I mean, God’s scope and plan for the on-going outpouring of love, the effort to bring us all into right relationship, the making of all things new (which is different than all new things)… God is always doing that work. As long as God is doing that, the only time that exists for the Divine is now.
When we think of first-century Palestine, when we think of the lie of Pax Romana, when we consider the other places or times that the incarnation could have taken place, that Jesus could have been born… we are only considering that from our own perspective in time. In God’s Long Now, Jesus life, death, and resurrection were but a minute ago and none too soon because people just seem(ed) unable to grasp the nuances of Divine control and power, revealing holy love.
What happens to our understanding of time if we realize that we have been baptized into God’s Long Now? Our grief and pain over death remain very real. Our frustrations with the world remain true. We remain in compassionate disagreement with one another over many things.
And yet, we know that our trust in God, our generosity, our patience, our kindness, and our joy matter deeply because they bear witness to the reality that God is not made in our image, but that we are made in God’s. Our Easter joy is rooted in and grows out of the truth that God forgives and brings resurrection and restoration out of the worst that humans can do. When our hope in this truth bears fruit, the harvest is for justice and peace, for compassion and healing, for the little, the lost, and the least, for the prodigal son, his frustrated brother, his grieving father, and his unmentioned mother.
All creation lives for and leans toward this blessed alleluia-filled, glorious Easter blessing: that resurrection is always now. That God’s power was neither stronger then or is coming stronger in the future, but is now as it always has been. God’s Long Now means that Jesus breathed again just a second ago. He only just broke the bread at the table with Cleopas and his friend. It has only been a minute since Jesus inspired Augustine and Aquinas, since he strengthened Martin and Katie Luther, since he moved people to build Notre Dame cathedral the first time, since he stirred firmly those who worked to spread the good news in word and deed around the world, since he gave the inspiration to people to build this very church. Each of these people, these faithful, these witnesses could have looked at what they faced and said, “We had hoped.” Instead, they stepped out bravely in faith. And in God’s divine time, all of it happened right now.
And a right now resurrection includes, surrounds, and compels us to be people we never dreamed we could be, to do good that never previously occurred to us, to be present to one another, showing up, in ways new and old, but with timing that is always now.
We are God’s people by God’s call, God’s faithfulness, and God’s use of us in the world. We are resurrection people- serving a God who renews, restores, and reforms life and lives through grace upon grace. We are Easter people.
And because of God’s divine plan of time, Easter is always now. Jesus breathes again, in us, now. The earth is relieved, now. Our alleluias ring out now. We respond to grace now.
Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. He is with us, between us, in the breaking of the bread, out in the world forever, but also and always right now.