Ecclesiastes 3:1-12
Ephesians 5:15-20

An old man was standing on a crowded bus. A young man standing next to him asked, “What time is it?” The old man said nothing. As the young man walked away, the old man’s friend asked, “Why were you so rude to the young man?” The old man answered, “If I had given him the time of day, he’d want to know where I am going. Then we might talk about our interests. If we did that he might invite himself to my house for dinner. If he came to my house, he would meet my lovely daughter. If he met her, they would both fall in love and frankly, I don’t want my daughter marrying someone who can’t afford a watch.”

Then there’s the story of a man walking past a farm and noticed a farmer feeding pigs in a most unusual manner. The farmer would lift a pig up to a nearby apple tree, and the pig would eat the apples off the tree directly. The farmer would move the pig from one apple to another until the pig was satisfied, then he would start again with another pig. The man watched this activity for some time with great astonishment. Finally, it was more than he could take. He walked over to the farmer and asked, “This is the most inefficient method of feeding pigs that I can imagine. Just think of the time that you would save, if you simply shake the apples off the tree and let the pigs eat them from the ground!” The farmer looked puzzled and replied, “What’s time to a pig?”

Time is the inexplicable raw material of everything. With it, all is possible; without it, nothing. The supply of time is truly a daily miracle, something genuinely astonishing. You wake up in the morning, and your purse is magically filled with twenty-four hours of the unmanufactured tissue of the universe of your life! It is yours. It is the most precious of possessions… No one can take it from you. It is not something that can be stolen. And no one receives either more or less than you receive. Moreover, you cannot draw on its future. Impossible to get into debt! You can only waste the passing moment. You cannot waste tomorrow; it is kept for you. You cannot waste the next hour; it is kept for you.

You have to live on this twenty-four hours of daily time. Out of it you have to spin health, pleasure, money, content, respect, and the evolution of your immortal soul. Its right use, its most effective use, is a matter of the highest urgency and of the most thrilling actuality. All depends on that. Your happiness – the elusive prize that you are all clutching for – depends on that. If you cannot fit everything into twenty fours hours, there is no more. If you cannot fill 24 hours, there is no less. How often to do we find ourselves complaining that our days are few, and acting as though there would be no end? Martin Luther said that, “I have so much to do today that I shall spend the first 3 hours in prayer.”

Ecclesiastes reminded us of a time for everything. We read it at life events, but do we ever think about time more deeply? Our reading from Ephesians began with Paul warning us to make good use of our time. What you did with your time yesterday is past, you can’t change it, so we mustn’t waste the time God gave us for today. All right, it’s good to put your feet up every so often, but we are all living on borrowed time: time has been lent to us by God, and we are responsible to him for how we use it.

Modern science has made us think of time quite differently, as a dimension just like the dimensions of space. We live in a world of four dimensions: height, width, depth, and time. Albert Einstein said that even if we are sitting still, the clock is ticking for each one of us at a different rate. That’s because time is affected by gravity: if you are sitting next to something very heavy, its gravitational pull bends or warps the time through which you are travelling. Of course this is essential to make any sense of Dr Who. This effect has been tested by sending light to the planet Mercury and seeing how long it takes to be reflected back: there is a distinct blip when the light passes close to the sun. What we call a Black Hole in space has sucked in so much matter that its gravity appears to make time slow down to zero for objects approaching it. I’m not trying to bamboozle you with science – my point is that time is not just minutes ticking round until I shut up and we get a chocolate biscuit, but time is part of the nature of the universe and how everything works.

Einstein thought that time had no beginning or ending. But since then we have decided that this universe began with a Big Bang. Matter began in a single microsecond, I3.7 billion years ago. We can prove this in several conclusive ways. So time also began at the Big Bang. Now, we know that everything depends on cause and effect. Everything that happens is caused by something that happens beforehand. But if there is no matter, there can be no time, because time is a dimension of space. If time and space began at the Big Bang, the only thing which can have caused the bang must have been outside time, that is, it must have been caused by an eternal being. So thanks to the scientists who came up with the idea of the Big Bang, because they have handed us on a plate something very near to a proof of the existence of God!

But a scientist in Cambridge called Neil Turok disagrees with that, because he says the Big Bang was caused by two universes colliding. He uses the obscure String Theory of mathematics to suggest that we live in a ‘multiverse’ of many parallel worlds. But you still have to answer the question, what caused these other universes? The need remains for a Creator sitting outside them and causing them all to come into existence. There must be an eternity, from which time can be created.

So the scientists have helped us to believe in God and eternity – how about heaven? We can conceive of other universes, though we shall never be able to prove they exist because we cannot observe them. But why should God not take us when we die to another universe, which has dimensions of space and time, but very different from what we know on earth? A world where we can meet and talk to our friends who have died, and to the great figures of the past also? Where we can observe what our loved ones who are still on earth are doing, and quietly influence them to do better? Where we can be with Jesus, basking in his love endlessly, because time seems to have stood still? Perhaps the old images of angels with harps were a metaphor to describe the indescribable beauty of the alternative universe called heaven. So make good use of the time God has lent you, to prepare yourself to enjoy eternity.

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