First Reading Ecclesiastes 3:1-3, 9-11
Second Reading Colossians 1:11-20
Gospel Reading: Luke 1:68-79
You have likely heard many times that the ancient Greeks had at least 6 words for the single English word love. Each of which denotes a different kind of love -words such as Philos: signifying deep friendship or Brotherly love; Eros: Romantic, passionate love; and of course Agape – the unconditional, universal love we Christians associate with God. But did you know that they also had two words for time? The first was Chronos, which we still use in words like chronological and chronometer. It refers to the kind of time we read from a clock time or a calendar — time that can be measured — seconds, minutes, hours, or years. It is this kind of time that brings us to today – The end of the Church year, Christ the King Sunday. This is the day we normally set aside to look back at the all the things we have celebrated and remembered throughout the year – Advent, Christmas, Lent, Holy Week, Easter, the Ascension and our journey with the prophets and parables this summer. All are intended to remind us of our Lord – Christ the King. Each with its slot of time on the calendar – Chronos – measured time.
But where Chronos is quantitative, the other word “kairos” is qualitative. It measures moments, not seconds. Further, it refers to the right moment, the opportune moment. The perfect moment. This is God’s time. Perfect moments arranged and ordered by the Spirit of God. This is the sense we talk about when we think about the Son of God coming into this world at just the right moment in human history, taking on Human flesh yet fully God so that we might know God’s love for us in a special, personal way. Col 1:15 says “Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. The devotional “Our Daily Bread” once had these thoughts about that verse: A little boy looked into the sky and asked his mother, “Is God up there?” When she assured him that He was, the youngster replied, “Wouldn’t it be nice if He would put His head out and let us see Him?” What the boy didn’t understand was that God has let us see Him—in the person of His Son. We don’t have to guess what God is like. Nor do we have to wonder if He’s alive. By sending Christ to earth as a man, the heavenly Father fully revealed Himself. Jesus was God “manifested in the flesh” (1Ti 3:16).
We remember his life, teachings, miracles and parables. We remembered too his obedience as his faced the cross, death and resurrection. Those moments have forever changed everything that comes after them. That is Kairos not Chronos.
In Christian theology, kairos has a sense of ‘ripeness’. For example, we heard such a passage from the book of Ecclesiastes as our first reading today: (Ecclesiastes 3:1-4, 9-11 NLT)  For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.  A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest.  A time to kill and a time to heal. A time to tear down and a time to build up.  A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance. ….” The teacher who wrote those words which go on quite a bit further, sums up the concept of kairos this way: “Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.”
That brings us to today, for this is not only the final Sunday of the church year, but it is also the final Sunday worship for the congregation of 1st Presbyterian church of Newkirk. This congregation has ministered in this community for just a month shy of 128 years. We celebrated that history just before the pandemic started back in January of 2020. But I want to think of it’s time in terms of kairos this morning: the moments, particularly those in living memory that have shaped it and brought it to this particular God ordained moment.
The first such moment I want to lift up occurred during the pastorate of Rev. Ted Yeoman who was called to this church at a particular time where there were 3 struggling Presbyterian churches in the area. It was in that time that the country churches of Middleton and Grey Norit joined with this city one to form what would become the congregation that most of you remember and cherish. Together, these families forged something new and wonderful. It became for a generation or more a place where small town city life and rural folks together proclaimed the gospel. Where children were nurtured and taught by faithful teachers. I hate to start mentioning names for fear I will omit some, but folks like like Frank Midgley, Richard Sewell, Jim Crossland, Jurhee Vanderpool and many others.
Over the years, the sanctuary and basement were modernized and renovated. I am told by Scott Sewell that the music here was outstanding. The Adult choir occupied those seats over there and the youth choir the seats over here on this side. The atmosphere was encouraging and welcoming as Scott remembers being complimented on his enthusiastic participation even if he was a bit pitch challenged. Pastors like Bill Phipps encouraged these youth who are some of the still remaining folks today. But generations come and go and communities change and eventually those kids grew up and many moved away, some have even returned. The Sanctuary and basement steps began to be more of a problem, so again the congregation seized the moment and under Rev. Everitt Miller plans were made for the Fellowship Hall and the ministry continued. And soon you brought in another young pastor – Paula Steinbacher whom you soon learned to love and cherish. She sends you all her love by the way.
At this this time I want to pause and step back to invite any of you all who would care to share one or two of those key moments in your life related to this congregation. Come up and share. Afterwards, I will share a moment or two of my own. As well as remarks concerning the present moment to which we have been brought.
And now we come to this current moment were once again, things are about to change. In recent years, shortly after Pastor Paula left for the Colorado mountains, you all invited a recently retired chemical research engineer and Bible teacher to be your Pastor. And in that Kairos moment, I fearfully said no. Twice. It was only after Pastor Bill Tapp invited me to try it for just a few weeks to give him a break, that I discovered that I had already fallen in love with this congregation and didn’t want to stop and so a few weeks led to a Certificate in ministry from Austin Seminary and now nearly 8 years. In those years, it has been my privilege to lead you in worship, and teach you from the wonderful pages of scripture. So I come to this final kairos moment with pride, satisfaction and yet grief. Over my years, I have officiated 22 funerals, 4 Baptisms, and 3 weddings. We have donated over $80,000 dollars into this community and the surrounding area. Through our efforts, the poor have food to eat, teachers have a little extra to set up their classrooms and a number of folks facing daunting utility bills have had them quietly paid. The attendance numbers may have slowly dwindled but your passion for your Lord never has. I thank you for asking me to be your pastor, for loving me as I grew into the job, for the many friendships and tender moments we have shared. Thanks also for your faithful support and your willingness to try new things. These things are treasures to me.
And yet God is not finished with any of us yet. And this is not an ending as you have heard me preach in recent weeks. God is even now preparing to do a new thing at 8th and Walnut!
For God, at just the right moment, brought us into contact with a group of families wanting to reach out to this town’s many unchurched souls and to the youth here that we have not been able to reach. And so now this facility will shortly become the home of RiseUp church, and we’ll give them a little financial leg up as well before we disperse to other congregations. I will introduce some of them to you at the end of the service. I stand in deep amazement and yet profound satisfaction at the way God has brought these thing about, and trust that God is indeed doing a great new thing that we will marvel at in years to come.
This has always been a place of of the family of God and I pray that never changes. So then, as members of the Family of God, we are given day by day, and in every place and time the wonderful privilege of carrying on Christ our King’s ministry here on earth. Having received this profound gift of belonging to the family of God, it is now our privilege to invite others – for he died for all. It is our loving obedience to love and forgive as he has loved and forgiven us, for he has taken on himself the sin of the world. That is what it means to be part of his reconciling mission. That is what the reign of Christ is all about. In the strength of those gifts, we are able to endure the transitions and trials that are sure to come from time to time. In comparison to what we have received from Jesus, those other things are second rate. In comparison to the joy we have with him, the sadnesses of this present moment is overcome with joy to serve our Christ.
Christ is King! And he is coming yet again in power and majesty to rule. That promise gives us hope and strength to face each day with Joy and Thanksgiving. Now to Jesus Christ, who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood and made us to be a kingdom, priests of his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.