22 September – John Owen, Vicar of Steep & Froxfield with Privett

‘The Right Time’

When I’m leading a church service, I try to start on the dot, at the right time. I don’t always succeed, and I’m aware that the minute hand on the clock in the vestry room edges forward, unforgivingly. There’s a tyranny about chronological time, by which we run our lives, as we measure out our appointments, engagements and meetings in bite sized chunks of clock time. This is ‘chronos’ time.

But there’s another sort of time, with which we’re also familiar. It’s that moment when something significant and life changing happens to us. Falling deeply in love, having a child, getting married, losing a partner, experiencing a religious conversion, attending a funeral… the list can be a long one. These moments sit inside chronos time, but they are not trapped inside a date and single moment as the clock hand move on. Sometimes I meet couples celebrating their golden wedding, and that moment when they first set eyes on each other as young people remains fresh and real for them, fifty years later. The early Christians thought of the coming of Jesus to the world as one of these special times, in which lives are changed. They thought of it as ‘Kairos time’, God-time, when the foundations were shaken and there was a sense of transcendence.

So next time you look at your watch or phone to check the time, resist the tyranny of chronos time with its incessant demands. Chronos time makes us run but it can’t make us happy. Kairos time is the one to learn from: those special moments in our lives when something changed for us, and we have understood what it means to be fully alive and fully human… But I can’t hang about – I really do need to get my piece sent off to the editor, to meet the deadline.