Kairos Moment (a rough draft)

What follows is the rough draft of a sermon video that was planned to be shot this coming Tuesday, primarily in someone’s library or office with other shots interstitched. Now it will be filmed in the birth wing of a hospital… Sharing this as is, with the expectation it will change before I film tonight…


We have this one particular room in our house. In the year that we’ve lived here it has been many things. Guest room, storage, play room, and, for a few months, it was even our room. Now the time is coming for the room to go through another metamorphosis, and become a nursery.


As we get closer to my our baby’s expected due date, I’m acutely aware of the passing of time. I’m aware that I’m short on time – particularly as I try to fill days with work or meetings. And I’m thinking about the nature of time.

Over the centuries the heavyweights of philosophy and theology – thinkers like Plato, Aristotle, or Augustine – have developed intricate understandings of time. Even modern science – be it Einstein’s theory of relativity or the developments within quantum physics – seeks to describe and quantify both the reality of time and our experience of it.

In the New Testament, there are two Greek words that are used to refer to time.


One is chronos, which refers to the passage of time. We use it today, too, like when I try to excuse my tardiness by saying I’m “chronologically impaired.” Of the two New Testament words for time, chronos might be considered to refer to quanitative time –seconds, minutes, and days as they tick by.


The other word used for time in the New Testament is airos. Kairos refers more to a specific moment, and is sometimes defined as the opportune moment, a divine moment, a time when something special happens.

With the anticipation of our baby, I’m getting a sense of this idea of kairos time. Like the moment of a birth, kairos time is time you know is special; time that is blessed. Time where we might perhaps be more aware of the presence of God.

Right now, we are waiting for the arrival of our little one, the anticipation of the moment when she will join us. We know that moment will be momentous for us, one of those times you recall all your life – significant moment, an opportune moment. A kairos moment. Indeed, even this time of anticipation and preparation is a kind of kairos moment, because we are aware that every passing moment is pregnant with the possibility that the right time is “near,” as we anticipate that moment in the hospital, when we witness our baby’s first breath.

I’ve been there with families at the other end of life, too. Sitting bedside, in prayer with an individual or family, waiting for the moment and experience of one’s final breath. Another poignant, meaningful moment. Another moment when we might be more acutely aware of the presence of God.

I remember this one time, visiting bedside with the family of a man in hospice care. We had all visited for a while, and took communion together. After the sacrament, when through the act of prayer and the taking of common elements we remembered the death and eternal life of our Lord, the breathing of the father of this family slowed, and then stopped.

It was an emotionally powerful moment for everyone, a kairos moment. A moment when we were more acutely aware of the presence of God, when the light of eternity briefly shined in our present.


It is this word, kairos, that Jesus uses when he first begins his ministry of preaching. In Mark Chapter 1, Jesus declares, “the time (kairos) is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” It is as if Jesus is encouraging us to realize that the possibility of something significant, something life-changing, is always with us. Indeed, it’s not just possibility that he shares with us, but presence. The real presence of God.

Theologian Paul Tillich, writing in the middle of the twentieth century, shared that kairos is our experience of the divine breaking through into human existence, although generally imperfectly. Tillich believed that such moments called for decision – what shall we do with this new awareness, albeit passing, of the reality, the relevance, and the presence of God?

Jesus’ own words call for a response. When kairos comes, Jesus calls us to “repent and believe.”  To turn away from whatever might be distracting us from God, and to develop that relationship.

I’m reminded of the experience of someone training for a trade. In the presence of a skilled artisan, an apprentice is not making plans for the future, but is preparing for the future. In the present moment, the apprentice is learning and growing, to be ready for the kairos moment of taking on the trade for himself.

Every present moment is capable of being a kairos moment. There is not a second that goes by that we can not be aware that God is present, that Christ is with us. There is not a moment goes by that cannot be a moment of incarnation, a moment of decision. A moment in which we can prepare, and be formed, to be who God wants us to be.

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells a parable about 10 bridesmaids, waiting for the wedding to commence. Five of the ten had prepared for potential delays, bringing extra oil to light their lamps. Five had not.

Now, none of the bridesmaids could plan when the wedding would begin, that was not within their powers. And when the right time came, five were ready, and five, unfortunately, were not. What was the result of the preparation of the five who had extra oil? They were invited in to the wedding!

The same is true for us, as we live in the present moment. The result of our preparation – the result of our seeking to live with awareness of the possibility of kairos – is invitation to the ultimate party.

May you live your moments with a growing awareness of the particular, of the divine moment. May you live with a growing awareness of the presence of the infinite as it breaks into our finite lives. May you be aware of the holy, pervading and embracing that might seem mundane.


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