Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Local Time

The local time is.... 11:22pm

  As I sat waiting for my flight out of BNA to O’Hare by way of Cincinnati, the intercom lady chimed in every half hour with the time.  Since it is an airport, the recorded message qualified each announcement with "the local time is..."
  Having lived in Atlanta for the last five years and at that moment being in Nashville, my own place of origin, that phrase struck me as having metaphysical weight rather than simply pragmatic significance.  I thought first about the difference from one city to another in the way time is seen, valued, observed, and experienced.  Go to the airport in Atlanta and then to the one in Nashville and you will get a sense that the two cities defintely have their own “local time” - the significance of which outweighs the mere hour eastern-central divide.
  I recently had dinner with a family who has lived and ministered in Uganda for over a decade.  Part of our conversation was about the “local time” of the native peoples there versus here.  Time, to them, is but a mere suggestion and is certainly not made equivalent to monetary compensation.  I was told that when performing a wedding ceremony if the minister does not speak for at least an hour it is an insult!  Local time indeed.  When I am at a wedding if the minister goes on and on I get annoyed that he thinks this moment is about his sermonizing rather than the couple.  
  The interstates (or the people on them) in most cities will tell you plenty about the local time.
  So will their churches.  Local time means much more than just if people’s pace of life is rather hurried or more insouciant.  The time people are living by also points to their understanding about what is wrong with the world, what will fix what is wrong, and who is responsible for fixing it.  The time people live in tell them what gives value to human life, what is honorable, who is heroic as well as what is wasteful, what lifestyles are suspicious, and who is the enemy.
  And in this, actual time influences this metaphorical time.  It can be generally observed that each decade has its own mannerisms and idiosyncrasies - its own hot button issues, causes, rallying cries, political propaganda, religious wars, hair styles, and idols.  What images come to mind when I mention the 1950s?  What about the 20s or the 80s?  Certainly theses trends and cultural passions do not appear or disappear from 11:59 to midnight at New Years, but general tendencies and currents can be noted.
  My question (and point, maybe) is how much should our understanding of God and mode of living out faithfulness be affect by “local time”?  When do we cross the line from accommodoating to local languages, customs, norms, traditions, etc. into a compromising God by making Him just like ourselves?  It is funny how I have heard remarks about paintings of the “black Jesus” when the “white Jesus” portraits are just called “Jesus.”  We have made Him like us and don’t even notice!  My art critiques aside, when is observing local time healthy and God honoring - like the Incarnation, and when does local time start dictating who God is - like the Golden Calf?

The local time is.... bed time.

Good night.

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