Michael Swartz


Everything is a crisis.

On the way to our daughter Taylor’s house in Minnesota for the Thanksgiving holiday I heard my umpteenth story about the crisis of the cost of Thanksgiving and inflation.  Cost of turkey, cost of gasoline.  Well, Taylor bought the turkey.  Let’s talk about gasoline.

So when we left Minnesota yesterday we filled the Nancy’s car, the Subaru, and the price of gas was $3.40 per gallon and the distance is 361 miles.  Nancy’s car gets 28 miles to the gallon or more on the highway.  Thus the cost of the trip is $44.00.  I googled the price of gas in November 2021 and the national average was $3.41.  Well, no crisis here.  But if the price of gas were a little lower in the Midwest, let’s say $2.75 in Iowa, then the price would have been about $36.00 in 2021.  Eight dollars.  Irritation?  Yes.  Crisis – you tell me.  I don’t want to be elitist.  By the way, I saw that it was $3.09 at the BP where I get on the bridge on Middle Road and I-74 this morning on the way to church.

In Greek there are (at least) three sorts of time:

  • Chronos – clock time. Probably since they did not have clocks, sun time.
  • Kiros – decision time.
  • Pleroma – fullness of time. God’s time.

Well, crisis is the theme of preachers, funeral directors, news reporters, politicians, and used car salesmen.  What a line up

For the preacher – “today is the day of salvation.”  It is noteworthy that the word “cross” is not un-related to crisis.  And if you are at a cross-roads, then you need to make a decision in a timely manner.  Right then.  So a crisis demands an immediate decision.  It is urgent.  We creatures are programmed to respond to urgency or crisis, so it is a motivator.

The preacher wants to save your soul.

Funeral directors give us calendars.

The reporter want to catch your attention, grab your ears or your eyes.

Politicians want your vote for their candidate and not the other one.

Used car salesmen remind you that they have another customer interested in the same car you are looking at so it might be gone if you delay.

The problem is that we are bombarded with so many crises in our present environment that we can sometimes go on overload.  And it seems to me that some crises are self-generated to manipulate folks.  Manipulate us.

Reminds me of the story of the boy who cried wolf.  And the tragedy of that morality tale is that when there really was a wolf everyone had quit paying attention.

Chronos is clock time.  It has gotten much more precise with modern technology.  Standard time was pioneered by the trains so they would not run into each other.  Before that people looked at the sun.  Factories blew a whistle.  Churches rang bells – not everyone had a cell phone.

But some crises are real, like if you don’t pay the utility bill, so to reduce anxiety we push potential crises to chronos.  We have automatic bill pay for Mid-America.  And I am grateful for weekly trash pickup; we use a timer when we are baking something.

I don’t have all the time in the world for today’s sermon, so let’s move on to the third word, which is a new one to me.  It is Pleroma, as in fullness of time.  As in Galatians 4:4 – “in the fullness of time God sent his only Son.”

Fullness of time is like when the “time is ripe.”  There is nothing quite like a Midwestern ripe tomato.  Ripe on the vine.  Those things you get in the grocery store are picked green, hard as baseballs, shipped for miles and miles and taste like cardboard.  Ripe is not exactly the same as Chronos.

Lots of Advent readings are about ripeness, God’s time.  “Deserts shall bloom.”  So as Californians with Midwestern relatives we crossed the Mojave Desert with some regularity, and then as Midwesterners with California relatives we did the same thing.  And every now and again, in the winter there would be a good rain in the desert; it would explode in color.  “Deserts shall bloom.” You did not know in Chronos time when that would happen, but it happened when the time was ripe, and you were fortunate to enjoy it.  And the desert plants do not have seeds that take forever to germinate – they explode when the time is right.

Peace is like Pleroma, it happens now and again.  Some times we remember the time: “on the eleventh day of the eleventh month…”

Sometimes we miss it.  We actually got a peace dividend after the Berlin wall came down, during the Clinton administration.  In our house we say, “I want to party like its 1999.”  That year I made more money on my retirement scheme than I did by working; no kidding.  We probably missed the peace dividend because we were too busy worrying about the Y2K crisis.  The one that did not happen.

So what is the point?  What is the word from the Lord?  (What is the decision to be made, the crisis.)?

Become a more flexible thinker about time.  Advent reminds us that God’s time and church time is a little different than calendar time.  And we can move in various realms of time at the same time.  (And our calendar is closely related to western time, which is more related to Christian Time because the west has power and hegemony on time.  Which is why Hebrew, Chinese and Islamic folks all have their own New Years.  You ain’t the boss of me.)

Be flexible and remember that sometimes really good things happen in God’s time.  And don’t miss them.

Be flexible and remember that many speakers/communicators foment crisis to manipulate us.  Manipulate you.  Manipulate the situation.  Get a knee jerk response.

It might be a crisis.  It might be Chronos – it will be colder in the winter and warmer in the summer.  Are you tired of every snow event predicted as sno-mageddon?  With photos of 1978?  This too shall pass.  Or it could be God’s time, it will happen some day we just do not know when.  Pleroma.


When we moved to our house in Bettendorf in 1991 it had a garage door where you pushed a button and it went up and down.  And the door was in panels, made of particleboard, and heavy, and soaked up water.  And at that time there were no sensors to stop the door from coming down when something was in the way.  Early one morning it came down on our cat, Kitty Kent State.  And the cat was howling as cats do, and I remember being just awakened and unclothed.  But I pitied the poor cat, picked up the shovel and considered dispatching the cat to cat-heaven to put him out of his misery.  As I got over to where the cat was howling I realized that I could insert the shovel between the floor and the door and pry up, when I did so the cat shot out and then the door closed.  Crisis averted.  If I had indeed killed the cat it would have probably been part of the Thanksgiving dinner conversation with Taylor and Rebecca in Minneapolis this week.

Our first thought in crisis is not always the best one.

Amen and amen.

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