June 16, 2014
Do you sense it? Your bod – and your brain – are probably talking to you right now. It’s in the air. Not the air, really; it’s wired into your DNA. Within the next seven days, it’s coming. Can you feel it?
If you saw the most depressing movie ever made (What About Schmidt, with Jack Nicholson convincingly playing an old man), the opening scene sets the stage for the plot. Nicholson is Schmidt, retiring from a "career" in a bland insurance office… and the last hour of his last day is spent at his desk, watching the clock on the wall tick off the seconds until the end of the day, and his release to retirement.
That’s what you’re feeling, as you count down to SUMMER! Remember, back in grade school, when the last day in class felt the same way? Couldn’t wait for the last day – the Longest Day – to end?
Next Saturday is the first day of SUMMER! Longest day of the year; it’s the Summer Solstice. In Anchorage, that means sunup at 4:20a… and sundown at 11:42p. Chicago: up at 5:16a, and down at 8:29p. In The OC – where my family lives, and I unpack-and-repack – we’ll be light at 5:42a, and lights-out at 8:05p. In every northern hemisphere city, this is as good as it gets: if you long for lots of sun, this one’s for you! Saturday the 21st is the best tanning day of the year!
The Longest Day? Say that to a movie buff, and the answer is a war epic filmed in ’62, with a cast that included names who would, only later, become famous. Eddie Albert, Paul Anka, Red Buttons, Richard Burton and Sean Connery were all included in the reenactment of D-Day, the heroic assault on the Third Reich that assured the end of the War to End All Wars. That Longest Day – June 6, 1944 – wasn’t the longest day, literally; it just seemed the longest … if you were present for the assault.
How long is a day, anyway? Are they all the same size? Can one day be longer than another? Do you feel differently at the end of a day than you did at the beginning? Are we hardwired to react to the beginning – and, the ending – of days?
When God talks about days, sometimes he’s referring to the 24-hour version, and sometimes he’s denoting time spans with pronounced beginnings, and endings. Jesus was the one who said, "As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work." (John 9:4). In his view, days were for getting the job done… and the end-of-the-day marked the end-of-the-work.
Peter was listening as Jesus spoke; he picked up the same theme when he wrote for us: "… do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming…" (I Peter 3:8-12b)
The word picture is powerful: we’re in the midst of a "day" when there is work to be done. "As long as it is day, we must do the work…" is Jesus’ counsel. The clock is ticking down; "…the day of the Lord will come like a thief…" is the way Peter says it. Like Schmidt, we should be aware of the clock, but instead of putting our feet on the desk and counting down, we should accelerate the pace, "…not wanting anyone to perish…"
Can you feel it? We’re running out of time on the game clock.
Night is coming…