Posted by: rogermitchell | January 26, 2010

Subverting western time!

The thoughts on time that I shared a few days ago only received one comment. I deliberately waited before making a new post to see if any other discussion was forthcoming. The conversation on Martin Scott’s blog has moved on to other themes. So at risk of increasing the deafening silence (!) I have decided to continue the theme. I believe that this is a vital front line for mindset change. In the previous post I suggested that the practical use of time in the context of empire that has dominated the last nearly two millennia of western history has been either the tool or the master for getting things done, the means by which I seize the day, or become part of the day that someone else is seizing. It seems that the kingdom of God operates completely differently. Just as its power is opposite to the power of empire, its understanding of time is opposite to the time of empire. At its inception, the kingdom of God cut right across the time of empire. In the middle of the Roman era, it announces the fullness of time.  “When the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son” (Gal 4:4). Time is a gift for the revealing of goodness, a context and opportunity for love relationship. So instead of the moments of today being for dominating and insisting on my way, each one is a time to collaborate with you and my fellow humans as co-workers for the fullness of love and peace. If the primary underlying purpose of my job is to use my ‘working hours’ to achieve the good, the profit, the success, the targets, of me and my folk or of my bosses, shareholders, government or management at the expense of the customers, clients, the poor or the planet then my gift of kingdom time, eschatological time, the fullness of time will subvert this empire use of time. It will not do so overtly, by using the time to undo their plans as an opposing system with the same power and approach, but simply by receiving the time as a gift in which to release people, training, technology and ability as the means to empower others for the common good. My expectation is that this relationship with time, what we can call eschatological time, has a dynamic that can connect us to eternity, and that as we give ourselves to the gift then the kingdom of God will increasingly manifest in the present. So what will this look like? What will its impact be? Please crunch the impossibilities of this conceptually and practically and let’s tease out the implications together, for this, I am sure, is what the repositioned ecclesia for the world looks like and operates like. But just now I think it is the moment to take the eschatological jump into the gift of time for writing up my thesis …



  1. A bit of a sideways comment here, I am aware… and I’m not an academic, please forgive me if I’m way off track…
    I’ve had a love encounter with God that has so transformed my being that I LOVE to dwell in His presence and to serve those around me (home, work, school gate, local community…..) out of that place of being ….. and I have known people and lived in places where others have pursued with me that place where activity grows out of having journeyed in Presence. From that place I have been busy and fitted huge amounts into time but felt supported and encouraged and a level of unity where I have not needed to fight for my identity but have become more myself…. However, now living in a new area and developing new relationships, attending a church for whom moments of encounter are not necessarily an expectation of a gathering, I find time is more stretched, more pressured and the digging in to release God’s kingdom in my community which is a passion shared by the family has become a lifeline rather than a launchpad. There are plenty of projects here to be a part of….. but a feeling of tiredness. There just seems to be an expansion of time and capacity when activity grows out of love, unity, freedom……

    • Thanks for this Fi. I don’t think that this is a sideways comment at all and not being an academic has to be, generally speaking, an advantage. If those of us who are doing academic work are not making sense for the rest we aren’t being a gift and are wasting our time. You have exactly picked up that love encounter and journeying in divine presence is about a different experience of time to what I’m calling empire time. These experiences can be described as eschatological, that is to say they connect out of temporal time into eternity but in doing so bring eternity and its God here. Where forms of ecclesia don’t encourage and multiply the intersection of time and eternity like this it is often a sign that they are operating by imperial time, seizing time as a tool or a master to make things happen. And doing this is not being the ecclesia at all. So if it’s where you want to be it’s time for subversion, and if not, it’s time to be the ecclesia wherever you find yourselves, letting heavenly time loose. It’s time for that and there’s time for that!

  2. I do have to chuckle about the whole time thing. Here I am in Italy, the first Euro-empire. Time should be a huge issue. Not. Here, all are laid back, things get done late and later. No rush. A shrug of the shoulders to deal with all problems of time and lateness.
    I had to negoiate a new level of Italian bureaucracy today and that meant changing all of my plans – but no matter. I just followed the next set of directions, headed to the next office (or in one case to a tabacco shop to get a ‘stamp’, effectively a tax on filling out the form), stopped for a bit to have a caffe and on I went. It is all done at a leisurely pace.
    Contrast that with Canada – where there is constant stress, long commutes done with the anxiety of an eye on the clock and who knows when the next snow, rain, hail, or ice storm will delay or stop everything.
    I definitely prefer Italy when it comes to managing time, despite their history of empire and more recently of fascism. Recently a not so bright government minister commented that Italians should give up their 2 hour break at mid-day and instead be more like Germans, that is work hard all day with a 30 minute break at lunch. Bleh. That won’t work in a hot country. I love that long mid day break, it refreshes for the leisurely wind down into the evening.

    Time is definitely a contextual experience but I agree it also, in the context of empire, is mostly used to spur on the oppressed to increased labour. So I am all for keeping Italians on that long break and frequent stops for a caffe during the day.

  3. I so agree Cheryl – must be my Latin/French blood! And I agree with Fi that once having had a love encounter with the real Time Lord it can become a struggle to remain in imperial time and be driven by its agenda. It seems to me that the more folk there are living outside imperial time the more we’ll see subversive time release us. Thinking creatively about all the aspects we take for granted (like Time) begins to free us from mindsets that don’t reflect his kingdom. The choice is before us – sometimes there is a cost involved but its worth it.

  4. Just in case anyone was wondering I don’t think we should struggle to stay in empire time -but I’m aware many of us live betwixt and between so am referencing the tension we live with.

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