Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Tillich on Ecclesiastes for JMP

Reader JMP mentions Ecclesiastes so I’ll point him to Tillich’s The New Being’s chapter 21 on the Right Time.  I first read Tillich in a religion class with Howard Burkle at Grinnell.  I still have my copy of The New Being and sent it with my daughter to University  in Madison. Dan Harper told me once UUs bonkers for anything Tillich.  I like the commentary below on Time from Tillich.  Time’s something few UUs get in my opinion. Many conflicts with the Orthodox and Evangelicals go away when we realize time and how we experience time different things.  Tillich explains a bit….

There is another answer to the question of human existence, to the question of timing and being timed. It is summed up in the words of Jesus: "The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand." In these words, God’s timing breaks into our human timing. Something new appears, answering the question of the Preacher is well as the question of the business man. We ask with all generations of thinking men: What is the meaning of the flux of time and the passing away of everything in it? What is the meaning of our toiling and planning when the end of all of us and of all our works is the same? Vanity? And this is the answer we get: Within this our time something happens that is not of our time but out of eternity, and this times our time! The same power which limits, us in time gives eternal significance to our timing.

When Jesus says that the right hour has come, that the kingdom of God is at hand, He pronounces the victory over the law of vanity. This hour is not subject to the circle of life and death and all the other circles of vanity. When God Himself appears in a moment of time, when He Himself subjects Himself to the flux of time, the flux of time is conquered. And if this happens in one moment of time, then all moments of time receive another significance. When the finger of the clock turns around; not one vain moment is replaced by another vain moment, but each moment says to us: The eternal is at hand in this moment. The moment passes, the eternal remains. Whatever in this moment, in this hour, on this day and in this short or long life-time happens has infinite significance. Our timing from moment to moment, our planning today for tomorrow, the toil of our lifetime is not lost. Its deepest meaning lies not ahead where vanity swallows it, but it lies above where eternity affirms it. This is the seriousness of time and timing. Through our timing God times the coming of His kingdom; through our timing He elevates the time of vanity into the time of fulfillment. The activist who is timing with shrewdness and intuition what he has to do in his time and for his time, and for our whole activistic civilization cannot give us the answer. And the Preacher, who himself once was a most successful activist, knows that this is not an answer; he knows the vanity of our timing.

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