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Adjusting the Culture of Time

Weekly Devotionals

Adjusting the Culture of Time

Ecclesiastes 3:11:  “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”

In his book, Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman refers to Lewis Mumford who said,

“The clock…is a piece of power machinery whose ‘product’ is seconds and minutes.”  In manufacturing such a product, the clock has the effect of disassociating time from human events and thus nourishes the belief in an independent world of mathematically measurable sequences.  Moment to moment, it turns out, is not God’s conception, or nature’s.  It is man conversing with himself about and through a piece of machinery he created.

In Mumford’s great book Technics and Civilization, he shows how, beginning in the fourteenth century, the clock made us into time-keepers, and then time-savers, and now time-servers….as Mumford points out, with the invention of the clock, Eternity ceased to serve as the measure and focus of human events.  And thus, though few would have imagined the connection, the inexorable ticking of the clock may have had more to do with the weakening of God’s supremacy than all the treatises produced by the philosophers of the Enlightenment; that is to say, the clock introduced a new form of conversation between man and God, in which God appears to have been the loser.

This got me thinking about how in our modern society, we are ruled by our time schedules, keeping appointments, looking at our watches.  Of course, there is practical value in this in terms of getting things done.  But what happens when the clock and time limits rule the culture?  Then relationships get cut short, and it becomes terribly difficult to live in the moment, the here and now.  If Mumford is right, then this is the byproduct of our creation, the clock/watch.  When it comes to worship, sometimes I find it frustrating that in our culture we have to “respect everybody’s time” by keeping worship to a set time schedule.  “Lord, you can get this much of our time, but once the clock hits a certain digit, time’s up.  Can’t be late for lunch.”  I get it.  I understand that that’s the culture we live in.  But perhaps the culture is wrong and we’re the ones who need to adjust the culture rather than adjusting to it.

So let’s regain a sense of the eternal.  Wear your watch less, or look at it less.  Don’t wear a watch on the Sabbath day of rest and see what shifts inside you.  Lose yourself in the eternal present that is represented in the Sabbath.