Ancient Greek has two words for time, both used in the New Testament. Chronos is the measured passing of time as on a clock, time moving from past to present to future. Kairos, which originally referred to the right time to fire an arrow to best effect, or the moment in weaving when the shuttle should be sent through the loom, refers to an opportune or decisive moment to do something, especially something significant, and usually at a time of crisis or tension.
An example of kairos in Jesus’ preaching is in Mark 1.15:
Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time [kairos] has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”
And our Bible reading when we meet will be 2 Corinthians 6.1-2:
We appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says, “In a favourable time [kairos] I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the favourable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.
So kairos time is time as a quality, time that is always in the ‘now’, and which therefore cannot be subject to measurement. Because it is always in the present, it is also eternal, and therefore it is also the time of Heaven. In our current crisis, it is kairos as opportune moment which is foremost.
Although the idea of ‘liminal space’ does not imply the sense of an opportune or decisive moment, it may be helpful to reflect again on Richard Rohr’s meditation on it from the last session as we prepare to explore kairos.
Preparatory reading and reflection
Naomi Klein suggests two possible outcomes from the pandemic, but you might like to read this alternative take by Simon Mair, who identifies four possible futures, illustrated below – or listen to him in this half-hour podcast.
Together with all in Christ, we wait Come Holy Spirit; soak into our deepest being We reflect together with all your people Come Holy Spirit; breeze through our staleness We will hear the scriptures together Come Holy Spirit; fire up our imaginations for good
There follows a moment of quiet. We’ll then read the passage from Corinthians quoted above:
We appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says, “In a favourable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the favourable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.
Questions for exploration
We will start the group by checking in with each other, or introducing ourselves, for a minute each. Please also find a volunteer to summarise your group’s conclusions for the record of ‘key thoughts’.
- ‘In the day of salvation I helped you’ – but does our civilisation want to be helped? How do you feel about this time? To what extent do people around you perceive this as a spiritual crisis as well as a medical and economic one?
- Naomi Klein outlined a binary choice between two possible futures. Are there other ways the future might pan out, such as Simon Mair’s? Are there other stories we might tell about the future?
- The chaos, complexity and sheer scale of this pandemic almost defy comprehension. Is this a moment for big ideas and strong leadership? Or is it a moment for humility, for working with our communities? Is kairos in its Christian sense meaningful in wider, largely secular, society?
- In his article Greg Smith is optimistic: he says ‘there are almost certainly going to be some long-term cultural and social transformations’. How do we use this time now to ensure that they are for the better? Do we act now, or wait upon the Spirit of God to help us discern when the kairos moment is? What is the place of prayer, and what forms might that take?
After considering these questions, click here for a liturgy which responds to today’s theme.