The Problem of Time

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In physics, “any theory of quantum gravity has to deal with the inherent incompatibilities of quantum theory and relativity, not the least of which is the so-called ‘problem of time’ – that time is taken to have a different meaning.” Indeed.

You may prefer this explanation: “Listen, I will tell you a mystery; we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. The hour is coming and is now here.”

Time definitely has different meanings. A single moment in time can seem to stretch beyond a decade. And a decade can seem to be gone in a moment’s time. We can “forget the time” – when we are in the throes of an activity. We can “count the time” – anxiously anticipating an event. We can “waste time”, “kill time”, and “bide our time.” What we are clearly unable to master, however, is how to get back time.

The closest we can come to this is through memories. Through recalling past events or people into the present, we are able to bend time so that although we cannot go backward in time, those events, those people, can come forward. In language about God, we call this time-bending trick anamnesis. Through recalling the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection, those events move through time to us here in this time “like sparks through the stubble.”

It also works that way when we recall the names of those we love. Though we cannot go back to the last time we shared a meal or felt their touch, we can summon them here by simply speaking their names. Personal names carry great power. Every religious tradition includes reverence and mystery not only around naming the Deity, but investing human names with sacred dignity in special liturgies for baby naming. Names carry histories, heal injuries, signify pride, and create families.

There is a story in the Bible about one of King David’s sons, a young man named Absalom. Absalom became embroiled in a palace coup, was caught up in a drama with consequences he was unable to stop. Realizing that his own death was very near, and that he would die childless, Absalom had a monument erected on the desert plains inscribed with the words, “My name was Absalom.”

Every time that we tell this story, Absalom moves from the Iron Age to the Space Age. Just as every time we hear the name of someone we love, but see no longer, vivid memories of that person flood our hearts. In a few moments we will call the names of those we love. We will bend time again with the mere mention of their names. They will return to us, racing through the years, shining forth in our hearts as clear as anything. It is a mystery, but rest assured: “The hour is coming and is now arrived when we will all hear the voice of God and those who hear will live, even though they die.”


The Rev. Cynthia Park
All Souls
November 6, 2016
6:00 PM

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