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Sermon for Choral Evensong 3rd before Lent Ephesians 5:1-17

January 24, 2017


making the most of the time – words from our second lesson

In the name…

“I don’t have time.”

“Be there in a minute!”

“I’ll do it tomorrow.”

“I’ve got more important things on my mind…”

“There just aren’t enough hours in the day.”

“Would you hurry up?”

“How time flies.”

“Where has the time gone?”

That’s the experience of being in the TRAP – Time Restraints And Pressures.


Our reading spoke of “making the most of the time” v. 16

Better translated redeeming– used then of paying the price to set a slave free.

Or buying something quickly while it was available

”striking while the iron is hot.”


The chapter went on to say: “Don’t be drunk with wine, in which is debauchery but be filled with the Spirit“ v. 18

Maybe alcoholism was a serious problem at Ephesus.

But Paul’s word debauchery in Greek is asotiam

‘dissipation’, unsaved.

commonly used to speak of a person who had squandered opportunities through bad decisions—a drunk, an addict, a compulsive gambler, etc.


Squandering opportunities

During a lifespan, the average person spends:

6 months sitting at traffic lights

8 months opening junk mail

2 years unsuccessfully returning phone calls
1 year looking for misplaced objects

4 years doing housework

5 years queuing

5.5 years driving a car

7.5 years listening to the radio

6 years eating

21 years watching television.


The average lifespan consists of only about 4,000 weeks. We make ambitious plans, maybe write to do lists but have almost no time at all to put them into practice.


Roman philosopher Seneca wrote his essay On the Shortness of Life, it:  ” rushes by so speedily, and so swiftly that all save a very few find life at an end just when they are getting ready to live.



Yet all of us realize the value of time.

How do we value ONE YEAR? Ask a student who failed a grade.

What is the value of ONE MONTH? Ask a Mother whose baby arrived prematurely.

How much do we value ONE WEEK? For the sailors trapped in a submarine on the ocean floor it was the difference between life and death.

How much do we value ONE HOUR? Ask someone who missed a connecting flight because the first flight was delayed by an hour.

What is the value of HALF AN HOUR? Ask the the photographer who missed the wedding because he thought it was at 3:30, rather than 3

How much do we value ONE MINUTE? Ask someone who had a heart attack in a restaurant with a paramedic sitting at the next table.

How much do we value ONE SECOND? Ask an Olympic swimmer, who just missed qualifying by 3 one-thousandths of a second!


Missed opportunities. In the days before modern harbours, a ship had to wait for the flood tide before it could make it to port. The Latin was ob portu, waiting for the moment when it could ride the turn of the tide to harbour. ob portu  – from whence we get the word opportunity. If they missed it, they would have to wait for another tide to come in.  Hence Shakespeare:

There is a tide in the affairs of men,

Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;

Omitted, all the voyage of their life

Is bound in shallows and in miseries.

On such a full sea are we now afloat;

And we must take the current when it serves,

Or lose our ventures. Julius Caesar, Act 4, Scene 3


Paul spoke of quality time. Kairos (valuable) as opposed to chronos (Filling in, clock time). A study found that working mothers spend an average of 11 minutes a day on weekdays, and thirty minutes a day on weekends with the children (not including mealtime) .But that is misleading, since most of that time is squandered on chitchat like “What’s for supper?” and “Have you finished your homework?” Truly meaningful communication between parent and child unfortunately occupies only about two minutes each day.


Paul spoke of “speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing, and making melody in your heart to the Lord” v. 19. The Spirit gives people joy, and joy very often expresses itself through music.  Singing is a church-building activity.  Music that is intended to bring glory to God also brings pleasure both to the individual and to other believers. So choir practice is quality time Don’t waste the time!


But the more efficient you get at ploughing through your tasks, the faster new tasks seem to arrive. “Labour-saving” devices transformed the lives of housewives from the end of the 19th century.  Washing clothes no longer entailed a day bent over a mangle; a vacuum cleaner could render a carpet spotless in minutes. But as the efficiency of housework increased, so did the standards of cleanliness that society came to expect. Now that the living room carpet could be kept perfectly clean, it had to be; now that clothes never needed to be grubby, grubbiness was all the more taboo.


These days, you can answer work emails in bed at midnight. Or should that message you got at 5.30pm really wait till morning for a reply? Personal productivity isn’t an antidote to busyness. It’s another form of busyness. And it keeps us sufficiently distracted that we don’t have to ask ourselves potentially terrifying questions about how we are spending our days. Which paths will you pursue, and which will you abandon?  Which relationships will you prioritise, during your shockingly limited lifespan, and who will you resign yourself to disappointing?  What matters?


Merlin Mann wrote Inbox Zero, about “how to reclaim your email, your attention, and your life.” He realised that people would always be making more claims on his time; worthy claims, for the most part but impossible to meet. And that even the best, most efficient system for managing the emails they sent him was never going to provide a solution to that. “Eventually, I realised something,” he said, “Email is not a technical problem. It’s a people problem. And you can’t fix people.”

American performance coach Michael Altshuler says “The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.”

see also

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