Easter 5 C: A Wrinkle in Time

The readings for the Fifth Sunday of Easter are

First Reading Acts 11:1–18

Psalm Psalm 148

New Testament            Revelation 21:1–6

Gospel             John 13:31–35

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could transcend the limitations of time? If we could understand past, present and future alike? We would anticipate pandemics and prepare to save lives. We would know whether climate change is a real threat or just a conspiracy of the elites to ruin the economy. We would be able to see if a politician is true to her word or simply trying to garner votes and consolidate unlimited power.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could do the impossible and see beyond the restrictions of time? Wouldn’t it be nice if we could look around within a Wrinkle in Time?

Madaleine L’Engle’s 1962 book by that name stirs the hearts of so-called “progressive” and “conservative” or “Evangelical” Christians alike. Three children are taken on time travel. That is, they go tessering through time, powered by a five-dimensional tesseract. There they find that the universe is enveloped in a struggle of good and evil, light and darkness; and that the earth is partially under the control of a dark cloud of evil, spread by the supreme IT which has managed to gained control of the minds of many.

We may well caution that Madaleine L’Engle’s book is simply fiction; but plenty of people have been moved by it as though it were non-fiction. Some love the overt feminism, with a bunch of heroines in charge. They love the approving references not only to Jesus, but to Buddha as well. They like the imaginative openness to the idea that revelatory truth may come through avenues outside of orthodox Christian Scripture and tradition. Of course, there are many others who see the book, and the Disney movie adaptations, as dangerous for the very same reasons.

But before the Wrinkle by L’Engle there is the Wrinkle in Time that we encounter throughout the Bible, if we read carefully. This wrinkle is a fold. It is where past and future meet in the eternal present. It is where God meets us most profoundly.

We catch several glimpses of this Wrinkle in this Sunday’s readings. Peter is caught up in this Wrinkle in the Book of Acts when he has a time- and religion-bending vision of a feast that God is preparing for him, and for a church that brings together both Jews and Gentiles. The resurrected Jesus commands, “Take and eat of decidedly un-kosher food because God is about to open the doors of the covenant to all people.” There is a great coincidence and collision of time when servants sent by Roman commander, Cornelius, and the Holy Spirit of God, both arrive “at that very moment,” and Peter suddenly remembers and understands what Jesus once said, “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit,” and so Peter suddenly realizes salvation comes through faith.

Psalm 148 is one of the great calls to worship of the Bible. And, again, because of a Wrinkle in Time, the psalmist is not embarrassed to send the call out to the whole of Creation, including animate and inanimate, wild and domesticated animals, “creeping things” and birds, people young and old—and, quite explicitly, the kings and all the rulers of the earth. Now, the prophets all pointed to a time when Creation would be healed of all the wounds we people have been inflicting—cleansed of human sins that cause fruitful Creation to wither. And the prophets foretold a time when enemy nations would be amazed at the ways God would redeem and renew his special people, Israel. They will then repent of their sins, and come streaming to Zion for wisdom and justice. But this Psalm says, by faith we live in a Wrinkle in Time. By hopeful faith we send out the invitation right now. Join us and the angels right now and praise the Lord!

Then, in Revelation 21:3 there is this curious thing the visionary, John, hears when he first sees the New Heaven, the New Earth, and the New Jerusalem. He hears a loud voice from God’s throne saying the home of God is with mortal humans, both in the future and right now. Present and future overlap. God’s tabernacle, or living presence, bith IS and WILL BE among humans.

And John’s Gospel features this Wrinkle all over the place. In John 1:14 we are told about this same “tabernacling” of God—“And the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.Then the Samaritan woman at the well is astounded that Jesus, a Jew, who worships in the Jerusalem Temple and who is bound by Moses’ law to avoid contact with Samaritans, is instead having a deep conversation with her. Jesus replies that God is bending time back on this woman and on all who encounter him: “…the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him.”  Then, as Jesus nears the cross, he tells his disciples they can’t follow him. A few verses later he explains that Peter and the disciples can’t follow him “now,” but they will follow afterward. Meanwhile they can live in  the Wrinkle in God’s Time when they live under the regime of the New Command to love one another as Jesus has loved them. They can’t follow, but they can follow.

Here is the greatest characteristic of the Wrinkle in Time. God is with us when we love. God tabernacles, dwells, pitches a tent with us, when we love. The whole of Creation and the whole of humanity will praise God and worship with us when we love. All because everyone will know that we are disciples of Christ when we have love for one another.

Time folds over on itself when we love. We walk with Sarah and Abraham, Moses and Miriam, Mary Magdalene and Peter, when  we love God and one another. We also walk with renewed creation and redeemed people of all sorts. And we walk with angels, and with the Lord.

But we also see into the future. We do not let any present threat, be it pandemic or political polarization, cause us to hate. We walk into every dimension of our future with our heads held high in hope, because “there is no fear in love, because perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4.18).”

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About John

John is a retired pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America who has served congregations for over 40 years, including in rural, suburban, campus ministry and urban settings. His love of Border Collie sheepdogs has been fortified by his many friendships with shepherds all around the world. Nothing he has ever or will ever accomplish is as significant as the patience God, his wife and his friends have shown in putting up with his deficiencies.
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