Can You Please Tell Me the Time?

stars at sunrise in the desert
Photo credit: <a href="">Dennis Stauffer</a>

Genesis 1:14-19

Then God said, “Stars!” And stars appeared lighting up night sky, in constellations that rise and set with the seasons of the year.

God made the sun to mark time during the day, and the moon to mark time in the night, and put them into orbit where they give light to the earth, day and night, light and dark, and God saw how good it was. And so continued evening and morning. Day 4.

We ordinarily think of sun, moon, and stars as being related to light, but light has already been taken care of on Day 1. (Never mind that light comes from stars.) Genesis thinks of these in terms of time. The constellations “rise and set to mark the seasons and the years.” The sun is to “Mark time during the day.” The moon is to “mark time in the night.” How else are you going to tell time without clocks and calendars? Day 4 is about telling time.

Even though clocks and calendars have replaced sun, moon, and stars as our method of time-telling, we still live in time. The trouble with modern clocks and calendars, though, is that they give us the illusion that all time is the same, and each day is essentially the same as the next. It’s not. Time, as we live it, is much more fluid. Some time goes quickly. “Where did the time go?” we sometimes wonder. Other time goes by seeming not to move at all. Even a 15 minute wait in the doctor’s office can seem like hours. (Remember David Lee Roth, waiting for school to get out, saying “I think the clock is slow,” and getting to school late, saying, “I don’t feel tardy.” Wait a minute, I’m dating myself.)

Jesus would later impress upon the disciples the importance of being able to know what time it is. Not in the sense of the hour of the day, but what moment we’re in, and what is called for in that moment. Fast or slow, the ability to tell time is essential. Doing what the time calls for makes the difference between living well and not really living at all.

This day, Day 4, bids us recon, what time is it.

[Bonus: Sorry, creationists, but if Genesis were a science text, the sun would have had to come before the plants. Just saying.]


One thought on “Can You Please Tell Me the Time?”

  1. Thanks for this, especially the part about how the sun would of course have to come before the plants. I guess that kind of thing is more obvious to you science majors.
    Every Rabbi I’ve ever known (I’ve known 6 or 7) has always told me that their faith communities do not take Genesis as literal history, and are always bumfuzzled as to why some Christians do.
    I think your idea – that Day Four is about time – is a helpful way to get past the debate of historicity and get to the eternal truth of the story.

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