A sermon preached at John Knox Kirk of Kansas City, Missouri, on November 30, 2014.
Editorial note: I’m working on correcting spacing issues. Thank you for your patience in the meantime.
NOT too long ago, clocks were thought to be dangerous.
Forklore had it that two clocks, ticking in the same room,
could bring ‘sure death’.
It’s easy to see how this belief came about.
The clocks were almost certain to disagree,
and in the space between two chimings of one hour, uncertainty crept in;
time’s authority was undermined.
Tinkering with clocks is our inheritance from a people obsessed with time.
Clocks spread rapidly in early America.
They were especially popular among the Puritans, who despised idleness.
Massachusetts passed a law in 1663 making the wasting of time a crime:
“No person, householder or other
shall spend his time idly or unprofitably,
under pain of such punishment
as the court shall think meet to inflict.”
It was an English Puritan, Ralph Thoresby,
who invented an early alarm clock.
By the mid-19th century, Americans were producing their own clocks.
Workshops in Connecticut produced cheap models with wooden gears.
Peddlers sold them from coast to frontier.
But all these clocks were like many Americans themselves:
individual, conforming to their own notions.
There were hundreds of local times,
each city setting its city hall, or courthouse clock
to match its own solar moon.
When it was noon in Chicago,
it was 11:50 a.m. in Saint Louis
and 12:18 p.m. in Detroit.
Until the railroads finally forced uniformity in 1883,
local time…YOUR time…was all that mattered.[i]
Time was on the mind of everyone here, near the END of Mark’s Gospel,
And given—then and how—our obsession with time,
it is surprising, in fact it is SHOCKING—to hear Jesus say,
when being asked about TIME: “I don’t know.” [Read more…]