Lesson Developed by
Bible Study, Appreciation of Biblical Wisdom as Guidance for Life
- Bibles: New Revised Standard or New International Versions
- Copy of “Seven Weeks to Wisdom: Week VI Handout of Excerpts if you prepare one
- Copies of Skip Masback sermon excerpts from “Now is Our Time” (attached)
- Writing Instruments
- Flip Chart Pad (with Post-It strip or masking tape)
- Three small different colored pads of post it notes
- Enough 4×6 index cards for each student to have two cards
- The sheets oaktag you had prepared last week with the headings “The Great Book of our Youth Group’s Wisdom: A Collection of Proverbs.”
To provide the youth with: a) an understanding of the doctrine of the proper time in wisdom literature; b) the value of wisdom as guidance for life.
To engage the doctrine of the “proper time” in wisdom literature.
Introduction for Leaders
From Skip Masback, “Now is our Time” Sermon, November 13, 2011 (attached)
From: Richard Niell Donovan at www.lectionary.org (from Week 6)
“The time (Greek: kairos) is fulfilled” (v. 15). The Greeks have another word, chronos, to denote chronological time. Kairos is significant time – the moment of truth – the decisive moment. When we talk about the number of days that a ship takes to go from one port to the next, we are talking chronos time. When we say, “my ship has come in,” we are talking kairos time. If we miss our departure but are able to sail a day later, we have lost only a day of chronos time. However, if we are running for our lives and miss the last ship, it is an altogether different matter kairos time. To miscalculate chronos is inconvenient, but to miscalculate kairos is tragic. Jesus says that the kairos “is fulfilled.” The decisive moment has arrived. God’s reign is at hand. Heads up! Pay attention! Don’t miss this one! Your life is at stake!”
From Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology, v. III at 369-372 (from Week 6)
”3. ‘Kairos’ and ‘Kairoi’: We spoke of the moment at which history, in terms of concrete situation, had matured to the point of being able to receive the breakthrough of the central manifestation of the Kingdom of God. The New Testament has called this moment the “fulfillment of time,” in Greek, kairos.
This term has been frequently used since we introduced it into theological and philosophical discussion in connection with the religious socialist movement in Germany after the First World War. It was chosen to remind Christian theology of the fact that the biblical writers, not only of the Old but also of the New Testament, were aware of the self-transcending dynamics of history. And it was chosen to remind philosophy of the necessity of dealing with history, not in terms of its logical and categorical structure only, but also in terms of its dynamics. And, above all, kairos should express the feeling of many people in central Europe after the first World War that a moment of history had appeared which was pregnant with a new understanding of the meaning of history and life. Whether or not this feeling was empirically confirmed – in part it was, in part it was not – the concept itself retains its significance and belongs in the whole of systematic theology.
Its original meaning – the right time, the time in which something can be done – must be contrasted with chronos, measured time or clock time. The former is qualitative, the latter quantitative. In the English word “timing,” something of the qualitative character of time is expressed, and if one would speak of God’s “timing” in his providential activity, this term would come to the meaning of kairos.
In ordinary Greek language, the word is used for any practical purpose in which a good occasion for some action is given. In the New Testament it is the translation of a word used by Jesus when he speaks of his time which has not yet come – the time of his suffering and death. It is used by both John the Baptist and Jesus when they announce the fulfillment of time with respect to the Kingdom of God, which is “at hand.” Paul uses kairos when he speaks in a world-historical view of the moment of time in which God could send his son, the moment which was selected to become the center of history.
In order to recognize this “great kairos,” one must be able to see the “signs of the times,” as Jesus says when he accuses his enemies of not seeing them. Paul in his description of the kairos, looks at the situation both of paganism and of Judaism, and in the Deutero-Pauline literature the world-historical and cosmic view of the appearance of the Christ plays an increasingly important role.
We have interpreted the fulfillment of time as the moment of maturity in a particular religious and cultural development – adding, however, the warning that the maturity means not only the ability to receive the central manifestation of the Kingdom of God but also the greatest power to resist it. For maturity is the result of education by the law, and in some who take the law with radical seriousness, maturity becomes despair of the law, with the ensuing quest for that which breaks through the law as “good news.”
The experience of a kairos has occurred again and again in the history of the churches, although the term was not used. Whenever the prophetic Spirit arose in the churches, the “third stage” was spoken of, the stage of the “rule of Christ” in the “one thousand-year” period. This stage was seen as immediately imminent and so became the basis for prophetic criticism of the churches in their distorted stage. When the churches rejected this criticism or acepted it in a partial, compromising way, the prophetic Spirit was forced into sectarian movements of an originally revolutionary character – until the sects became churches and the prophetic Spirit became latent.
The fact that kairos-experiences belong to the history of the churches and that the “great kairos,” the appearance of the center of history, is again and again re-experienced through relative “kairoi,” in which the Kingdom of God manifests itself in a particular breakthrough, is decisive for our consideration. The relation of the one kairos to the kairoi is the relation of the criterion to that which stands under the criterion and the relation of the source of power to that which is nourished by the source of power. Kairoi have occured and are occurring in all preparatory and receiving moments in the church latent and manifest. For although the prophetic Spirit is latent or even repressed over long stretches of history, it is never absent and breaks through the barriers of the law in a kairos.
Awareness of a kairos is a matter of vision. It is not an object of analysis and calculation such as could be given in psychological or sociological terms. It is not a matter of detached observation but of involved  experience. This, however, does not mean that observation and analysis are excluded; they serve to objectify the experience and to clarify and enrich the vision. But observation and analysis do not produce the experience of the kairos. The prophetic Spirit works creatively without any dependence on argumentation and good will. But every moment which claims to be Spiritual must be tested, and the criterion is the “great kairos.” When the term kairos was used for the critical and creative situation after the First World War in central Europe, ti was used not only by the religious socialist movement in obedience to the great kairos – at least in intention – but also by the nationalist movement, which, through the voice of Naziism, attacked the great kairos and everything for which it stands.The latter use was a demonically distorted experience of a kairos and led inescapably to self-destruction. The Spirit Naziism claimed was the spirit of the false prophets, prophets who spoke for an idolatrous nationalism and racialism. Against them the Cross of the Christ was and is the absolute criterion.
Two things must be said about kairoi: first, they can be demonically distorted, and second, they can be erroneous. And this latter characteristic is always the case to a certain extent, even in the “great kairos.” The error lies not in the kairos-quality of the situation but rather in the judgment about its character in terms of physical time, space and causality, and also in terms of human reaction and unknown elements in the historical constellation. In other words, the kairso-experience stands under the order of historical destiny, which makes foresight in any scientific-technical sense impossible. No date foretold in the experience of a kairos was ever correct; no situation envisaged as the result of a kairos ever came into being. But something happened to some people through the power of the Kingdom of God as it became manifest in history, and history has been changed ever since.
A last question arises as to whether there are periods in which no kairos is experienced. Obviously the Kingdom of God, and the Spiritual Presence are never absent in any moment of time, and by the very nature of the historical processes, history is always self-transcendent. But the experience of the presence of the Kingdom of God as determining history is not always given. History does not move in an equal rhythm but is a dynamic force moving through cataracts and quiet stretches. history has its ups and downs, its periods of speed and of slowness, of extreme creativity and conservative bondage to tradition.
 The men of the late Old Testament period complained that there was a dearth of the Spirit, and in the history of the churches this complaint has been reiterated. The Kingdom of God is always present, but the experience of its history-shaking power is not. Kiroi are rare and the great kairos is unique, but together they determine the dynamics of history in its self-transcendence.”
Gather (10 minutes)
- Invite the youth to sit in a circle. As they settle down, place a candle in the center of the circle and ask one of the young people to light it.
- Offer the following prayer adapted from an ancient prayer of the Incas:
Dear Lord, Help us remember ancient wisdom, ancient knowledge, to drink deeply from the well of immortality. Whisper to us in the wind, in the crackle of the fire, in the sacred space of our heart. We are thankful and grateful to you who have come before us and after us. Teach us to walk in the sacred path. Amen.
- Remind the youth of last week’s conversation, and how you had reflected together on how Israel’s wisdom writers had stressed the importance of knowing “the proper time.” Invite the students to share the examples from daily life that they had noted during the week.
- Invite the group to discuss what “the proper time” is for each of the examples lifted up.
- At the end of the conversation, give the youth five minutes to make any changes to any of the examples they had written (or to write one if they hadn’t written one during the week.
- As youth complete their drafting and edits, invite them to tape their examples and notes on the sheets of oak tag you have taped on the walls of the room.
- Indicate that you’re going to continue to compile the proverbs and send them to the group members by email during the week. (Don’t forget!)
Introduction to the Session (5 minutes)
- Pass out a copy of the excerpt from Skip Masback’s sermon on “Now is Our Time.”
- Read the excerpt as a group, taking turns reading successive paragraphs.
- Note the distinction the excerpt brings out between what the ancient Greeks called “Chronos”, a term they used for the linear progression of time: calendar time, clock time, and what the ancient Greeks called “Kairos”, the time of fulfillment, the moment when everything comes together, the “right time”, the moment of truth.
- Explain that the group will continue its work on the Group’s Great Book of Wisdom, focusing this week on noting the importance of understanding the importance to wisdom of recognizing “kairos” moments.
Engage (25 minutes)
Activity 1: Understanding “Chronos” Time (10 minutes)
- Let’s begin with understanding “chronos” time, linear time, calendar time, clock time. Everybody understands the importance of chronos time. Chronos time dictates the most of the daily lives of adolescents. When do you have to get up to get ready for school? When does school start? When do you change classes? When does lunch begin? When do classes end? When do extracurricular activities start? When do they end? Chronos time “rules” adolescent life more than almost any other phase of life.
- Invite the group to propose/create and discuss several proverbs that stress the importance of knowing the proper (chronos) time with respect to several aspects of adolescent life.
- When the session ends, ask if any of these should be included in the group’s Great Book of Wisdom?
Activity 2: Understanding “Kairos” Time (15 minutes)
- As the sermon excerpt we read makes clear, there are many “timing” questions in life that are not easily determined by “chronos” or calendar or clock time. Rather they require great experience based wisdom and judgment. When should you time the start a new business? When should you time an interventive surgery or medical prescription? When should you change schools or careers or move from one community to the another?
- Divide the group into three subgroups and invite them to reflect on the many different aspects of adolescent life that require judgment about “kairos” moments: decisions about when to act or cease acting that are governed more by wise, experience-based judgment than by simple reference to a calendar.
- With respect to each instance of “kairos” moments in adolescent life, discuss 1) What is the decision or action that must be taken? 2) What kind of factors need to be considered to decide wisely? 3) What sources of wisdom might be consulted to help one decide more wisely. Have each group write their “kairos” related proverbs on a sheet of flip chart paper.
- Regather the group in a circle.
- Have each group present their proposed “kairos” related proverbs, including what they discussed as the factors to consider and the sources of wisdom helpful to consult.
- Have the groups post their flip chart pages on the wall after they have presented. Add the proposed proverbs to the Oak tag sheets setting out The Great Book of Our Youth Group’s Wisdom: A Collection of Proverbs
Reflect (15 minutes)
- Give your youth about 5 minutes to read the proverbs you have by now collected as The Great Book of our Youth Group’s Wisdom: A Collection of Proverbs
- Invite a closing discussion about your 7 weeks together. You may choose to raise the following questions:
- What is the most important thing you have learned about the nature of wisdom.
- What is the wisdom proverb or saying that you most want to embrace as guidance for your own life. Why?
- Do you agree that youth have a unique contribution to make to the community’s development of wisdom? If so, what steps do you think you should take as a group and as individuals to best make that contribution?
Send Forth (5 minutes)
Invite the youth to join you in prayer. Let them know before you begin that there will be an opportunity for those who wish to lift up requests for God’s help with specific elements of wisdom during the prayer. Give a few possible examples. Note that every time a “petition” is lifted up, the group will respond with, “Lord, hear our prayer.”
Begin the prayer by thanking God for the blessings of creation, the God-given capacities we have to learn from experience, and the lessons learned by those who have gone before that they have passed along to us as “mother wit.” Invite the students to voice petitions asking God to help us embrace particular pieces of wisdom in our lives, communities, and our world. After any student offers a petition (e.g., “Lord, help us to be mindful the need to think through the consequences of what we say before we speak”) lead the group in responding “Lord, hear our prayer.”
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