525,600 Minutes(or Time takes Time)
©copyright R. Hayes 2006

*New Year's Eve sermon given on 12/31/06 at Pittsfield Unitarian Church

There’s probably no day in the year when people are more aware of the passage of time then this day. When I was a kid I used to think it was kind of magical, this idea of a “new year.” It was like being a time traveler to me. I'd go to bed and it would be one year and wake up and it would be the future. For me there’d be this sense that something very significant had changed. A fresh start- a blank lay ahead of me. And I’d wonder, what will it be like?

Lots of things can happen in a year; maybe a move or a new job- maybe a job loss or health crises. Maybe retirement. Maybe the loss of someone we love. Standing at the beginning of a year we may have an idea of some of the things that the New Year will bring.

We make plans-set dates. But there’s an old saying: We plan - God laughs. There’s another saying: Life is what happens while we're busy making other plans.

Now there’s nothing wrong with planning. As a matter of fact it’s a good thing. If you were driving someplace you'd never been before you'd want to look at a map, wouldn't you? Find the best route-right? But even with maps and the best directions in the world, there’s no way to really know what other things may happen between point A and point B.
Life Happens. Things change. The unexpected arrives.

For me 2006 has been a momentous year. I guess it would be considered a “good” year. I finished school, graduated and was ordained. And that has led to a new job for me. And this job has been a dream of mine.

But the seeds of where I find myself today were planted back in 1991. That wasn't such a good year. As a matter of fact it was downright lousy. It was a year where things seemed to go from bad to worse. It started with the loss of a job and not being able to find work, and ended with the ending of my marriage. At the same time I learned that my parents were having some serious health issues.

During that year it seemed to me that all the things that I had believed were true for me and my life fell apart. What I'd believed “always would be”, no longer was. And if anyone would have told me back then that what I was going through was going to lead me to where I find myself today I would have thought they were crazy. A minister? Impossible! A chaplain with Hospice? Yeah, right.

But the thing is, that is exactly what did happen. Only it didn't happen right away. It has been through a series of events-and because of people who had been in my life-and the people who came into my life-that I find myself standing here today and talking to you all this morning.

I have to tell you, I just used one of the words that used to really get to my Dad. He had this “thing” about the word “impossible.” Unfortunately, as a kid, that was a word I used a bit too often when I was trying to learn or do something that seemed too hard.. In my frustration I'd throw up my hands and say, “It’s impossible.” My usually patient father would give me this stern look and say, “Nothing is impossible. The impossible just takes a little longer.” He was right.

Do you remember New Years Eve in 1990? Tensions were high and we were poised to go to war. I remember going to church-something I almost never did-to pray for peace. I also remember that I had some big plans for the upcoming year. None of which materialized. Instead it was the year of things falling apart for me.

During that time I met a man who helped me a great deal. He had a saying, “Time takes time.” Often, after I'd finished telling him about the latest crises going on in my life, he'd simply say, "Time takes time." To tell you the truth, it used to really annoy me when he said this. Though I didn't say so at the time. This guy was smart and he'd gone through his own troubles and landed on his feet, so I tried to listen and understand as best I could.

This is the story he told me to illustrate his point: A guy is out for a walk in the woods and he comes upon a butterfly trying to emerge from it’s cocoon. He sees it struggling and working like crazy trying to free itself-but the progress is painfully slow. The guy feels sorry for the butterfly and reaches up and splits the cocoon. The butterfly immediately drops to the ground, slowly flaps its wings a few times and dies. Just then a friend of his comes walking up the trail and the guy tells him what happened. His friend tells him that helping the butterfly out of the cocoon was the worst thing he could have done. You see, it’s in the process of struggling to emerge that the butterfly builds up the strength in its wings so it can fly. Without that time it was doomed.

Time takes time. Everything has its perfect intended timing..... despite appearances. Despite what we might want....despite what we may think.

For me those years were the years I worked a set of new muscles as I tried to emerge into, what I came to realize, was a new world.

I called this morning’s talk 525,600 minutes because it is in minutes that a year unfolds.

And Time does take time.

In any year there will be times of plenty and times of lack.
The tide comes in and the tide goes out. These are the cycles that happen in our lives.

Each one of us will have, or already have had, our lives turned upside down-maybe not this year, but some year. Something will shake the very foundations of our life at some point.

It’s at times like these that we need to know where our strength comes from.
Let’s take a minute here to ask ourselves: What gives me strength?
What lifts me up? What gives me the power to go on when I don't think I can?

It’s important to make the distinction between where we find our strength and comfort, rather than merely seeking out the easier, softer way. As with the butterfly, our strength must be born of our struggle.

If we allow it, all events can teach us something; strengthen us; they can help to make us MORE than we were before. Notice I said the word “allow”-because it is always up to us. And it can be hard work. But the shortcuts we may be tempted to take will not allow us to strengthen our wings. Some things cannot be rushed.

The painful year I experienced was the beginning of a Spiritual awakening-a re-connecting to the Spirit within me, and nothing has been the same for me since.

Marcel Proust said, “the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
There is a reservoir of strength within each of us that is greater than we ever imagined. I know because I've experienced it, and I've seen it in others.

As I stand here this morning I have no idea what the new year may bring, But I do know what I can hope for: More compassion in the world.
Greater kindness.
A raising of consciousness in all beings.
The end of Fear.

Gandhi said that we must become the change we wish to see in the world. Wise man that Gandhi. He told a great truth.

If I want a more compassionate world, I must not only become more compassionate, I must become compassion itself.
For greater kindness to be in the world, I must strive to be kind-to become kindness itself.
In order for there to be peace, I need to become the peace I seek.
If consciousness is to be raised, I must continue to open my mind again and again and again. And when my mind slams shut due to fear or anger, or any number of reasons, I must use all my strength to push it back open again.
If there is to be justice, I must live a just life.
If there is to be an end to fear, I must know that there is really nothing to fear.

Jimi Hendrix said, “It’s only when the power of love replaces the love of power that we will have peace.”

I believe that with the power of love, all those things I just recited to you will become a reality.

A year is waiting to be born. Its time has arrived and We -each one of us-is an absolutely integral part of the birthing of this year. And more importantly, what is to grow FROM this year, for we are birthing our future.

It is hard to see where all the minutes will lead. Often we will not see what has been set in motion until the New Year is many years behind us.

And maybe-just maybe- that year that we thought was just thee most awful year imaginable, was in fact the turning point-the place where things began to change and lead in a new direction.

Life is made up of moments, but it is only in years that we can begin to see the whole picture. In times of strain and struggle remember the butterfly.

It is often through adversity that we are introduced to the best parts of our self.

It’s my hope that, when viewed from some New Year ‘Years Eve in the future, these past years that have been filled with so much struggle, violence and war, will be seen as the turning point-the thing that finally got people’s attention- when enough of us finally said “Enough!!!” And humanity actually began to wake up to its true potential and the realization that we are all One-that what we do to anyone of us we do to all of us. Only time will tell. But I am hopeful.

I wish all of you much joy & happiness in the coming year. And I wish you strength, resolve and courage, because life will challenge you and test you. It may even break your heart at times.
But I know that sometimes the greatest gifts can grow out of pain, struggle and heartache. And then finally our wings will have all the strength needed to carry us wherever we wish to go.