Following on from the previous post, my friend Ian Paul (Dean of Studies at St John’s College, Nottingham, where I trained) informs me that in modern Greek, kairos now means season, or weather. I find that really interesting.
Yesterday I was having a conversation with another friend, in America (Skype is a good thing). We were discussing fruitfulness. Jesus says, by their fruit you shall know them – that is to say, the condition of our hearts is revealed through something observable; something that can be bitter – such as envy – or sweet – such as generosity. Clearly, we would hope to bear good fruit, the external outworking of an internal transformation. But even so, fruit is produced in its season.
The consumer can get fruit instantly, at any time of year, simply by going to the supermarket. The farmer knows that fruit has a season – and that attending to the fruitless times is essential if the crop is to be a fruitful one.
In John 15, Jesus describes the process of achieving fruitfulness: the gardener prunes back the branch; the branch is surrounded by the thickening vine-stock; the branch grows out from the vine; the branch bears fruit; the branch is pruned again, and the cycle repeated. In order that our lives are fruitful, the Father prunes back our lives, inviting us into times of retreat, of intimacy with Jesus.
The pattern of discipleship is one of invitation and challenge. Both, held in tension, are necessary: but in pruning and abiding, invitation is the leading beat to our rhythm of life; in growing and bearing fruit, challenge is the leading beat.
Is it coincidence that, living in societies where the supermarket has flattened-out seasonality, that we expect to be fruitful all of the time? Is it coincidence that we have overlooked the need for pruning and abiding?
The meaning of words evolves over time. I’d suggest that the meaning does not change arbitrarily, but as different expressions of the potential meaning contained within the word – just as every seed produces a plant that is true to its type.
A kairos, therefore, is (amongst other things) a shift in season: from fruiting to pruning to abiding to growing. A kairos expresses God’s current activity within chronos. A kairos is a change in the weather: rain and sun (God’s blessing on the righteous and the unrighteous alike), again often connected with seasons.
I love it when conversations come together, and spread out again...