In his insightful book, Pagans and Christians: The Personal Spiritual Experience, Gus DiZerega explores the different ways Pagans and Christians mark time. Regarding Pagans, he says “The Pagan view of cyclic time leads us to focusing more on process than upon goal, upon the road traveled rather than to where it may end, upon continuity rather than upon point of origin. True wisdom comes from traveling well, not traveling quickly.”
Christians could benefit from this kind of wisdom because they tend to measure time in a linear fashion that starts with the creation of the world and ends with heaven, or armageddon, or something of the sort depending upon their personal belief. There is an expression that “Christians are so heavenly minded, they’re no earthly good.” There is some truth to this, especially among those who see this world as a place of suffering and they’re just trying to survive it until they get to heaven.
Pagans call Christians to view our life on earth quite differently than merely survival and endurance. They call us to remember the best of our own tradition in scripture passages such as Ecclesiastes 3:1 which tells us “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” (NRSV) This points to the cyclical nature of life but Christians sometimes forget this.
In Luke 17:20-21, Jesus was asked by the religious teachers of his day when the “kingdom of God” was coming. They were definitely thinking in a linear fashion and wanted a day and time for this occurrence. Thankfully, Jesus wisely replied, “The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you.” (NRSV) The specific Greek word that is translated as “among” in most Bibles can be equally translated as “within” or “inside” which I think is the better English word choice here.
Jesus appears to be saying that the Divine Presence is already among us and within us. God is not going to arrive at some appointed day and time. The Holy is already here. I see this as a call to live more cyclically than linearly, looking for the Sacred in every day experiences and in the world around us. Perhaps Pagans can teach Christians to live life more fully in the here and now, instead of waiting for a better life sometime in the future.
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