Thanks to Einstein’s “theory of special relativity,” we know that the passing of time is relative to our frame of reference, to say nothing of our weight (mass). The varied and unique ancient calendars of the world also remind us of time’s relativity. We have solar or lunar centered calendars. We have calendars set by the agricultural or liturgical seasons, and still others dependent on special events like the beginning of a new king’s reign or the birth of Christ (BC/AD). Even without Einstein’s scientific proofs of time’s relativity, we instinctively sense it. We speak of time dragging or standing still or time flying or passing in a blink of an eye. Einstein once described time’s relativity this way: “Sit with a pretty girl for an hour and it seems like a minute. On the other hand, put your hand on a hot stove for one minute, it will seem like an eternity.”
For Einstein and theoretical physicists, time is elastic. Or as Einstein put it, “Time is not at all what it seems. It does not flow only in one direction, but the future exists simultaneously with the past and vice versa.” This sense of time coincides exactly with the perspective of Holy Scripture that all time is relative to the Creator of time, to God’s divine calendar. God’s timing has sometimes been referred to as Kairos time, or mythic or revelatory time in distinction from chronological time. Still, whether chronological or mythic or liturgical or scientific, all time is relative to God’s time.
For me, this sense of time’s relativity necessarily means that as we enter 2021, we can be assured that whatever our past, present and future, whatever calendar we use, or however we understand time, Scripture repeatedly reminds us that every moment is relative to the God of time. And on God’s calendar, the God of time has plans to prosper us. . . plans to give us hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11). Or as Psalms 131:3 puts it, “Hope in the Lord from this time (now) and forever more.” And again, “There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off!” (Proverbs 23:18).
Here at Berkeley School of Theology, we have great hope for 2021. I trust that you do as well. This hope isn’t naïve or conjured. Neither is it bootstrapped up by sheer determination or duct-taped together by force of will. It doesn’t depend on pleasantries or wishing each other a “Happy New Year!” Rather, our hope is in the Lord, who made heaven and earth, the God of time, who “gives us hope and a future.”
With each new day in 2021, we can be grateful for one hundred and fifty years of BST training thousands of leaders for Christian service on every livable continent on earth. We enter 2021 rejoicing in the arrival of new students this semester and again in the fall. We look forward to new expanded doctoral and other programs on the horizon and increased giving to scholarships and institutional support for our faculty. We welcome alumni gatherings by Zoom and, hopefully, a few others, face to face. We expect that the majority of us will have been vaccinated against the coronavirus by summer and returning to the classroom sometime in 2021. We look forward to a new era in U.S. presidential leadership and all that might mean for the healing of a nation. We anticipate graduates leaving BST to serve God in churches, prisons, hospitals, nonprofits, and in many other settings across the street and around the world. In short, we are deeply hopeful for the year of our Lord 2021. We wish for each and every one of you a “Hope-y New Year!”