Thursday, November 18, 2010
Straighten Up. Look Up. Your Redemption Is At Hand!
When I first moved here, I was driving down a street trying to find the home of one of our members. She had given me directions but the house numbers were not clearly marked and, in typical Clarksville fashion, streets had one name on one side of the intersection and another on the other side. Her directions did not so much point me to her house but to a certain business, that I needed note in order to be ready because her house was just a few doors down from there. The business was the marker she used to get me ready. And I made it there just fine.
As we approach the end of the Church Year we hear things about the end times. Now some preachers might focus on figuring out the hidden day and interpreting the signs (perhaps with elaborate visual aids). Others might focus on warning or Law to scare people about the coming day. But I want us to take another path this morning.
In the Gospel for today Jesus tells us to look or we will miss it. Miss what? The end? No, nobody will miss that! Jesus gives us the signs of the Kingdom not as a mystery to unpack or a secret message to decode but rather as the markers which point us to His kingdom. Like the marker the woman gave me to find her house, Jesus gives us markers as wake up calls against complacency, boredom, and laziness. We need to be ready always and not to allow the distractions, cares, and the self absorbed lifestyles we lead to dull us or make us complacent or we will miss the Kingdom (not the end).
The Kingdom of God is not some hidden thing which is to come; the Kingdom of God is already here in Christ. The Kingdom comes to you in the Word of Scripture and in the visible word of the Sacraments. These are glimpses of what will be fully revealed when He comes in His glory at the last day, bringing to completion all that He began. We don't need to know the when in order to be ready. Rather, we need to keep our eyes on the markers He has provided to show us where the kingdom is now so that we are prepared when it comes in its fullness at the end of time.
Jesus says the kingdom of God is urgent. This is not a shot across the bow to make us afraid but a wake up call to the opportunity the Kingdom provides for us right now. Now is the day of salvation. If we are awakened to the kingdom of God now, then its salvation will be our comfort and strength now as well and we will be ready for the gracious fate that God has prepared for us in Christ. Now is the day of salvation. If we are awake to the salvation which is proclaimed to us in the Gospel and present to us in baptism and Holy Communion, then we need not fear what is to come. The means of grace are the markers of His kingdom. If we know them now, we know all we need to know about the end.
Faith is always aware and awake to the ticking of God's clock. Remember here that Jesus is not talking about the watch on our hand or the calendar on the wall but God's time. His time is not measured in months or years but in fullness or ripeness. Like the grocery store where we feel the fruit to find something that is not too green, so does God give us these markers that we might be prepared for that ripe moment when ticking clocks end and God’s time comes in its fullness. For now it is enough to know that God's clock is ticking or unfolding, what He has given us to hear, see, taste, and be part of that Kingdom now, so we will not be caught unawares when the time is full – like Israel was when the night rang out with the sound of an infant's birthing cry and the Savior was born. Faith that sees time in God’s fullness is faith born of and directed back to His Word and Sacraments and ready for whatever and whenever God reveals then.
The point of this is so that we will not miss out on what God is doing. What He is doing is not the fearful thing that causes us to be afraid but the wonderful completion of our redemption. We know who is coming again and He is the same Lord who was born for us, who died for us, and who rose for us. We know who is coming again and why – these are faith's gifts and so we do not dread that moment but look forward to it with longing and hope.
The Kingdom of God is urgent but it is also immanent. Now that is a word you don't use all that often. Sounds like Immanuel, doesn’t it. God with us. What it means is that the Kingdom is not some distant reality we are waiting for but the present reality we know by baptism and faith. The Kingdom of God is already here but its fullness is still underway, waiting to be revealed when Jesus comes again in His glory. What is coming is the completion of what is already begun in us and for us.
It is not far off and distant from our daily lives but near to us. The kingdom of God unfolds right now before us and among us, through Word and Sacrament. Grace is not some vague promise or premonition but our wonderful gift and possession now by faith. But it is not yet complete in us or for us. It is not like a video God has put on pause – as sometimes it seems to us – but it is the ever playing drama of God bringing His plan of salvation to its divinely appointed destiny. We have heard its call in the Gospel, glimpsed its reality in the water of baptism, tasted its future in the Eucharist, and we await its completion and fullness.
Until the day of His coming unfolds, we live in the day of opportunity to live out this kingdom and to proclaim this kingdom to the world. We are not placed here as doomsday prophets to condemn but as voices of hope to invite. Sure, there must be words of warning and rightful condemnation of all that is against God’s gracious kingdom but never can we substitute this warning for the proclamation of what God has done in Christ for us and for the sake of the whole world.
So today Jesus calls us to look for His kingdom. Expect it. Anticipate it. That is how faith views Christ's coming again and the signs of that coming. This is not like the robot who cries out "Danger Will Robinson Danger." This is the voice of God saying "I am here... I am with you... You are mine... Don't be deceived or distracted by the life you now lead... the promised future is coming... I have told you what it is so you do not fear and now I am telling you it is coming so you will be ready.
The greater enemy of the Christian is not the evil one with all his lies and deceit. No, the greater enemy of the Christian is complacency – living as if Jesus had never come, as if His coming makes no difference to our life, and as if He were never coming again. We are too comfortable in our present day lives; this is a great danger to our faith. We cannot afford to be distracted by the things that go wrong in this life and all its cares anymore than we can afford to be distracted by all that is good and all of life's joys. Either way we will miss out on God's purpose.
This world is already passing away... step by step... as God's plan and His timing dictate... Too often Christians act as if they are more happy to see the wicked receive their due than for the redeemed to receive the completion of Christ’s hope filled promise. Are we like kids who cry out to the world, “Wait until dad gets home and you will have to face the music and get what you deserve...” OR are we like the children whose minds are so full of Christmas that we cannot sleep on Christmas Eve – we keep alert and watchful for the hopeful joy that is to come. So today Jesus tells us to wake up, for the Kingdom is here, our redemption is at hand, and we have been given this moment as the opportunity to proclaim this wonderful hope to the world. Amen.