Saturday, June 8, 2013

We have not to win, only to wait. . .

As we face the impending end of the significant American presence in Afghanistan, after it has already ended in Iraq, I am reminded of those who complained that by telling folks when we will leave, our enemies do not have win, only to wait.  It is a sobering truth.  Patience is perhaps their victory.  I do not know.  I lament those who fought, were wounded, and who died in both theaters of war and yet I lament more that their sacrifice might be in vain if we simply give up and abandon the noble cause of freedom.  So I am conflicted about the prospects.

But I think the phrase serves well the nature of Christian life as we come from Ascension through Pentecost to the anticipation of Christ's return in glory (whenever that will be).  It is significant that Jesus told His disciples to go to Jerusalem and wait for power from on high.  He is the ascended Lord who ascends precisely so that He might fill all in all, and the means of grace where He has put His promise, in particular.  But first they must wait.  Not the absent waiting of a people with no hope or purpose but the deliberate waiting of a people confidence of the Lord and of His promise.

As Christians, we do not have to win.  We have already won in Christ.  His victory is our victory -- that is His gift of grace.  We do not have right all the wrongs of the world, repair every injustice, fix every thing broken, heal all wounded, or prove our relevance, worthiness, or might.  It is done.  Christ has done it.  He is all in all.  All we have to do is wait.  Not the absent waiting of a people who know not what or whom they await.  Not the empty waiting of a people who busy themselves with busy work.  No, our waiting is for Christ who has promised to come again and as we wait we focus on His promises that with us in the means of grace.  We wait as a people who have a purpose and a mission, the living out of the gift of our baptismal identity.  We are the called and set apart by grace, whose old lives have died in the drowning of the water, and whose new lives have risen from that watery grave in Christ and with Christ.  We know who we are and therefore we know what we are to do.  That is decidedly NOT winning the world.  Christ has already done that.  We tell the world He has won.  That is enough.

We face constant critics who decry the looming irrelevance of Christianity, its impending death, and the sins, weakness, and ineffectiveness of the Church and her ministers.  It would seem that we must constantly reinvent ourselves merely to survive.  But that is not true.  We have only to wait and we will win.  He has promised to come again, that we will be where He is and we will be with Him.  This is most certainly true.  But He has also promised that the old will pass away and the new will come.  Heaven is not some sanitized version of today in which the horrors of the news are replaced with good and happy stories.  Heaven is the old done and the new begun, the today that becomes the eternal tomorrow, when the victory of Christ brings to culmination all things as He has promised.

We have not to win.  Only to wait.  Think about that.  The next time you think that we must fix worship or the Church will be empty... that we must entertain folks or we will lose them... that we must sacrifice doctrine and truth in Scripture to the relative truths only one person wide and deep.  The next time you hear a critic who says change or die... adapt or give up... reflect the present in order to be eternal... 

The Church has a long memory because we have a long future -- one not of our own creation but of the Lord's.  We are here to make known what He has done because that is how we wait.  We tell the story of His death and resurrection, we wash those who hear in the water that gives new life, we gather those washed around the Word and Table of the Lord, we teach them the old song which is ever new -- the song of victory that is done and still coming.  And we wait... the joyful wait of a people who are confident of our future and who neither are consumed with the present nor in love with the past.  We are in but not of the world, waiting for the consummation of all things.  We dream it and our dreams are not big enough.  We use frail images of eternity to describe the promise of our future.  We find our fears overcome in the Word that absolves and our hungry hearts filled in the bread of His body that feeds us to eternal life.

We have not to win... Christ has already done that.  We have only to wait.... on Him....

2 comments:

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Fantastic! Something we should remember more often!

Unknown said...

Dear Rev. Peters: This may come as a shock, but I have nothing to “parse” or to criticize in this posting. I only want to add my own, “Amen, Amen, thanks be to God”.

Peace and Joy!
George A. Marquart