Monday, April 29, 2013
More to come. . .
I am sure it comes as great surprise to you that snacks are a weakness of mine. My great affection for snack foods often caused a stern rebuke from my mother and a warning not to fill up on snacks because there was a big meal to come. As often as this happens in the context of food, it happens even more frequently in the context of how we see our lives in the world. This is the ever present danger to Christians – that we become so full of the present day, we have no room for the more that is to come.
Today in the Gospel Jesus insists that there is more to come. That must have sounded strange to disciples who had witnessed the Lord heal the sick, feed thousands, calm storms, and raise the dead. Exactly what kind of more to come was Jesus talking about? It is the kind of more to come which is not obvious to reason or discerned by the eye or dreamed in the heart. This more to come is made known by the Spirit who will guide the disciples into all truth. Only the Spirit can impart what Jesus promises.
What the Spirit will deliver is what the Father has given Jesus. This Jesus gives to the disciples and to you and me and all believers. This is not some different doctrine or deeper truth than the death and resurrection of Christ. No, the more that the Spirit will bestow is the knowledge of what Jesus has done, the means of grace that bestow His gifts, and the faith powered by the spirit to live out this new life in Christ. The fruits of Jesus' victory belong to those for whom He died and rose again. The more to come is the Spirit’s bestowal of the freedom from fear, forgiveness to cover sin, and life stronger than death that Christ won and with it the power that enables us to do the will of our Father in heaven, leading the holy lives we were created for. This the Spirit does by making Christ known to us.
The work of the Spirit is to lead us into practical truth – not some theoretical knowledge but that which restores us to our Father in heaven, teaches us faith, and restores us so that we may begin to fulfill the holy purpose He intended for our lives. This keeps us in grace through forgiveness even though we sin. This sustains us amid trials even when we waver. This empowers our witness when we know not what to say. This keeps us blameless and ready for Christ to come and finish His new creation.
What does it all mean? Everyone of us faces us the great temptation to be satisfied with a little better today instead of the glorious eternity God has waiting for us. We are easily victims of settling for today instead of yearning for His eternal tomorrow. We are prone to put our whole energy into getting all the world counts as valuable instead of pursuing holiness of life and conversation. Part of us bristles at the idea that we must exercise self-control. But self-control is the mark of life in Christ, the fruit of the Spirit in us.
As a child I wanted everything all at once. As an adult I still want it all now and all that is to come. But there is only so much room in our hearts and minds and lives. If they are filled with the moment, there will be no room for Christ and His gift of eternity. Not only the present joys tempt us. It is also the present trials and sufferings. For these tempt us to despair that Christ is not enough.
Jesus says that a little while His disciple would see Him and then no longer and than they would seem Him again. Of course there are nuances of meaning. Soon He would suffer and they would not see Him until He rose again. Soon He would ascend to His place at the right hand of the Father and then He will return in glory as Lord and Judge of all.
For a little while the world will seem to be our all, sorrow and lament will steal our joy, suffering will mar our happiness. Either way, we are warned against presuming too much from the moment so that we miss eternity. Like a woman in childbirth finds the anguish of labor fade when her baby is born, so are our lives suffering the anguish of a labor in which Christ is born in us. This does not happen without suffering but even suffering cannot endure the joy of Christ's return in glory.
There is more to come. Do not drink too deeply of the world's pleasures nor its sorrows. Both will give way to what the Father has destined, our Lord has accomplished, and the Spirit will reveal to you and me. There is more to come. It is in this forward looking and anticipatory faith that we live now as God’s children by baptism and faith and remain steadfast until He returns.
Jesus cannot stay as He is. He goes so that He can be present sacramentally. Neither can we remain as we are. Now, the person we were must die baptism’s death that the new person we are in Christ may rise from baptism to live. We who were once enemies of God are now His very children baptism and faith. The holiness which stood in judgement against us outside of Christ, has become, in Christ, the way and goal of our new lives in Christ. Lives in which service is greatness, sacrifice is love, and suffering is not defeat. Do not lose heart. Do not grow weary. More to come...
When Jesus returns, all that is will give way to all that is eternal. He has given us all we need to sustain us through this mortal life. He has given us His Spirit to believe in Him. He has killed the old Adam in us in baptism and brought us forth as brand new creations in baptism. He sustains this new person with His Word and Meal. He has taught us to hunger and thirst for righteousness, to seek that which is good and right and true, and to yearn for eternity. In the face of this, nothing else will do. We cannot settle for today or allow today, either joys or sorrows, to distract us from the grace in which we stand and the promise of our eternal future in Christ Jesus. Amen.