How good are things going? By all accounts, not well. Not well politically in a bitterly divided nation of red and blue. Not well economically in a nation with mounting debt and an endless desire to spend. Not well in a world in which tensions, war, violence, oppression, competition, and self-interest divide what is supposed to be a global economy. Not well in a society in which no one knows male from female and the right pronouns to use for those just as confused. Not well in a business environment in which people are not sure if they want to work but confident they want good wages. Not well in society in which we had learned to fear each other and isolate from each other and kind of liked it that way.
But it is also not well in a Church with empty pews and empty pulpits, with worship that entertains but does not call to repentance, with music that has a beat but no message, and with religious leaders who are too human and not holy enough.
So when the stranger in line or the friend of many years or the voice on the phone or the greeting in the narthex asks "How are things going?" What shall we say? What determines our answer? Do we speak from the ache of a heart that is wounded and bleeding or a life that is a shadow of what we hoped it would be or the news that is always grim or the political leaders whose voices we are not sure we can trust? Do we speak from the midst of the nave where pews hold the assembly of God's people or from the pulpit where the Word of the Lord is preached? Do we speak as adults who trust ourselves and hardly anyone else or children who trust the voice of their fathers?
As bad as things are, they can get worse. As good as things might be, they could be better. This world and its rulers and kingdoms and joys and sadness are unreliable, fickle, and unstable. If we pin our hopes and dreams upon these, we will live in a constant life of lament for what is against what we wanted it to be. But that is not where we live, is it? We live as citizens of the Kingdom by royal birth in baptism. We live as the adopted sons and daughters who wear not our names but the name of Him who purchased and won us for Himself. We live as the strangers who became family and heirs of a splendid eternity. We live as people of faith who trust what God says and faith sees even more than we trust the lips of others and what our eyes behold. We live as a pilgrim people here destined for an eternal land of promise once and forever pledged to us in the blood of our brother Savior Jesus. We live as a people who are weekly moved from the crumbs that belong to the dogs to the high place of honor at the Table of the Lord. We live as a people who are nourished not by bread for our bodies only but by the bread of life, His flesh and blood for the life of the world and for our lives.
Do not lose heart, dear people of God. Do not linger too long in the discontent of misery but move along to the promise of mercy. Do not lament that things are not better and do not whine that things are not good enough. There is one thing better than you deserve and a gift bestowed despite your unworthiness. How are things going? “As good as God wants.” Nothing can disrupt His love for you or His plan to bring all things to their consummation (even it that does mean the destruction of that which refuses redemption). God is even now at work bringing good from your disappointment and heart ache and rescuing you from the dead ends and detours where you have put yourself. You live not on your own but in Christ, by the power of the Spirit, through the means of grace. How are things going? “As good as God wants.” And that, my friends, is better than can imagine. So wait. Wait patiently. Wait as the busy doing His bidding. Wait as the hopeful who want what is coming. Wait as the people who anticipate that blessed future right here and right now around His Word and Sacraments. Wait. That is the posture of faith. And, if you can, withhold judgment on the day until you see how it turns out in the dawn of God's new day of mercy, life redeemed, and death overcome. We are not optimists who see things that are not there, we are realists who see the eternal where the world sees only the moment.