Some people are waiting. God has promised good things, and there are some people who are waiting for them. There is also that part of the Christian Church - or so they say that they are part - that believes that you should not wait. You should go for it, reach for it, name it and claim it, and make it happen yourself.
That was the approach of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. They were supposed to be waiting for God, and the serpent lied to them and convinced them that they did not need to wait, that there was a direct route to what they wanted, and they could grasp the bull by the horns (so to speak) and take what they once waited for God to give. He said, 'Why should you wait for it?' There are ways to pursue it - whatever it is - and God helps those who help themselves - a lie still popular today. The "name it and claim it" crowd in the visible, worldly, so-called Christian Church, who claim to know how to milk the Almighty and seize for themselves the promised blessings from God follow that ancient tradition.
We are in the Easter season in the Church Year. It is that period between the resurrection and Pentecost. Nothing happens for weeks - except the Ascension, and that hardly seems to count, since so many congregations ignore it, and it seems like a sort-of second-tier holiday. So, we wait for Pentecost and Trinity Sunday. Easter is over, and we can pretend it isn't, but we are just waiting for Pentecost - or at least that is how it feels, sometimes. Some people are waiting.
Of course, some people spend their entire lives waiting. Many time, they don't even know what they are waiting for, if the truth were known. They are waiting for life. First they are too young, and then they are too busy, and then they are too sick, and then they live in the wrong neighborhood, and then they are too tired, and then they are too old, and then they are waiting for the signal that life is beginning. Oh, not the breathing and eating sort of life, but the "this is really important and I should pay close attention to this, and I want to be totally involved in this", sort of life. They are waiting for it to begin, and for the signal that they should be focused and involved.
Of course those people are waiting for something they already have. It is easy to make the mistake of thinking that the moment we are in is prelude to something significant, and we just have to wait for it, and we will discover romance, or adventure, or something that will give our lives meaning or substance and direction. The truth, however, is that our lives are never a prelude. The moment we live in is not intended to lead to anything but the next moment - and we are given this moment, and hopefully the next ones as well, to live in. Life is what is happening, even if we have our attention focused somewhere else and miss the joy and substance of the moment that we are in.
James writes, "Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow, we shall go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit." Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we shall live and also do this or that." But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil."
What you may not have paid attention to in that passage, is that you ARE, today. You are a vapor - something highly volatile and temporary, but you are! Your existence is dependent on the Lord - and not just for tomorrow. The day you have today is the day the Lord would have you live as His own, today. That small pleasure in the warmth of the sun on your back is a pleasure which He meant for you -- He intended for it to be received with thanksgiving. The quiet stillness of the afternoon, which you may have greeted with boredom, is possibly a time of peace and stillness to be savored before the next storm of activity, maybe even trouble, comes thundering in on your life. The people you pass in the store, the experiences of your day, the labors of your job - or of your retirement - are each placed there for you to serve, experience, offer opportunity to confess Christ, or whatever. This is your life, now. But, some people are waiting.
If you knew that your life's purpose was this moment - this seemingly unimpressive moment with no apparent significance in the 'great scheme of things' - what would you do? Would you try harder? Would you look for something you could do to make the moment more overtly important? Would you pay attention to all the little things of the moment and try to make the most of each? Would you focus on making this moment be to the glory of God? These are good questions - important questions, because this moment is what this moment of your life is about. It isn't coming next week. Next week is coming next week. Right now is what your life is about right now - and you should be busy living the moment, conscious of the fact that this is life. If you are reading this (uhhh, duh!) then the message you are reading is what this moment is about. Life isn't coming . . . it is here . . . and now!
Still, some might argue, aren't we waiting for Jesus to come again? Well, we shouldn't be. Jesus is coming again, don't misunderstand. It is just that Jesus never gave us the command to "wait". The Disciples had the command to go to Galilee and wait for Jesus, and then to go to Jerusalem and wait for what happened on Pentecost. We have no such command
Our command is to teach all nations. Our command is to "Rejoice in the Lord always!" or "Rejoice always! Pray without ceasing! In everything give thanks!" Our command includes "Love one another", and "Do good to all men, but especially to the household of the faith" and "be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord." God would have us "walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God", always keeping in mind the apostolic exhortation that "Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men; knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve." If I may risk one more Bible passage, it is the will of God that you "make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you; so that you may behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need."
In short, we are supposed to be living these times as the holy people of God, aware that this time is the time He has given us to serve Him by what He has given us to do right now. He hasn't asked us to judge the worth or meaning of the moment, or decide that we are waiting for something - not even Christ's return. He will return, of course, but we are to be found busy living as His people, and confessing His name and His grace and salvation when He returns. He told the parable of the Master who went on a long journey, and when he returned he found some slaves goofing off and some faithfully working in order, to make that point.
Nevertheless, some are still waiting. God gave you the time and the work you have - even in retirement - to use and to do to His glory. Right now is His time. So what are you doing with it?
Now, every moment is not going to be the same. You eat with some of them, and sleep in others. Those aren't wrong activities. You need to do both. You can relax, play a game on your computer, or go to the movies. God intends us to live our lives. As long as the moment is not used for sin, it is not being misused. But this moment is the substance of your life, not some mythical moment in the future that you should wait for. Whatever it is you do should be done to His glory - 1 Corinthians 10:31 even say it explicitly - "Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." The context for that verse is a discussion of eating meats offered to idols, but it still means that whatever you do you should do to the glory of God. That would be with a clear conscience and with thanksgiving to God.
Your joys are to His glory. Your bearing up under sorrow is to His glory. How you face adversity is to be to His glory. What you choose to do as His child, how you throw yourself completely into the moment, and your recognition of the goodness of life is to His glory. The only things that aren't to His glory are sin, grumbling, and withholding yourself from life because you are waiting for the 'real thing' to begin. Life is happening now, and it is God's gift. So live it, and give thanks, and take from it every good you can without sin. That full-throttle participation in life - in work, in play, in feeling, and in thanksgiving is what will show the world the glory of God in the lives of His people. It works particularly well if you live the life you have, the pains and sorrows as well as the joys and successes, in Him and in the knowledge of His presence in your life, and aware that now is the moment He has called you to serve Him by living in it.
Having said all of that, I would return to the first thoughts about the season of the Church year. We are in the short season between Easter and Pentecost. It is a quiet time in the Church year, but it is not a season of waiting. It is a season in the Church for celebrating the resurrection. Jesus rose from the dead, and that means we shall rise also! His resurrection was a preview in a sense.
A preview is a little piece of the coming episode or movie which is designed to catch your attention and gather your interest in the complete thing. The resurrection of Jesus is whole and complete, just as Scriptures reports it. In that sense, this is not a preview, but the first-fruits of the resurrection, as Scripture puts it. In the days of the Apostles, they hadn't seen our modern previews, but the resurrection of Jesus serves also in a sense as a preview.
His resurrection is just Him, so far. It is not incomplete without the rest of us. The joy of the thing is that we are included anyhow! On the day of the resurrection of all flesh, our resurrections will be just like His, because we will be rising in His resurrection. It is His power, and His righteousness, and His gift to us. Our resurrections will be part of His resurrection - in a sense the completion of it. We will all rise precisely because He rose from the dead, and we will be just as He was - and is. His resurrection was to give us proof of our coming resurrection and to catch your attention - I guess this is a fair way of describing it - and garner your attention and interest in the complete thing, which will also include you.
That is what we are celebrating in this short season between Easter and Pentecost. We continue to sing the Easter hymns. Our lessons are generally grouped around Easter themes and Easter events. We are already the possessors of the fruits of Pentecost, so we aren't really waiting for it. Instead, as we approach the celebration of the unique gifts of Pentecost, we explore what it means to live out the truth of the resurrection in our daily lives.
What does it mean to the aches and pains of life that we are going to die and rise to a new life beyond pain and trouble and sorrow? How does it color our conduct toward one another to consider that we are going to live together in glory for eternity? The way of the cross led Jesus to the glories of Easter. Where might God have planned the way of the cross in our lives to lead us? What is the meaning of our temptations and the challenges of our lives in the light of the resurrection behind us (in time) and the resurrection in front of us?
I cannot answer these questions precisely, right now. I know where the answer is - it is in Scripture, and in the living out of our days as God's holy people in faithfulness and thanksgiving. I know that we pursue it together, and in thanksgiving and prayer. The joy of the questions is in discovering the answers, and in applying the Gospel to our lives, and the issues we will face in our lives. This season of the Church year is for exploring the meaning of Easter today.
This is a season for thinking and talking and living. It is not for sitting idly around and waiting. Still some people think that life and the meaning of it is not now, but somewhere and some-when else. Some people are waiting. I choose not to be one of them. Too much to do - thank God!
Yours in the Lord,
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