Our most recent family pic with only Andrew missing

Friday, November 28, 2014

Advent 1: When, O Lord...How much longer?

    In Isaiah, the prophet calls for God to appear decisively, to "tear open the heavens" so the nations would tremble and he also confesses the need for such decisive intervention -- the utter sinfulness of humanity, even of those who are part of God's covenant. Finally, he changes metaphors -- from earthly catastrophe to remaking , begging God to be merciful when God comes. We also call out to God...often...and ask Him to act decisively, don't we?

    The Psalmist records the people crying out for restoration from the midst of exile.
    "Restore us, Lord God of hosts. Shine the light of your countenance upon us, that we may be saved!" We cry those words as well, don't we?

    And Paul, in the midst of offering a greeting to the Christians in Corinth, points to the end -- the Day of the Lord -- and calls them to continue to grow and be faithful in using their spiritual gifts. And that same call, and a reminder that the Day of the Lord is coming, comes to us as well.

    And then in Mark, we have Jesus' description of the end and his clear instruction always to be on the watch for signs of it, to be ready for it...the great day when God's kingdom comes in all its fullness...when tears come to an end, when suffering is no more, when pain is a thing of the past. In this present age, we get tastes of the future Kingdom...we experience God wiping away our tears sometimes, but then more come, we experience healing from disease, but more comes, we experience victory over temptation and grow in holiness, but often slip back into old ways that we hoped had gone we experience in part, then when He comes, we will experience in full......but how long, O Lord...How much longer.

    I would be very surprised if there is anyone here who is not or has not recently asked… but how long, O Lord...How much longer…before this struggle, hardship, pain, suffering, this difficult season, how much longer before it comes to an end.

    Because we know that our LORD can and does act decisively…now…in this age…sometimes. That is part of our faith. In fact, it is only because we have faith in the first place, that we even ask: but how long, O Lord...How much longer? A person with no faith will never ask that question.

    In Psalm 90:4 Moses tells us that:
    A thousand years in your sight
        are like a day that has just gone by,
        or like a watch in the night. 
    Peter, 2 Peter 3:8-9, teaches a similar thing when he writes:
    But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.

    In the same Psalm (90:10), Moses observed:
    Our days may come to seventy years,
        or eighty, if our strength endures;
    yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow,
        for they quickly pass, and we fly away.
    Cheerful stuff, isn’t it? So let’s rather move to something more exciting like…mathematics J

    If one thousand years equalled one day, our 70 years would last for only about one hour and 40 minutes. If we equate 1000 years with a “watch in the night” (a three hour period of time), our 70 year life span reduces to 12 minutes and 36 seconds! On this scale, our entire earthly existence passes as a momentary blip. By contrast, the Lord in habits all of eternity:
    from everlasting to everlasting you are God (90:2)

    Peter indicates, however, that the reverse is also true, With the Lord a day is like a thousand years. From that perspective God has only waited 2 days since the first advent of His Son. What does all this mean as we ask: “How long, O Lord...How much longer?”

    We can say that for God, an infinitesimal moment…is like eternity……and eternity…is like an infinitesimal moment. God views all things as part of an eternal now, and, in each moment, He has all the “time” He needs to provide for each of us the individual care He has promised …while…we…wait. He is with us, He is not waiting to get around to us because He’s busy somewhere else, He is with us, with you, and our waiting will not be one second longer or shorter than it needs to be, as our God works through all things for the good (Romans 8:28).

    What are we to do while we wait, either for His second advent/coming, or while we wait for the miraculous intervention we are hoping for and praying for right now, which we know He is powerful enough to bring about even before we go home today? How are we who wait called to live. Well, Jesus, in His life, death and resurrection has given us a vision of the future: “This is how things will be when the Kingdom comes in all its fullness.”  We who pray, as Jesus taught us, for God’s kingdom to come, see the future kingdom and we live now, as if that kingdom has already come…we know how we will live in that kingdom, so we choose to live that way, NOW! I won’t get angry in that kingdom, so I won’t get angry now. I won’t hate in that kingdom, so I won’t hate now. I will only love in that kingdom, so I will only love now. In that kingdom, no one will be hungry, so I’m going to do what I can to make sure no one goes hungry now. No one will be lonely in that kingdom that we see by faith in the future, so I’m going to do what I can to ensure no one is lonely in the now…and in this way, God’s kingdom comes and God’s will is done, while we wait and perhaps ask, How long, O Lord, how much longer.

    And, once again in a miraculous way, when we live like this while we wait, the Light that first shone into the world that first advent when He came as a child, shines into us and from us into the world around us until He returns as King.

    The first advent candle and our christingles, remind us that the Light has come into the world and, in the words of Jesus, that we are the light of the world,

    You are the light of the world Mt 5:14

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