Saturday, November 10, 2012

Eagerly waiting for Him

Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.
(Hebrews 9:28)

In the Name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

As we come to the end of the Liturgical Year, we enter into a time of thinking about these words of the Creed:

    He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
         and his kingdom will have no end….
    We look for the resurrection of the dead,
         and the life of the world to come. Amen.

What do these words mean to the Christian? How may they be lived, retrieved from the oblivion of doctrinal mummification or reduction to mere weapons of fear rather than the assurance of God’s love for us?

The lessons today all speak of testing: the widow of Zaraphath using her final rations for Elijah’s meal, the widow’s last coins cast in the Temple treasury, and the record in Hebrews of Christ’s sacrifice of himself for our reconciliation with God. This testing is essential for all authentic life in God, all life preferring Love rather than alienation and selfishness.

For the Christian, our testing, our trial today is never something that happens alone or in a vacuum. It always participates, shares in a final vindication already complete in Christ Jesus. That completion, perfected beyond time in heaven, reaches back into our time through God’s gift of grace.

Each Eucharist is a sharing, a revealing, of that victory in our own experience, and the experience of that victory of Life in Christ in the Eucharist then illuminates all dimensions of our life with hope, purpose, and dignity. In a very real sense, when Christ tells us to “do this in remembrance of me” at the Last Supper, this act of remembering is a making present not only of the things of the past, but a remembering of the future: the future and yet already-consummated victory of Christ recorded in the Book of Revelation. This key unlocks the power to live the Gospel now.

When this experience of remembering is true for us, when we have come to know this not as theory but as a practice, an experience of day-to-day life, we must look at the words of the Creed differently. It is not only some far-off day towards which we look when we speak of the Judgment, the Resurrection, and the Life of the world to come: it is the very air we breath now, the lens through which we look at the lives among whom we live today, the basis for all our choices, priorities, decisions we make and hold. And this is what it means in the passage from Hebrews to wait eagerly for Christ.

Suppose you know a person who, when you are with him, you feel absolutely joyful and at supreme peace—your truest friend. And suppose that person tells you that he must leave for a time to do something very, very important—but to live your life until his return in his presence, knowing that he will not forget you for a moment while away.

How would you accept such a command, such a relationship? At first, each day would be lived with the expectation of reunion. But, over time, would it remain so? Would you forget him? Perhaps, after a long while, one might. But, what if, after a long time of forgetting, you were reminded just how much your beloved friend gave you, how much you owned to this lover of your soul? Would you not feel ashamed a bit, and then return to the knowledge of that relationship, living your life always as an offering to him and to his renewed presence in your life until the beautiful moment of his return?

The words of the Creed having to do with the coming judgment, the general resurrection, and the Kingdom of God are not simply about an event locked in the future, remote and inaccessible to us today. They are words reminding us of a relationship already established, a presence even now active, a yearning drawing us forward into our potential selves at this moment. The Eucharist itself is not only a reminder, but is an experience of the reality of that living relationship in Christ with the Father that we have exactly at this moment.

This relationship wakes us to the preciousness, the holiness of all our relationships, all our choices, all the decisions before us now. It gives a burning intensity to our lives, re-lighting what has grown cold, and giving us renewed desire to endure our times of testing not to earn something, but to be worthy of what has already been given: our life in Christ, who has given all for us so that we might be fully alive and truly free. All our actions as Christians must spring from this thankfulness, this gratitude in order to be truly Christian.

And so we do not look to the coming Judgment with horror but with hope and love. For us, who will eat this day of the food of that Day, it is a promise and not a threat to remember the future now complete in Christ Jesus. For, as the Collect says, Christ has come to “destroy the works of the devil and make us children of God and heirs of eternal life.” The words of the Creed must never motivate us to bitterness, but to hope in the mystery of our salvation.

We turn not to a God who desires our destruction but our redemption. God has made this abundantly, eternally clear in Christ Jesus. Our mission today is to let that truth, that victory of Love over death be renewed in our hearts so that we may be authentically Christian, so that in the ways we have been given by God in our own time and place, others may share in this Life, that all “may be made like him in his eternal and glorious kingdom,” which we await eagerly in lives of mercy, compassion, and service this day and unto the end. Amen.

Collect for Proper 27
O God, whose blessed Son came into the world that he might destroy the works of the devil and make us children of God and heirs of eternal life: Grant that, having this hope, we may purify ourselves as he is pure; that, when he comes again with power and great glory, we may be made like him in his eternal and glorious kingdom; where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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