It’s the End of the World!
Well, maybe not it=s not the end of the World, but a lot of us here at this church sure felt that way last week, after Carol=s sudden death. It=s hard to feel any other way when someone you love, work with, and depend upon dies. Isn=t it? It’s hard to feel anything but, “it’s the end of the world,” “it’s the end of my world.”
It may not signal the End of Times, but we=ve certainly seen some crazy American politics these last few weeks. Just look at it: the man who still serves this country as its president was impeached almost two years ago; the State of New York elected a First Lady from Arkansas to be their junior U.S. Senator; and Missouri chose a dead man to be theirs. But we still have not managed to elect a President of the United States.
I mean these days who can=t get elected to public office in this country? It looks like the only two people who can=t can=t elected are Al Gore and George W. Bush.
I don=t know if we’re at the end of time, or just the beginning, indeed it feels like it’s the big “meantime.” But it occurs to me that the Scriptures before us were written for today. For what they talk about today is not so much what it will be like at the end of the World, but what it is like for those who live in the presence of God. This ongoing Earthly meantime will not be easy or eventless, but the Living God tells us today, that God will abide with us, and keep his promise to be with us always.
With Carol=s death last week I began to wonder again just what my true beliefs are. Just what are the basics of my faith as a Christian. And I boiled it down to three words. You might call them nouns, because they are definitely entities, definitely things, but they feel more like verbs, because they are … alive.
These magic words are AFaith, Hope and Joy.@ Each is wrapped and infused with the common thread of Love. And while I=m not exactly following Paul=s lines here, I find these three words tell it all.
First of all, my Faith, is in a personal God, a saviour, a lover of souls, an author of peace, the creator of all things whose imprint is impressed upon every thing and everybody. I don=t believe in some vaguely defined energy force, some impersonal >Ground of Being,= or in some remotely interpreted >Higher Power.= Nor do I believe in some Crusty Old Man God who sits high above the fray. My Faith, is in a personal God who introduces himself to people and says, APeace … be not afraid … I am … and I am with you.@ My Faith in this God is modeled after the Faith of Jesus.
My Hope is in the promise that God wants us to be his children to abide in peace and love with God forever. In Christ, God says, AI choose you, do you choose me?@ This Christian Hope is what divine election is all about. It=s an election with only one ballot, a ballot in the shape of a cross, a ballot on which Jesus wrote every one of our names. All we need to do is to make the count, certify the election, and take our place.
My Joy is the tickle and touch of love. You know what I mean, whether it’s the touch of a friend or a partner, or the sound of your dog’s ears flapping in the wind of a car window, or the crunch of leaves under your feet when your walking down by the river. Joy is God’s reminder of what we’re here for. Life is supposed to be about joy.
And for our Faith, Hope and Joy, the price we must pay, the cross we must bear and the reward we will receive are one. For unlike the political ward boss, or the pork barrel promise, we must pay for our election with godly love for God and for his children. Unlike the candidate who changes his face each new day to be loved by every voter in his district, we must bear our cross of love for a world – not just a handful of powerful precincts. And it’s a world which may not love us back.
This is why it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God, because we are called to love people who do not love us, or our Father who sends us. So to be sure, people we love will hurt us, slander us, and try to keep us being free. To be sure people we love will die before we’re ready. To be sure people will leave us for greener pastures. But the reward we will receive if we love them anyway is the Love which comes only from above. And my friends, it will not only await us in heaven, but can meet us today, here in church, and out there on the street.
This is the love of God which saturates your skin and your mind like living water. And when you feel it, you realize for once, that all will be well with you. This Love is what the Bible calls the Peace of God. The Peace of God is not just an absence of war, even though a cease fire would be nice from time to time. And the Peace of God is not just an agreement between two parties, even though resolution to political bickering would be welcome.
The Peace of God, which passes all understanding, fills your hearts and your minds with the knowledge and love of God, and unlike World Peace, or Political Harmony, it is available to you right now. It=s the foretaste of heaven which Jesus offers us in this life, and it is the kind of thing that a Christian can practice day to day. And it is this Peace that we call Salvation.
You see, Salvation is not just the far-off thing like Daniel, Paul and Jesus seem to be talking about in today=s Holy Scriptures. It=s not just the thing that will happen in the end times, when all persecutions have ended, all judgments made, and all the righteous lifted up. It=s also not just a thing which happens to people who die. Unlike some Senators from Missouri who are only elected after death C our election in Christ comes to us when we are alive. Heaven, the place where God dwells in the fullness of His ultimate Peace, is something we can begin to experience today.
Christian Salvation is so close you see. Indeed, it is right here. For as Paul writes, no matter what the circumstances of the day may be, no matter how difficult or horrible, whether it be the sudden death of a dear friend, the animosity of a political adversary, or the tenuous uncertainty of these crazy times, Christ offers us his Spirit, and it is a Spirit of peace, of fullness, of Godliness.
And so that=s what I=m praying for these days. I=m praying for peace. Not just World Peace, or Peace in the Middle East, but the Saving Peace of God, which assures me that everything is going to be alright. It=s what we all pray for when we bid our friends goodbye, isn=t it? It=s what we pray for when we consider our lives, our families, our jobs, our homes, our nation C we pray for that peace which the world cannot give.
This is what it means to be saved. To be saved is to chosen by God, to have the election certified by your own heart of hearts, and to receive the Spirit of Grace which tells you, AYes my little one, you are with me.@
It must have been in a moment of feeling this way that the Psalmist composed these words from today’s Psalm: Amy heart therefore is glad, and my spirit rejoices, you will show me the path of life, and in your presence there is fullness of joy.