March 25, 2012. Rev. Stacy Swain
“The days are surely coming’
Will you pray with me: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable to you, O God our rock and our redeemer Amen.
I don’t think there is anything that parents of young children dread more, than hearing from the back seat, on a long car ride the words — “Are we there yet?”
“Are we there yet?” means that the kids are getting tired, bored, uncomfortable.
“Are we there yet?” means pretty soon they are going to start picking a fight with each other just to have something to do.
“Are we there yet?” meant for Mark and I, that Mark would hold the steering wheel steady while I climbed over front seat, wedged myself between the two car seats and I reached into the toy bag hoping for something to distract or entertain.
“Are we there yet?” Why aren’t we there yet? This is the cry of the Hebrew people in the book of Jeremiah as they traversed their long and arduous journey of faith. Jeremiah speaks his words to a people who are beaten down and world weary from the Babylonia conquest and exile. They are beaten down and world weary out not only by the enemy that is upon them but for what they believe to be the enemy within. For they understood the loss and destruction of Jerusalem and hardship they now face to be the consequence of their transgressions. God had given them the law that day long ago when Moses went up to Mt. Sinai and was given those holy tablets to instruct and govern how we are to walk in the way of righteousness.
But the human heart proved defiant, difficult, prone to picking fights. Call it human will, call it sin, call it whatever you want but there is something within that cannot seem to help but to act out. The Apostle Paul puts it this way “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.”
Given this propensity of the human heart, if God’s grace was measured out to only those who proved themselves worthy to receive it, then the storehouses of heaven would be overflowing for there would be no one on earth who could ever deserve what it is that God is ready to give.
But despite this. Despite the reality of the world and the state of the human heart, Jeremiah turns to the tired and world weary people and says. “The day is surely coming” “The days are surely coming” he says and he reaches down into the faith not to distract or entertain but to inspire for what he finds there is promise. A promise rising out of the covenant that God has made with the people. A covenantal promise that pledged God’s care to the people. The eternal God of the cosmos pledged to be with them in the struggles and joys of their lives and to work in and through history for the healing and salvation of all the world.
The day is surely coming says Jeremiah when God will forgive all our failures to live up to the lives God asks of us. When God will forgive our iniquities and remember our sin no more. And when this time comes, God will write God’s love on our hearts. It will become a part of who we are, part of the very organ that circulates our blood, that organ that keeps us alive. God’s love will be there. God’s love with be our life force.
And in that time, it will no longer be necessary for some to teach
others about who God is, for all of us will know God. All of us will know what it is to have God’s hand upon us, molding us, shaping us, leading us. We will no longer have to wonder and worry, we will know.
This is the promise Jeremiah finds in his faith. That all of creation all of us together may move towards a time when Eden will be restored, when all will be right again. This God of ours is in it for the long haul, says Jeremiah. This is the promise that Jeremiah lifted up to those world weary people that day”
Now all of this is well and good, but does it answer the question rising up out of the back seat, the question of when? When are we going to get there?
When I answered my kid’s question, “Are we there yet?” with “Almost” or “soon” — it never worked. They just pressed me further. When? “By the time I count to ten?” they’d ask? “By the time I close my eyes and open them again?” they’d demand?
We may very well feel like this too in this faith journey that we walk. Our teachings and preaching are full of assurance of God’s love for us and the life of abundance that God promises. But when? Are we there yet? We look out the window and things do not look so good out there. The world is broken and we are a broken people. Innocent children are shot, we are putting away snow shovels away and putting on shorts in March, that cannot be right. We may have hope that the day is surely coming but it surely is not now.
Or is it?
That’s were hope comes in. In this covenantal relationship we have with God we too have a role to place. And our role has everything to do with hope. For hope is not about airy optimism, it is not about wishful thinking, or passive wondering about something that one has no power to affect. As if to say “I hope but I don’t really know.” That is not our hope.
No, our hope has muscle. Our hope is generative. Our hope has the power to birth into the present reality the promised future for which hope longs. Because we have hope in a future that is promised by God, the way that we live now changes. Instead of living in fear, we live in faith. Instead of living cautiously, we live boldly. Instead of living to protect what is ours we live to share what we have. And in living this life based on the hope of the future that is promised, we actually partner with God to transform the reality that is now, bringing that future promise into our now.
It is this kind of hope that is at the very heart of Gospel living. This is what Jesus has been talking about in his ministry with us as he speaks of the kingdom of God being at hand, of the kingdom of God drawing near. Instead of being frozen in fear that there would not be enough, Jesus tells the disciples to gather the five fish and two loaves and together they transform that reality, feeding all five thousand that were gathered. Instead of leaving blind Bartimaeus along side the road, hushing him into silence, Jesus tells the disciples to go to him and bring him up among them. It is in their midst that Bartimaues is healed, that his life is transformed. Living in a hope that enfleshes God’s promise now is what following Jesus was and is all about.
We may not be there yet. The world may be broken and we may be a broken people, but hope is ours. And when we live in hope the insistence and relevance of the question “Are we there yet?” falls away and in its place arises another. Another question that has the power to transform what will come. And that is “How will we live in hope now? The days are surely coming, the day most surely is now. Amen.