Isaiah 65:17-25 or Malachi 4:1-2a, Isaiah 12 or Psalm 98, II Thessalonians 3:6-13, Luke 21:5-19
Today I’m tired. I don’t want to write the truth about Receiving Your Inheritance. I want to write something that sounds like truth, but that isn’t so challenging. I’m tired today of the Gospel.
My wife and I just moved into the newly renovated rectory at our church. It took a lot longer to finish it than we’d first been told it would take. Six to eight weeks became four months. By the time we finally moved, Sara and I were so tired of waiting that we moved in before we even had kitchen counters or heat. (Fortunately, it was late August.)
Preparing the new place for us to live was much harder than putting up new paint and a few new doors. The house was 100 years old. Old wiring that was unsafe had to be replaced. Much more plaster had to come down than we’d anticipated. Getting floors level enough to put in new tiles took a lot more work than we’d thought it would. The task was exhausting, and I was exhausted by just watching. And then there was the mess. Weeks and weeks of dust and noise and working out of tiny spaces (the church office is in the same building, and we’d crammed three offices into mine, the smallest of the three). The last delay of two weeks I didn’t find out about until two days before I was supposed to have moved. (We’d already rescheduled once before…) I suspect that the fellow in charge of it all didn’t tell me sooner because he, too, was tired of telling me the truth.
I’m tired of telling the truth about the real riches that are our inheritance of God because I want them to be easy. I don’t see why, since God is God, He can’t just come and give us the Kingdom without all the turmoil that Jesus and the prophets speak of.
But turmoil is what we’re promised before the Day of the Lord. Some of the prophets saw the collapse that comes before the rebuilding as a sign of God’s anger. Jesus corrects that, and tells us that it will be messy, but the wrath will be ours. People will turn on each other, families will be split and nations will make war on each other. All this as prelude to the coming of the Kingdom, but none of it is God’s doing.
Well, that’s not entirely true.
Things will fall apart, and no, God doesn’t make us turn weapons (whether of verbal of physical origins) against each other, but He has decreed that nothing that is not grounded in Him will ultimately stand. The houses that aren’t built on rock are doomed to collapse. So He is responsible, in a way.
He has determined that He will not permit us to live in the squalor we’ve created for ourselves forever. Some of us have fond memories of the 100 year old house that we once lived in, back when we couldn’t see the water damage because someone had covered the moldy plaster with paneling. There were rooms we didn’t look into back in those days, rooms where the damage was most apparent, and some folks lived in utter misery while we lived in relative comfort. But God isn’t willing that this should go on. None of His children is expendable to Him.
And so, though the shape of our home may be recognizable when it’s all said and done, just about everything in it must be torn down before it can be rebuilt according to the plan of His Kingdom. All our scrambling to preserve what was, to patch up the old plaster and hide the damage from the old roofs that leaked only serves to make the collapse, when it comes, all the more violent.
I don’t suppose we can keep from trying. It’s part of our sinful nature. We’re determined to decide for ourselves what is good and what is evil, and the collapse of our old houses looks much too much like evil to us. God has even given us sledges (His Word) with which to help the work along, but it’s usually too hard to swing them.
Jesus asks us to believe that behind all the mess is the work of a God who truly cares, who adores us and promises to abide with us through the whole project. He asks us to believe that this chaos we can plainly see coming is not something to be feared, but something to be welcomed.
And then He warns us that if we do welcome the apparent disaster that looms on the horizon, we will be dragged before kings and councils to answer for our hope. We will be hated for hoping in Him, and not in the patchwork repair in which they are engaged. We will be flogged for failing to join in the desperate attempt to build sandbag walls against the hurricane our own sin has unleashed. Some of us will even be put to death.
But He promises also that when the time comes for us to give an account of ourselves, to explain why we are not afraid, that He will give us incontrovertible wisdom.
I see nowadays what the heart of that wisdom is. It has taken me 52 years to come to this realization, but the bedrock of God’s goodness is all the wisdom I require. I will still have moments when my heart threatens to grow faint, but I can come back to that goodness and find shelter there. So can you.
We spend so little time devoted to knowing God in His goodness that it is hard to say this. Perhaps even harder to hear it. But the God who created you and me is going to create a new heaven and a new earth for us. (Yes, that’s right, even a new heaven!) And nothing that has been touched by the stain of sin will remain in it. No death, no sickness, no sadness. But that means that everything built by human strength must first be allowed to crumble.
Through it all, we have His goodness on which to stand. The Riches He holds in store for us are all present to us as we rest in His goodness. As we trust in the One who is working in us, the noise and filth fade, and He quiets our spirits.
Rest in Him.