Charlotte looked at the calendar and said, “You’re supposed to be away”. I had to think but yes, last year, I had organised to attend a camp with the Sea Cadets and a church meeting in Latvia. They had all been cancelled a long time ago. In fact there has been a lot of that this year – as the list of things planned that have been cancelled or significantly changed grows. 2020 might come to be described as the year when so much changed and so much didn’t happen. Holidays, family get-togethers, work conferences, university, weddings, those anniversary birthdays, and more are different. The inability to see family members particularly those separated by a generation or two has been draining and hard. Peering into the future often seems to be suggest ‘more of the same’ and there can be a sadness, even a grief; when will this end? Occasionally I hear that question asked as ‘Where will it all end?”.
The time question I have no answer. (I think most people say something like ‘when there is a vaccine’.) The ‘where’ question is another matter all together. That one I can answer with the message the Christian Church has about the ‘last things’ or ‘end times’. Teachings on Eschatology are not unique to Christians. Everyone has a view about how we end – personally, socially, planetary-wise, the solar system, even the universe. Such endings are full stops to sentences that describe living and often point to a meaning and purpose. Classical Christian teachings in this area – and disputes – revolve around death, resurrection, judgement, and how to understand time – now and when there is no clock. But all this peering into the future can seem fanciful and theoretical – we won’t know until we get there so to speak. Maybe that is why there are so many theories around?
What we need is a link today with that future then. For Christians that link is found in the person of Jesus, the first and the last, and how his death has destroyed death’s power. It is by peering into the face of Jesus now, so to speak, that the future is no longer uneasy and speculative but certain and calm. In the storms now and when peering into the future we all want security, shelter, and help. That is only in Jesus and the points where we encounter him emphasise his death to us and for us – and it is his death that defeats death and thus makes our life eternal. His death removes the sting of death and instead of judgement, death is a doorway to seeing what we believe. At Baptism we are joined to Jesus’ death and resurrection. At Holy Communion, we proclaim Jesus’ death until he comes. And God’s Word is forever judging us and rightly so (Law) and forgiving us by God’s grace (Gospel). This all happens looking at Jesus so that when we turn to the future we can have confidence about it – whatever happens.
That’s the power of Christian hope! It is faith looking to the future. It is not wishful thinking or delusional dreaming. It is a recognition that as we are not alone now, so we will never be alone then for Christ is with us. For sure, we may not like the now or aspects of the now – it may even seem apocalyptic – and we might chaff, be sad, and grieve now but these times do not define us. Jesus and his Word do that and give us the insight and strength to face the now trusting that God is bringing good out of the day, the moment, the situation. And if he is doing that now, why won’t he do that in the future? Of course, God will! That’s why looking to Jesus is the best way to be and to live. GS