ible Readings: Isaiah 2:1-5 & Matthew 24:32-44
We spoke earlier in the Youth Focus about different ways of seeing.
Today is not only the beginning of the Christian New Year, but it is also HOPE Sunday which reminds us anew that seeing something does not necessarily mean a physical/anatomical action of the eyes and brain – seeing often happens in our heart and Spirit.
Hope, we are told in Hebrews 11:1 is not only intertwined with faith but with this deeper level of seeing – forming in the present but fulfilled in the future.
So it is in the reading from Isaiah. The prophet is heralding a new time, a time of peace and unity and harmony, initiated by God [note the use of God, Lord and He] and lived by us [note the use of peoples, nations, their and they].
Essentially this passage and the one from the gospel focus us on the hope we anticipate in Jesus’ return. Christians and others have been speculating about this, along with the end of the world as we know it for millennia.
During the great plague of Europe in the middle of the 14th century, prophets predicted the end was near.
In the early 16th century Martin Luther predicted the final conflict would align the reigning Pope with the Turks against the Reformation Church.
Decades later John Knox predicted that 1547 was the year of return, others predicted 1830, then 1847. John Wesley weighed in – his choice was 1836.
The prediction of a New England farmer was for 1844 and this went askew but in the meantime he gave birth to an entire new movement in the Seventh Day Adventists – the Watchtower movement.
Jehovah’s Witnesses held out for 1874, then 1914 and the list goes on.
Speculation about Jesus’ return has not only been a matter of speculation but of pre-occupation itself from the earliest beginnings of the Church.
In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus – on one hand – encourages a forward and hopeful leaning towards God’s coming reign – but on the other hand – he warns his followers not to speculate on when it will occur – ‘no one knows about that day or hour’ [verse 36]. It’s as if Jesus is saying ‘Look towards that future with hope but also stay in the present.’
How do we balance the ‘now’ and ‘not yet’ – the leaning forward while being grounded in the present.
Henry David Thoreau once spoke about a lake that, at times, looks blue and at other times looks green – even from the same vantage point. He said ‘lying between the earth and the heavens, it partakes the colour of both.
We are blue and we are green, and we partake of Heaven and earth, Christ’s promise for the future and Christ’s mandate for the present.
So we live in the green zone –marrying, tilling, grinding, eating and drinking – while we watch and prepare and look to the blue zone – for the angels descending and the trumpet calling [and the son of Man coming on the clouds] – verses 30-31.
But we also practise living in the blue zone now. Kitchens are very practical cosy and active places in the house [very green] but in kitchens where soup is served up to the homeless or casseroles to the grieving – all hope is held in a cup or bowl [very blue].
Jesus too reminds us that everyone is to be fed. For the ‘great commission’ ,other than what we read at the end of Matthew’s gospel, is to be found in chapter 25 when he says in verse 35, ‘For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.’
As this was on Jesus’ mind it should well be on our minds as well, particularly when we think about the end times.
Instead of partaking of the religious science of dates and predictions, Jesus would have us ask the more morally relevant question – has everyone being fed – from the least to the greatest? Fed with welcome, warmth, a visit, Christian love and teaching.
For Matthew, the operative question is not ‘when is Jesus coming? But ‘what shall we do in the meantime’?
So let’s attend to the now and the needs of all and then as Isaiah tells us, ‘we will walk in the light of the Lord’.
We begin here, at the Lord’s Table, where all are welcome and everyone is fed.