In-between times

Throughout salvation history the people of God have always had to live in that between time – the time between the now and the not yet; the time between where we currently find ourselves in life and in our society, and where in God’s grace we will ultimately be.  We see many examples of that throughout the Bible:

  1. The Israelites in their journey through the wilderness to the promised land
  2. The Israelites through their time of captivity in Babylon before their return to Jerusalem
  3. The time between Jesus’ death and resurrection
  4. The time between Jesus’ resurrection and his ascension
  5. The time between Jesus’ ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost
  6. The time between Jesus’ first coming and his second coming

These can certainly be challenging times, but they are almost always times of growth and transformation.  I sometimes wonder if we need to go through these experiences in order that we might pay attention and learn. No wonder that C S Lewis said in his book The Problem of Pain, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.

It would have been tragic at the end of their journey through the wilderness if the Israelites had simply returned to Egypt and gone back to their old ways.  It would have been tragic following their release from captivity in Babylon if the Israelites had simply returned to Jerusalem with complacency and without a renewed fervour for and faith in God.  It would have been tragic if the disciples and Jesus’ other followers had not been transformed, equipped and empowered following Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, ascension and exaltation.

We are going through an in-between time right now, that time after the breakout of the Covid-19 virus and what will ultimately emerge as a new normal.  It would be tragic to for us too to ignore the choices and opportunities we have before us now to perhaps think about our relationship with God and with one another.  In this time, we are anything but powerless.  We have choice, and we have opportunity.  We can use this time to think about what we would like our life, our communities and our society to be like as we emerge from lockdown.

In all of this there is a simple truth…What we might be tomorrow does not have to be the same as what we are today.  In wisdom we might acknowledge that, and right here, right now, make some right choices, some good choices that might shape and influence our future for the better.  It’s good to consider how we might do that and what it might look like.

In the time between Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, the two key things that Jesus wanted to focus on with his followers were the Kingdom of God and the Spirit of God.  It is not for us to worry about the “how” or the “when”.  We simply need to focus on being faithful and obedient to what we are called to be and how we are called to live in Christ.  In sending the promised Holy Spirit at Pentecost, God wanted to enable and equip his people to live His Kingdom values.  God always holds true to the promises that He makes to us; but do we always hold true to the promises we make to God?

The power of the Church in her resplendent glory is not because of us; it is because of the Holy Spirit and God’s grace in action.  To live by these Kingdom values, we need to keep being filled with the Holy Spirit.  But what do we mean by Kingdom values?  These would typically include:

  • Relationship with God through prayer & worship
  • Being in community, unity and with one accord – loving one another. That includes our brothers and sisters in Christ, but also the people in our communities.  The phrase “with one accord” is found six times in Acts (1:14; 2:1, 46; 4:24; 5:12; 15:25; and note also 2:44).  It is hugely important, and I rejoice to see this at work in our local Christians Together initiative.
  • Exercising patience, forgiveness and compassion
  • The pursuit of justice and peace, seeking to be a voice for the voiceless
  • Having a deep appreciation of our many blessings rather than lamenting what we don’t have which arguably we don’t always necessarily need
  • Having generous hearts
  • Being hopeful; being at ease in giving an account of the hope that we profess
  • Living with integrity, humility and truth

It’s certainly not an exhaustive list, and I don’t know about you, but if that was presented to me as a political manifesto my response would be “I’m in!”.  The Canadian Pastor and Author Dr Oswald J. Smith used to say, “The light that shines the farthest will shine the brightest at home.”  For me, that means it starts with us.  We shouldn’t wait for other people to make the first move or take the initiative.  There needs to be intentionality and purpose in what we do; that is sometimes summed up by the 3 P’s – Prayer, Presence and Proclamation.  In what we do, do we take all available opportunities to demonstrate these kingdom values in our lives and in our communities and consciously embrace the 3 P’s?  It might be that we already are, but wouldn’t life be very different if whole communities embraced these values too?  When the disciples did just that, and were empowered by the Holy Spirit, the result was the exponential growth of the early Church and the transformation of people’s lives.  If we live these Kingdom values, we are effectively witnessing to Christ and all that he has done in our lives.

In embracing these Kingdom values, we seek to glorify God and we are resourced to do that through His Word, His Son, the Holy Spirit and by each other. Just think about that for a moment – we can bring glory to God.  So “let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)

Amen

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