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Now and Later

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, Now and Later, was given at The Salvation Army Rochester on Sunday November 12, 2017. The Reading was Matthew 25:1-13.

End times predictions

There is an endless possibility to get yourself lost on the internet. And there is a multitude of rabbit holes that are just waiting to suck you down. For example, you could start by looking to see what other movies an actress you had just watched had been in, and all of a sudden, it’s 3am, and you’ve somehow connected the Lunar Landing with the JFK assassination and how John Lennon’s soul is to blame for it all.

One of those rabbit holes are End Times predictions. Since the year 2000 and the Y2K collapse of civilisation that didn’t happen, there have been no less than 36 end time predictions, the most recent being October 15, and the next being November 19, both by David Meade, a Christian numerologist who believes that the planet Nibiru will collide with Earth first in September, but then that was wrong, so we didn’t understand his prediction, then it was October 15, but again, we didn’t understand his prediction, so now it’s November 19. Again, I somehow think that we haven’t understood his prediction.

We don’t look for the second coming

In many ways, we have grown tired of End Times predictions. We don’t listen to them any more. They are confined to trashy magazines and conspiracy theorists, and most who make them are regarded as having one too many roos loose in the top paddock. And so we often stop listening to them, and we stop looking. I guess there is part of us that have become immune to the second coming of Christ – it hasn’t happened in 2000 years, what are the chances that it will happen during our lifetimes?

When the disciples first saw Christ ascend, they were certain that they would be alive for the second coming. But as the centuries passed, and it still didn’t come, we started to grow immune to the expectation that it would come at any time. And we are in some ways the “foolish” bridesmaids. We have grown accustomed to the bridegroom not coming, and have used up our oil. We expected Christ to come immediately, and when he didn’t, our oil burned out.

We need to prepare ourselves so that we are ready now and later

In Biblical Greek, we learn about tenses of words, which have to do with time. And much like English, we have our past, present and future tenses. I did, I am doing, I will do. There is also the perfect tense, which describes where an action that has been completed but continues to be applicable into the present and the future. And it is this sense that is what we are being asked to be in our preparation for Christ’s coming. We need to be fully ready for the chance that Christ comes today – but we also need to be making sure that we are ready in case Christ is delayed, and doesn’t come today, but comes tomorrow.

And that means we need to be active in our faith. We need to be doing things daily that will bring people to know God. Whether that’s talking to people about their faith, or actively showing your faith so that others see it. On Friday, we had the funeral of Mary Anderson, and it was a great celebration of her life. And her faith was one that was lived out – she didn’t tell people all that much, she just lived it out. But as she was coming towards the end of her life, she mentioned to one of her granddaughters that she hoped “the big guy had a room for her upstairs.” Which prompted her grand-daughter to ask if she had asked Jesus into her life – and of course she answered that she had been saved when she was 12 years old. For many people, Mary wasn’t religious, but was a person of deep faith, which was shown through her actions. But while we need that, we also need to be prepared – given the opportunity – to be willing to talk about Jesus and to share about how our faith impacts our lives.

But at the same way, not only do we need to be active in our faith for today, and act with the urgency as if Christ is coming today, we also need to be feeding our contemplative side – that is, the side of our faith that will nourish and sustain us for the journey should Christ not come today, but be delayed. And how do we do that? By growing in our spiritual disciplines. That is, by spending time in regular prayer, by spending time reading scripture, by spending time studying and gaining deeper understanding of God’s word, and by coming to understand how God is speaking to us. By doing these things, we grow in our faith, and we are – in effect – ensuring that our supply of oil will not run out, and be ready for when Christ comes.

We will bring others into the Kingdom of God

And while these two often seem unrelated, I can assure you that they most certainly are intertwined. You see, when we spend time in preparing our spiritual life for the delayed coming of Christ, we are also ensuring that when the opportunity comes to share our faith, that we are able to speak with the assurance that comes from a deep and thorough faith understanding. That the conversations that we have will have been bathed in prayer before they even happen. That any questions that arise we will be able to engage with from a firm scriptural base. And that we will be responsive to the spirit’s guidance because we know what God’s voice sounds like.

Similarly, when we are out sharing about our faith, we should be driven back to prayer, to pray for those that we have shared with, that they will take on board that message and come to know Christ. That Australia would be transformed one life at a time through the love of Jesus displayed by Salvos everywhere living out their faith.

When we do that – when we live earnest, faithful, spiritual lives, and when we deepen our own faith, we are prepared for the now and the later. And we will have the opportunity to bring others into God’s kingdom. We heard a couple of weeks ago how God’s kingdom is big enough for all – that there are more places at the table and more rooms in the house and the love of God will never be diminished but will instead grow.

And maybe, just maybe, when we live out our faith and have the opportunity to share our faith with others, in the firm believe that Jesus may come today, then there might be the occasion where we see Christ, and offer him a drink because he was thirsty, or clothes because he was naked, and this doesn’t seem out of the ordinary for us because these are actions so born out of our deep and sincere faith that it is all we know and do.

Be prepared for the now and for the later

So go and live out your faith. Be prepared to share your faith with the urgency that comes from a firm belief that Christ will come today. But don’t let that burn you out – make sure you are also spending time ensuring your oil is filled by spending time in prayer, study, and reflection.

We’re going to sing this wonderful new hymn which I think we’ve done before. The first verse speaks of the Holy Spirit breathing new life into us and causing God’s word to come alive in us, and this speaks of our desire to fill our oil and be prepared for the future. The second verse asks the spirit to abide within us and be seen through everything that we do, in each though and deed and attitude. Finally the third verse asks for Christ to come again, and that our prayers would be heard for all the world to see.

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