Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Faith That Sees Through the Culture Chapter 10: When Are We?

Dear Christian Friends,

Einstein spoke of the connectiveness between time and space. As time goes, so goes life in and through space. It is important -- to put it mildly -- that we be good stewards of time. The great scientist, however, is not the one who leads us to this joyful management, but Jesus Christ. The LORD taught how to "handle" time: focus on today, the now.

I've been struck as to how modern psychology is finally catching up. Need to destress? Is anxiety an issue? Then practice "living in the moment." This is not rocket science. The Psalmist wrote (and the Holy Spirit continues to proclaim through this Word): "This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it" (Psalm 118:24), emphasis mine). St. Matthew records Jesus' teaching: "Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble" (Matthew 6:34) 

As a pastor I stand along side those who suffer. When we are in the midst of trials like trying to cope with disease for example, it is easy to feel discouraged. But I have heard testimony from Christians that it is helpful to get back to this singular truth: "today is all any of us really have." No where does God tell us to take on the future; to bear the load of what may last for a week, a month, or a year (or more). This thinking does nothing but pile on discouragment. 

The truth is that whether one is extraordinarily physically strong, or spiritually strong; or physically weak, or spiritually weak, we are all on the same playing field: all we have is this day. This is the day that matters more than any other. This day the LORD will permit me either to live in faith, or if I resist Him, not to. 

Living in the past is be chained down to guilt, shame, and regret. Here, we must hold to what the LORD has said to us at Isaiah 43:25: "I, I am he who blots out your transgression for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins." We can by God's Spirit move on from the past. Living in the future is to bind ourselves to anxiety and worry, but recall what Jesus said about that (Matthew 6:34) above. You know the saying, "There is no time like the present." It's true! St. Paul renders practical and wise counsel: "Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil" (Ephesians 5:15-16).

Fear is the antithesis to faith. To live in constant projection of the future is to live in fear. This makes the devil happy when we do this. We give into his temptation when we do. Instead, the LORD makes the present the time for really living. How? Through His Word and Sacrament that is constantly coming to us now. The LORD is with you now, right now, today! How do you know? Through His Word and Sacrament designed to be yours today. 

We speak of our approach to the Word of Christ: hear, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest. Do it now. Do it today. God comes this day as we do. It is even better when we do it in community, with fellow Christians, living as the Body of Christ today! In fellowship which word in the original means to 1) share a common faith...one that is tesified to, spoken of towards and back one to another; and 2) to love each other...serving one another, and bearing each other's loads. When this happens today, this day, then life comes into proper perspective. We learn again about how to live in time and space.

This right view is desperately needed as even many Christians have failed to see what we are describing is the Kingdom of God in our midst. The LORD Jesus proclaimed and proclaims to disciples: "...for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you" (Luke 17:21b) Where King Jesus is, there is His kingdom. His kingdom is where His Word brings Jesus into our lives to reign, to rule, and to lead.

Too many doubt that Jesus is really leading now in the present time, and in the present space. From Faith That Sees Through the Culture, page 196:

This truth is consistent with what Jesus had proclaimed about Himself after His resurrection from the dead: "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me" (Matthew 28:18). The words aren't hard to understand. "All" means all. There isn't any authority left over for the devil. Still, even Christians can express frustration. "Why don't we see more evidences of Jesus' authority?" This again is the difference in how God's power is seen and known. Recall that Jesus said clearly, "My kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:36). He would not permit the purpose of His saving ministry to be confused with secular power. Nothing has changed. The Lord does not need to exert power over the economy or the trends on television to communicate the essence of His kingdom. Even if food and drink are not used rightly but are used in excess, "the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking," but rather, as the Scriptures say, "[about] righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Romans 14:7).

Thanks be to God for these truths, but...

What if when truly living in the present, our loads seem so heavy that we are just downcast even today?! This is where we encounter the duality of Lutheran Christian (biblical) theology: time is a both-and: it is both now and not yet. That is to say, there is one aspect about the future we must hold to:

From Faith That Sees Through the Culture, page 190:

...there is a different aspect of the future that we should not just be thinking about but yearning for. In other words, we have one exception to the rule about living in the present: when it comes to the glorious fulfillment of God's promises of heaven, the resurrection, and the new heaven and earth, Christians should have "eager expectation" (Philippians 1:20). St. Paul said that he strained forward "toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:14). In this respect, we should anticipate our death, knowing full well that there are marvelous things to come. The psalmist prayed, "So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom" (Psalm 90:12).

And this is exactly where and when we best live in time: in the now and not yet. We live in today, and when we receive the Holy Sacrament of Jesus especially, then the future glory that is promised you and that is in fact already yours in Christ is given to you in the present. In the Body and Blood of Jesus the best for today and the best of the future are yours today! The only reason we say "not yet" is because we cannot see with our physical eyes the manifestation of this glory, but it is there in the Holy Sacrament since this is the Body and Blood of the King of Kings who reigns already today and for eternity.

Jesus masters time and space and for your sake (and for His own glory), He blesses you in these. He blesses your time and space to know Him now and not yet: coming to you over and over again through His Word and Sacrament granting today the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, and guarding your future -- which includes the glory -- that is ready to be revealed in you as you hold to the One who holds you, even Jesus.

In Your Service and To Christ's Glory,

Rev. Dr. Alfonso Espinosa


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